City honors Sgt. Alfred Sandini, WWII veteran whose remains were identified after 75 years
By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
With additional reports from Contributing Writers Vicki Greene and Ron Ayotte
Marlborough – For 75 long years, the family of Sgt. Alfred Sandini, a radio gunner with the U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II, was waiting for him to return home to Marlborough. And finally, on July 18, he did, to a city that, although most had never known him, nonetheless opened their hearts to him, with love and gratitude.
Sandini was declared missing in action in 1944 after his B-25C Mitchell bomber crashed after being struck by enemy fire in the Thanh Hoa Province of French Indochina, now the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Other members of his flight were identified but Sandini was not until earlier this year, when a positive match was made, using dental, anthropological and DNA analysis.
On July 18, Sandini’s remains were escorted from Logan Airport to Marlborough by a cortege of State Police, Marlborough Police and the Patriot Guard Riders. As the procession drove through the streets of Marlborough to the William R. Short Funeral Home, residents stopped to watch, hands on hearts, holding American flags in his honor.
Prior to Sandini’s wake at the funeral home July 19, Massachusetts Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs Francisco Urena presented Sandini’s remaining next of kin, his brother John Sandini, with the Massachusetts Medal of Liberty, the Purple Heart and the Gold Star.
Now 93, and living in Florida, John Sandini had worked for the city’s School Department for many years before retiring and was himself well-known by many city officials and residents at the wake.
According to John, Alfred volunteered to serve in WWII and did not tell his parents, Benedetto and Pulcheria, until he got home from Boot Camp.
“My father was very patriotic (and understood) but my mother was upset and scared,” John said.
“Alfred is home again,” he added, “and he’ll be with my mother and that makes me very happy.”
It was approximately six months ago that John said he received a letter from the Army saying they had tentatively identified Alfred’s remains but asked John to provide a DNA sample. He did and it was a direct match.
On July 20, a very warm and humid morning, members of Marlborough’s Fire Department erected a huge American flag between two ladder trucks near the Walker Building. Residents gathered to watch the procession from the funeral home to Immaculate Conception Church. As the casket was carried into the church, members of Sandini’s extended family wore buttons with his photo. Father Steven Clemence, the parish administrator, then said Sandini’s funeral Mass in front of approximately 150 people, including Urena, Mayor Arthur Vigeant and other local officials
In his homily, Clemence noted that in his return to Marlborough, Sandini had in a “single act, brought so many people together.”
In turn, he said, they had, by their actions over the past few days, shown Sandini “a welcome and offered thanks to him” for his service.
“Our brother was able to bring everyone together…let us continue his example of showing love,” Clemence added.
Christopher Sandini, John Sandini’s son, offered a eulogy that also touched on the theme of love for one another.
“We remember how we felt at 9/11, how everyone was unified,” he said. “I know Alfred would want us to remember that.”
It was also important, he noted, to remember those who waited back home for their loved ones who were serving.
“Sometimes staying home and offering support is just as important,” he said.
For years, he said, his grandmother, Pulcheria, did not feel that Alfred would ever be found, and ever return back home to Marlborough. Her family would always try to bolster her spirits and tell her not to lose hope.
And finally, on a hot July day, 75 years after he left, the hopes and prayers of his family were answered as Alfred Sandini returned home. And after one final ceremony, he was laid to rest in Immaculate Conception cemetery, reunited at last with his beloved mother.