May 7 – Happy Birthday Joseph Colistra

joecolistra222The name “Colistra” has been a well known and respected one in Amsterdam, NY for a long time. They are all related to Anthony and Mary, who came here from Italy and raised a family of four sons and four daughters. Their three oldest boys all spent Christmas Day in 1944 far away from their parents’  Florida Avenue home. All three were in the Army. Hank was a staff sergeant with the Coast Artillery, Frank was a corporal fighting with the Fifth Army and today’s Birthday Celebrant, Joe Colistra, also a sergeant, was in the First Army, part of the Allied invasion force racing through Germany to put an end to the Third Reich once and for all.

Joe Colistra was born on May 7, 1916. Like many of his generation, he left school to work in Amsterdam’s rug mills as a weaver. He was inducted into the Army on April 16, 1941, just two weeks after his brother Hank had gone in. He was assigned to the Signal Corps of the Field Artillery. He was initially assigned to Ft. Dix in New Jersey and after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entered WWII, he was sent to California where he trained in special desert maneuvers that prepared him for the fighting against the Germans in North Africa.

On that Christmas Day in 1944, he had sat down and written a letter to his fiancee back home in Amsterdam. Her name was Carmela Minisci, another South Sider who lived on DeWitt Street. The next day he was back in action with his unit.

On January 8, 1945 a telegram from the War department arrived at the Colistra home. It informed Anthony and Mary Colistra that their son Joe had been killed in action on December 26, 1944. The letter he had written to his fiancée the day before he died had been delivered to the Minisci home just two days before the War Department telegram came.

His remains did not make it home until 1948. Joe’s name is listed on the beautiful Fifth Ward Veteran’s Memorial on Bridge Street. Like so many Amsterdam families who lost one of their own to World War II, the remaining Colistra’s went on with their lives with prouder but much heavier hearts.

Amsterdam’s first female attorney also celebrated a May 7th birthday.

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