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Lazare Ponticelli
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Military Personnel
    (December 24, 1897-March 12, 2008)
    Born in Groppo Ducale, Bettola, Italy
    Birth name was Lazzaro
    Last surviving 'officially recognized' veteran of World War I from France
    Last poilu (French infantrymen) who fought battle in World War I trenches
    Fought the German Army as a French soldier (1914–1915) and the Austro-Hungarian Army as an Italian soldier (1915-18)
    Became a French citizen in 1939 at age 41
    Died of natural causes in Le Kremlin-Bicêtre, France at age 110
    He was an Italian who moved to France at age two, fell in love with the country at six, went back to Italy to continue fighting the war at age 17 and came back to France for good at age 23.
    Though he worked small jobs as a young boy, including chimney sweep and paper boy (obtaining a work permit at age 13), he did not learn French until the onset of World War I.
    He lied about his age to fight in the war.
    Despite his objections in 1915 the Italian government insisted he fight the remainder of World War I for Italy instead of his beloved France.
    He kept the combat medals he earned in a shoebox rather than display them, only wearing them once a year on November 11th (Armistice Day).
    He grew up in poverty and often went to bed hungry.
    His father and older brother died while he was still in grade school.
    He earned enough money at age eight for a railway ticket to Paris, which he found to be his idea of felicity.
    During fighting in World War I, he rescued both a wounded French and German soldier.
    He was gassed and caught shrapnel from an artillery shell, severely wounding him.
    Offered a state funeral by French president Nicolas Sarkozy, he initially refused, feeling unworthy, but conceded on the promise that focus would concentrate on the common soldiers who died in battle.
    On the day he died the request was fulfilled, and a plaque dedicated to the veterans of World War I was unveiled while flags were flown at half mast.
    When he died he was at the time the oldest man living in France and the oldest living man of Italian descent.
    Reflecting on his own survival and of war itself, he said in one of his last interviews, 'You shoot at men who are fathers. War is completely stupid.'

Credit: Scar Tactics


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