Joe Boschetti is finally home to rest.
The remains of Marine PFC Joseph Boschetti, who was killed in action in November 1943, were finally laid to rest on Saturday at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery after completing an epic journey home.
Boschetti was born on Nov. 12, 1920. He grew up on Roxborough Avenue near Terrace Street across from “The Steps." He was the son of Rosario and Julia Boschetti. Joe had six siblings: Rosario Jr.; Nicholas; Mary; Eleanor; Christine; and Peter. He attended St. John the Baptist as a youngster and graduated from St. John’s High School in 1939. He is survived by two of his sisters, Mary, 97, and Eleanor, 92.
Boschetti enlisted in the Marine Corps in April 1942 to serve his country. According to his sister Mary, Boschetti’s father, Rosario was against the idea and thought his son was too young to enter a war arena. Joe became a combat engineer whose dangerous role it was to help clear enemy fortifications so that assault troops could establish a beach head.
Serving in the “A” Company of the 18th Marines, Boschetti was fatally wounded by Japanese forces on Nov. 20, 1943, during the Allied invasion of the island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll. He was one of more than 1,000 Marines who lost their lives that day on that tiny Pacific island. His body was unable to be identified and his grave site went unrecorded. His remains were eventually transferred to be buried in Honolulu at the National Memorial Cemetery following the war in a grave site with other soldiers whose bodies were yet to be identified.
In January 2017, his remains were sent to a DPAA lab for further analysis. Using a DNA sample sent in by one of his relatives and anthropological evidence, the remains of PFC Joseph Boschetti were officially identified on July 8 of that year. The scientific breakthrough of DNA technology and ancestry searches could have massive repercussions for the thousands of soldiers who still remain unidentified and the families looking to find closure for their loved ones.
Boschetti’s remains arrived at Philadelphia International Airport on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 76 years after he had fallen in battle. His casket was met by a military detail and dozens of local veterans who had taken chartered buses to meet him at the airport. He was given a police motorcade escort fit for a hero to Koller Funeral Home in Roxborough. Remarkably, Philadelphia police had kindly blocked off the ramps to I-95, 676, and the Schuylkill Expressway along the motorcade route to allow the entourage clear sailing toward their destination.
On Saturday, the casket was given a dignified military and police escort through the streets of Roxborough to St John the Baptist Church in Manayunk, the home church of the Boschetti family, for a viewing and funeral Mass. The casket was greeted by hundreds including extended family, local veterans and well-wishers.
On display with the coffin inside the church was a photo of Boschetti in his uniform and the Purple Heart that was bestowed on him to give a personal touch to those coming in to pay their last respects. His surviving sisters as well as upwards of a hundred of his extended family cordially greeted those who had come to pay tribute to someone who has generated such a sense of pride and patriotism in the Roxborough community. Boschetti’s sister Mary Stranieri remarked about how touched they were with this overwhelming outpouring of affection, but also marveled about how this homecoming for her brother allowed her to reconnect with dozens of distant family members that she hadn’t seen for decades.
Community activist Bernie Strain summed up his feelings by saying “ being a lifelong resident, this story tugged at my heart strings.” Another thing that touched Strain’s soul was witnessing the return of a flag that was rescued 50 years ago from the soon-to-be demolished Italian Club and returned to the Boschetti family by Roxborough coaching legend Moose DeMalto. DeMalto had held on to his cherished flag for all these years and finally found the right time to give it a profound sense of purpose. Boschetti was one of three fallen heroes in whose names the Italian Club was chartered.
Following a heartfelt funeral Mass, the motorcade made its way to Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Cheltenham for burial. With the full military regalia befitting the memory of Boschetti and the many thousands of soldiers who have paid the ultimate price to keep our shores safe. PFC Joseph Boschetti had finally come to his ultimate resting place. Rightfully, he was now home.
Semper Fi, Joe !!