In more than a century of life, Josef Lukacs has seen his share of joy and tragedy, and on Sunday, town officials, family and friends came together to celebrate that life.
Mayor Scott Jackson proclaimed April 3 Josef Lukacs Day. Lukacs,a long-time Hamden resident who now resides at Arden House, is a World War II Veteran and a hero, earning 3 bronze metals during his tour of duty. He turned 101 on March 18.
Lukacs was surrounded by his son and daughter-in-law, staff from the Mayor’s office and Veterans of World War II Sunday when Town Clerk Vera Morrison presented him with the proclamation.
Also in attendance Sunday was Dr. Benjamin Edidin Scolnic from Temple Beth Shalom.
“He has lived a long life and is brave to face all things that age has to bring,” Scolnic said of Lukcas.
Abner Oaks from the Hamden Veterans Commission was also in attendance, along with veterans from the Jewish War Veterans ( JWV) Post 204.
The guests celebrated with a breakfast of lox, bagels and cream cheese, with a cake designed as the American flag.
Lukacs is a member of the disappearing breed of WWII veterans. According to the federal Department of Veteran Affairs, more than 1,000 WWII veterans are dying every day. These and all veterans need to be recognized and remembered regularly, they say, because their bravery has afforded us the freedom we enjoy.
Lukacs arrived in the United States from Austria ahead of his wife, and while waiting for his wife to arrive, he enlisted in the military at 30 years old.
As his wife arrived in the United States, Lukacs was shipped out to fight the Battle of Anzio Beachhead in Italy. He was among the first wave to arrive there. Lukacs was one of just over 1,000 to survive that battle.
Lukacs recounted a story of seeing Adolf Hitler before he built his reputation. He had ridden his bike to town and watched as Hitler road by in a truck. Lukacs was less than seven feet from Hitler, who was waving a Swastika. With emotion he said “Hitler had destroyed some of my family and friends.”
He was also there during a speech General George Patton made as they were led into battle, he said.
Lukacs spent more than three years in the service. When he returned, he lived in New Haven but eventually settled in Hamden.
Lukacs and his wife Irna have a son, Roy, two granddaughters, Karie, who lives in Rhode Island, and the late Jodi Lukacs, and twin great grand children. Lukacs was married to Irna for more than 49 years
During the first four years of their marriage Lukacs and his wife spent only one night together, he said.
Lukacs said he still enjoys good health and gets around just fine by foot. He comes from a family of longevity, he said - his mother lived to 104.