Peter Ripullone, a decorated Vietnam War veteran who was active in two Port Washington veterans groups, died of cancer at his home in Port Washington on July 21. He was 77.
A Port Washington resident since 1994, Ripullone was active in American Legion Post 509 and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Henderson-Marino Post 1819. He served as the latter’s quartermaster.
Family members said he received a Bronze Star for rescuing a wounded soldier under fire in Vietnam, where he served as an officer in a combat engineer unit.
Members of VFW Post 1819 said Ripullone had a caring and friendly personality. When Maria Salazar was new to the area in 2015, Ripullone helped her connect with other veterans and with churchgoers, she said.
“He was always caring about other members of the post,” Salazar, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and a member of the post, said. “If anyone ever had a problem or emergency, he would find a way to help them.”
Courtney Gordon-Tennant, a member of the U.S. Navy Reserve and another member of the post, said Ripullone had an ability to make new veterans feel welcome.
“When someone was new to the post, no matter what time period they had served, as soon as he met that person he’d tell them, ‘Welcome home,’ and then he would teach them the secret ‘welcome home’ handshake from Vietnam, that fellow Vietnam veterans used to identify each other,” she said.
Gordon-Tennant and Salazar are the first and only two female members of the post. Despite this, Ripullone treated them no different, Gordon-Tennant said.
“He would always brag about us and say how wonderful it is to have all these women,” she said. “It’s pretty significant because there are other posts where women were not treated so kindly.”
Ripullone helped connect veterans with about a 100 eighth graders every year around Memorial Day at Carrie Palmer Weber Middle School.
Holly Goeber, the Weber teacher who coordinated the meetings with Ripullone, said he was “always very energetic” and “respectful” with the students he met.
“He had this way of telling this personal story that the kids were just mesmerized by him,” she said.
Ripullone was an advocate for education on the Vietnam War, and for the recognition of Vietnam veterans, Gordon-Tennant said.
“So, he was very touched by the spontaneous applause that the children gave last year,” she said.
His daughter, Christina Ripullone, said she experienced his ability to always be there firsthand. She recalled the time when she felt very stressed planning her wedding while in London.
“I told him that it would be really great if he could come visit me, that it would be something to take my mind off the challenges that were happening, and he did, he came,” she said.
Ripullone made the trip despite not liking to travel. He had not left the country for at least a decade, she said.
Ripullone could always be relied on to show support to veterans, Gordon-Tennant said.
“He would adorn flags on the graves of veterans, attend a Flag Day demonstration at a local middle school, and dress up for salute at the Sands Point Golf Club, proudly wearing his khakis on each and every occasion,” Gordon-Tennant said.
Family members said Ripullone was a first-generation Italian originally from Yonkers. He was raised by his adoptive parents, the Lauzons, after his mother died when he was nine months old.
The family moved to Richmond Hill, and Peter graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School in 1958. He received his undergraduate degree from Pratt Institute in 1966, hoping to become an architect.
After his military service, Peter attended graduate school at Cornell. As a newly minted architect, he worked for the Port Authority for a number of years. Later he worked for Paine Webber and with a few consulting firms. His marriage ended in divorce.
Ripullone first served with the 91st Combat Engineers for three months. He assisted in the training of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy in various combat engineering missions.
He then served as a second lieutenant in the Army in 1966 in the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion in the 1st Infantry Division in Vietnam. He served in Vietnam from November 1966 to November 1967.
After leaving Vietnam, Ripullone served three years in the active Army Reserves and one year in the standby Army Reserves.
He left the reserves as a captain and received eight awards: two Bronze Stars, one for valor; one Army Commendation Medal for valor; a Vietnam Service Medal with campaign stars; a National Defense Service Medal; and three Meritorious Unit Citations.
He also received two awards from the Republic of Vietnam: a Gallantry Cross Medal with a silver star for valor and a Campaign Medal.
In 2013, he was grand marshal for the Memorial Day Parade in Port Washington. Ripullone was also a member of Vietnam Veterans of America and the Vietnam War Veterans Association.
In addition to his daughter Christina, he is survived by another daughter, Katherine Ripullone, and a granddaughter.