The Country has lost another of its WWII veterans with the passing of Joseph A. Chevalier, Private First Class, 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion. A resident of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, Joe “went out under the flag”, as it was his wish to pass from the place whose sole mission is the care of veterans. Born in Chicopee, and later a resident of Westfield, he was the son of the late Vincent and Mary Louise Chevalier. In addition to his wife Therese, Joe was predeceased by his brothers Bernard and Victor. Growing up in Chicopee, Joe spent his childhood on Montgomery Street where he enjoyed happy times with his sister and two brothers. Days were spent outdoors, and Joe fondly recounted building with his brothers a tower and a clubhouse which attracted kids from all over the neighborhood, and playing tree tag in the field behind his house. It was here too where he snuck his father’s Dodge to “practice his driving” starting at age 10. The Chevalier home was a favorite place for neighborhood kids, and Joe’s mom always made sure there was popcorn for all. Joe joined the Army on his 20th birthday, May 13, 1943. Following basic training, he volunteered for paratrooper duty and underwent intense training at Ft. Benning, GA. Assigned to 1st Platoon, CO C. 509th PIB, he arrived by troopship in Naples, Italy in April 1944. Joe participated in the Rome-Arno Campaign and later was part of Operation Dragoon, parachuting into Le Muy in August 1944 as the 509th spearheaded the allied invasion into Southern France. After liberating St. Tropez, the 509th moved north, serving in the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge. Among several firefights in the Manhay region, the 509th faced two Panzer Grenadier Battalions, elite German infantry units, in the battle for Sadzot, Belgium. For its valor, the 509th was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, a collective award whose individual equivalent is the Distinguished Service Cross. Along the way Joe suffered severe frostbite, and was later wounded on January 22, 1945 in an engagement near St. Vith. He next joined the 82nd Airborne as part of a policing unit in Berlin, until finally returning to the US on December 27, 1945, having served overseas for 21 months. Along with his Presidential Unit Citation Medal and combat infantry badges, Joe was awarded a Purple Heart and proudly wore the maroon beret and 3rd Zouaves Regiment Badge as a 509th Geronimo, and the braided fourragère presented by the Belgian Army. So many years later, Joe was very proud to participate in the Honor Flight program, visiting the WWII Memorial in Washington DC and then to be included in the Veterans’ Oral History Project of the National Archives. After the War, Joe returned home to Chicopee where he took new notice of family friend Therese Plourde. "His Terry", the sister to his buddies Joseph and David, had grown into a beautiful woman while he was overseas. Joe took every opportunity to sit next to her as she practiced her piano lessons. The two later began their courtship with Terry sparking Joe's interest in music and art, and Joe encouraging Terry's love of animals and the outdoors. By all accounts the two were inseparable. The couple were married in Chicopee Falls in 1952 and enjoyed 62 years together before Terry's passing in 2014. Right up to Joe’s last days, he described his life in this way: Becoming a paratrooper and serving his Country were his proudest achievements, and marrying Terry, his “pal”, was the smartest thing he ever did, for she gave him a life he felt he would otherwise never have had. Joe was employed for many years at Berkshire Farm for Boys, where together with his wife, he mentored countless young men, instilling in them an appreciation of the outdoors. Joe and Terry weren't blessed with children of their own, but these boys became their sons, with many staying in contact as adults. Joe later was employed at the Crane estate in Dalton managing landscape needs. Throughout his life Joe remained an avid outdoorsman, enjoying golf, skiing, and especially hiking his beloved Mt. Tom. He was a talented craftsman, gathering natural materials during hikes to create beautiful canes and bracelets. Joe leaves behind to cherish his memory his dear sister Theresa Georgens, brother-in-law and lifelong friend David Plourde Sr. and his companion Phyllis O’Dell, sister-in-law Rhea Plourde, and his many cherished nieces and nephews. In addition to his loving family, Joe will be missed by his dear friends Joann Freeman and Karen Pagono who he so enjoyed. Finally Joe made many friends while at the Soldiers’ Home; he especially wanted to remember Al, his cigar buddy, as well as all the wonderful staff who cared for him for five years. His family too wishes to thank the entire staff, especially those of 2 East, 2 South, and Compassus Hospice for their compassionate care. His funeral will be held on Wednesday at 10AM in the Firtion Adams FS, 76 Broad St. Westfield, followed by burial in the Massachusetts Veterans memorial Cemetery, 1390 Main St. Agawam. A Visiting hour will precede the service from 9-10AM in the funeral home. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Joe’s memory to the Holyoke Soldiers Home, 110 Cherry St. Holyoke, MA 01040.
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