The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Range vet reflects on 'honor' in serving country in WW II


November 12, 2018

P.J. Glisson/Daily Globe

ON VETERANS Day Sunday, World War II vet Charlie Picoldi enjoys his daily breakfast ritual in Wakefield's 906 Café.


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Wakefield - The words "Wherever you are, it is your friends who make the world" are framed on a wall in the back dining area of the 906 Café in Wakefield.

The quote from William James, an American philosopher and educator who died more than a century ago, aptly represents Charles Picoldi of Wakefield, who said he eats breakfast in the restaurant "every single morning."

It's all about the friendship, said Picoldi, who always seems to be surrounded by a team of good-natured companions. The Wakefield native took time out on Veterans Day to talk to the Globe about his history as one of the region's remaining World War II veterans.

Dressed in a Caterpillar hat with an NFL decal on the sleeve of his jacket, Picoldi reported his age as exactly 92 years old and three months.

He said his brother, Leroy, inspired him to enter the service, despite letters that described him sleeping with snakes in wet trenches as part of his experience in the U.S. Army infantry.

Picoldi said he was only 17 and one-half years old himself when he "woke up one day in the Philippines," working for the U.S. Navy's construction battalion, for which he repaired air fields, roads, etc. in places until then he'd only "read about in books." During his service years from 1944 to 1946, a little past the end of WW II in 1945, he also worked in China.

After the Navy, Picoldi said it was only natural to return to Wakefield, a "small town" with "friendly people."

After gaining the education and certification needed, he became a lineman electrician for the city of Wakefield. According to Picoldi, the work was harder than ever when he began the job before the middle of the past century.

"Them days, we had to climb poles," he said. "Nowadays, they have buckets." He added that he also recalls plenty of winters with 300 inches of snow and temperatures well below zero degrees.

Eventually, he said, he worked his way up to being the lead man of Public Works. Regarding his time as a supervisor, he said, "I meet everybody halfway. I used to tell them, 'You got a better idea, speak up.' Nobody knows everything."

He also was president of the union for city employees before retiring after 40 years of city service.

Picoldi said he then became mayor of Wakefield for a few years, a period he believes allowed him to see "both sides of the fence."

He said he still attends some city meetings. "I would do things differently sometimes," he said, "but everyone has their own opinion."

In relation to his friends, he laughed in pointing out that he tries to avoid politics, especially those local, while visiting.

One of his passions is taking in as much information as he can. He said he has subscriptions to numerous magazines, including The Smithsonian, National Geographic and Popular Mechanics.

During the summer, he said, "I spend four or five hours a day reading in the (Eddy) park. That's my favorite pastime."

During the winter, he continues some reading, but added, "Not as much." He grinned and said, "The television set is there." He said he likes to watch "all sports," but also parallels some of his summer reading by watching the "National Geographic" show.

Picoldi also belongs to both the Wakefield VFW Post 9084 and the Wakefield American Legion Post 11. "I like to socialize with them," he said of his fellow veterans. "They're a lot younger than me, though."

He added he's lost a lot of companions along the way. "One by one, they're falling by the wayside," he said of pals, employees and fellow veterans. "I miss all my friends and comrades," he said. "Time takes its toll."

Picoldi also lost his wife, Geraldine, 14 years ago, and his son, Robert, who died at the age of 22 while in the U.S. Navy in 1986. Another son, Ricky, lives in St. Joseph, Wis.

As a result, said Picoldi, who lives alone, "I do everything for myself." He's been lucky with his health, claiming illness for him generally means only "a cold."

In addition, he said, "I've been in the hospital twice." Both incidents were in the Navy more than 60 years ago. The first time occurred when he and fellow servicemen got in an accident with another vehicle while driving through a Philippine jungle "by the light of the moon" while fleeing a bombing raid. The second time was due to an industrial accident while stationed in China.

While reflecting on Veterans Day, Picoldi had one reminder for young folks who may be considering joining the military: It's "an honor" to serve your country.


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