January 18, 1920 - December 14, 2017
Flavio (Fred) Malerba passed peacefully at the age of 97 in hospice care with members of his family by his side. He was a special man, one of the greatest men of the generation aptly known as the “Greatest Generation.”
Uncle Fred was born in Larino, a small town near the Adriatic coast of southern Italy.
Just days before his passing, he shared his earliest memory. When he was two years old, he came to America with his mother and sister on a steamship, but he was detained for a month on Ellis Island in with an ear infection. He remembered the illness and the quarantine. His remarkable mind and his cherished memories remained intact until the end.
Uncle Fred worked hard all his life. Raised during the Depression, he took on any odd jobs that might help support his newly immigrated family. At 6 years old, he worked after school sweeping the floor at a local barbershop. As a boy he also set up his own shoeshine station, hawked newspapers in the street, sold clams and crabs that he had harvested from the Great South Bay. He would turn over his earnings to his father, who would then give him back a tiny portion for his own use.
As a young adult just before and immediately after WWII, Fred worked as a chauffeur, house painter, paperhanger, and foundry foreman. In 1941, with trouble brewing abroad he was determined to do his part to serve and protect his country. After being rejected by both the Army and the Navy due to his hearing disability, he was able to secure a position in the US Maritime service. He was sent to officer training where he became certified as a Navigational Officer. Using only a sextant and the sun and stars, he navigated his ships passage through hostile and dangerous waters. He helped deliver soldiers, war material, and fuel throughout both the North Atlantic and South Pacific Oceans. In his career as a Merchant Marine he missed only three ships. Each of those ships was then sunk while conducting the missions he had missed.
While on leave in 1944 he married Mildred Genzale, the love of his life. He returned back to active duty after a brief honeymoon. They shared a wonderful life together, renewing their vows in Hawaii in 1994 on their 50th wedding anniversary.
In the early 1950’s Uncle Fred began a 27 year career at Kollsman Instrument Co. where he worked as a machinist. Eventually he was moved to an elite department of machinists known simply as “Experimental.” One of the projects he was tasked with involved the hand manufacturing of parts for NASA’s project Apollo. His handiwork literally made it to the moon.
In 1960 Fred and Millie became parents when they adopted Robert, making legal what had been a close and supportive relationship since Robert’s birth in 1952.
Uncle Fred and Aunt Millie just recently celebrated their 73rd anniversary; Yet again he told his loving wife that he couldn’t imagine his life without her by his side.
And he truly savored that life. Everyone who knew Uncle Fred knew that he thoroughly enjoyed fine cuisine and beverage. He was at his best when indulging in a noisy meal with family and friends. He worked hard, but always made sure he had time to share with his family. He liked to help prepare meals. He often used fresh vegetables from his garden, which he continued to tend with his own hands up to and including this past summer when he was 97 years of age. His mind was sharp, continually devouring his books and cross word puzzles, one after another. He loved to take walks through the neighborhood, and has been keeping a journal for many years.
Fred was the family photographer, and documented family events shooting movies, slides, and photos from the 1940’s until the end of the century. Through the years, it was a lucky thing to be invited over to view the home movies and slide shows from an earlier era of our family’s history.
Most of all Uncle Fred loved his family deeply – his parents, his wife Millie, his son Robert, his beautiful grandchildren, his great granddaughter, great grandson yet to be born, his many nieces and nephews, and his cousins. Everyone mattered to him, and he cared deeply about his family and friends. He often recalled those who passed before him, so deeply was his connection to those he loved.
He appeared fearless in the world, but he had the most tender of hearts for those he loved. Fred was a very loving man without being overly emotive. He showed his love by his actions, often simply a kind word, or a quick flash of his smiling blue eyes. As patriarch, he earned the love and respect of the entire family. That meant so much to him.
In many ways Uncle Fred created a perfect little world for himself and Aunt Millie. At the end of the day, Uncle Fred can truly say:
“I DID IT MY WAY.”
Sunday, December 17
7:00 - 9:30 PM
Monday, December 18
2:00 - 4:30 PM & 7:00 - 9:30 PM
New Hyde Park Funeral Home
506 Lakeville Road, New Hyde Park, NY
Tuesday, December 19
Notre Dame Roman Catholic Church
45 Mayfair Road, New Hyde Park, NY
Mount Saint Mary Cemetery
172-00 Booth Memorial Avenue, Flushing, NY