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News > NAVAIR honors 68 years of service
NAVAIR honors 68 years of service

Posted 7/9/2010   Updated 7/9/2010 Email story   Print story


by Lawrence Lyford
Naval Support Activity - Lakehurst

7/9/2010 - JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division Lakehurst recently held a service at the Engineering Complex Quadrangle dedicating the Perry DiGiovanniantonio Conference Room 103 in Building 596.

More than 100 current and former employees attended the dedication in honor of honor of DiGiovanniantonio, who died in December at age 88.

DiGiovanniantonio, whose career began as an apprentice shipfitter at $.50 an hour at the Philadelphia Ship Yard, retired in August 2009 after serving 68 years with the Navy, including his last 35 years at Lakehurst.

According to his coworkers, DiGiovanniantonio took two buses from his home in Philadelphia to get to a carpool pick-up point for the drive to Lakehurst and back. He rarely took vacations, and instead gave away most of his annual leave.

Kathleen P. Donnelly, Senior Executive Service, director of Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment and Support Equipment, shared that she met him on her first day at Lakehurst 25 years ago. That day, he offered to take Donnelly, then a GS-5 employee, to lunch. From what DiGiovanniantonio shared at that lunch about the challenging, important work done at Lakehurst and the people who do it, Donnelly said she decided her initial goal of "Do a job for three years and split government," needed to become "Start today for a potential Navy career."

"He has impacted lots of people in lots of ways," said Donnelly. "He lived his creed to honor God, be loyal to country and true to family."

"He was like a dad or granddad to many employees," said his last supervisor, Lauri Silveri.

According to Rear Admiral Jeffrey Cook, NAVAIR vice commander, when he asked the long-time employee in 2001 why he kept working, Digiovanniantonio told him "The work is meaningful, the people are great, it keeps me healthy, and above all, I get to lunch with the ladies every day!"

Until his death, DiGiovanniantonio owned the Navy Lakehurst Plank, which is presented to the longest-serving employee. Plank ownership follows a long-held Naval tradition of recognizing original crew members of Navy sailing ships with a piece of wood from the deck of the ship they served aboard. They leave with "free, clear open and unencumbered title to a plank of that ship."

Conversations following the ceremony demonstrated attendees were clearly attending to honor a friend, one they reminisced was always kind and genuinely interested in people, and who had remembered the details of their lives.

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