STONE HARBOR - Four strokes, including one that claimed his speech clarity, hasn’t kept Stone Harbor resident Frank D’Elia from the pews of St. Paul’s Church, less than a mile from his home.
Tucked away on Charles Street, D’Elia resides with son-in-law Elmer (EJ) Tate and daughter Pauline Tate.
Originally from Philadelphia, D’Elia is a World War II veteran who turns 100-years-old this Veterans Day. He served in the Army as a tank mechanic and tank commander, and fought in numerous battles, including the infamous June 6, 1944 battle on Normandy Beach.
D’Elia wasn’t a stranger to Stone Harbor when he and his wife became residents in 1977. He took frequent summer trips since 1920, staying at his father’s summer home on 81st Street until the house was destroyed by the Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962.
Evidence of a noble military man is scattered throughout D’Elia’s home and garage, including numerous photo collages with photos of him in his military uniform. He also has other photo collages of friends, family, and his wife, Pauline, who died in 2003.
With those collages are numerous awards for his service, including a Distinguished Service Medal and a Good Conduct Medal. D’Elia was also honored by former Gov. Chris Christie and Pope Benedict. He also became Sir Francis D’Elia after he became a knight of St. Gregory.
To residents of Stone Harbor, D’Elia is best known for his dedication to St. Paul’s Church. According to his son-in-law, he helped build the church and made modifications to it, earning him the unofficial title of “cardinal of St. Paul’s Church.”
He is also a 63-year member of the Knights of Columbus, a member of American Legion Post 331 in Stone Harbor, and a member of the Stone Harbor Board of Health.
“Since he’s done so much work and stuff over his life, he has a lot of points with the man upstairs,” said EJ Tate.
As a devout Roman Catholic, D’Elia served mass daily at the church, but his dedication to the church goes beyond that.
As a member of the parish council, D’Elia frequently performed maintenance work at the church. He constructed both shrines, the crying rooms, and installed the statue that stands outside in the front of the building.
He recalls taking the bluntness of a 30-foot fall from a ladder while completing a painting project inside of the church. That accident, like the strokes he’s suffered, didn’t stop him from performing services to God and his church community.
D’Elia’s condition forced changes to his daily routine and when he would be able to attend church, but his Catholic faith presides above the obstacles.
He continues to live his life serving God and his community, by attending adoration at St. Paul’s Church on Wednesdays. Both EJ and Pauline Tate believe that his presence in the community continues to inspire people, even when spoken words can’t.
“He is always true to his heart and always tried to do the right thing for everybody, and when he’s had these stroke, he overcame everything, and people see that,” said EJ Tate. “They see that he’s still going to church, so that right there is motivation, and that’s a positive thing.”
“He’s very well-liked,” added Pauline Tate.
Outside of church, D’Elia lives a reserved family-man lifestyle on Charles Street. He enjoys his family and has two grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
He enjoys painting and has various pictures that he has painted serving as decor on the family room wall. Typically, he’ll use a paint-by-number kit, however, he has a painting above the TV that was freehanded.
D’Elia will be receiving a birthday treat this year. He is scheduled to receive a police escort to the Avalon Veterans Plaza on Veterans Day.
It’s the perfect way to say “thank you for your service,” and to mark a century of living a joyful, honorable, and loving life.
To contact Eric Conklin, email email@example.com.