At Vineland nursing home, a tribute to veterans

C. Anthony Confalone of Vineland raises his arm in celebration as the crowd sings "Happy Birthday" to Cuccia. On Friday, the Philly Phanatic joined the festivities at the home.
C. Anthony Confalone of Vineland raises his arm in celebration as the crowd sings "Happy Birthday" to Cuccia. On Friday, the Philly Phanatic joined the festivities at the home.
Posted: May 13, 2013

After 105 years, it can be tough to pick out a birthday present.

But officials at the New Jersey Veterans Memorial Home in Vineland knew exactly what to get Frank Cuccia on Saturday.

"The reason he says he's gotten to be 105 is because every day he would always eat a McDonald's hamburger," said Derick Glenn, special events coordinator at the home.

So a Happy Meal it was.

While the gift may have been small, there was still a big celebration for the World War II veteran, as the nursing home and local VFWs honored residents there for their service as part of National Nursing Home Week.

Although rain spoiled plans for the home's first parade, organizers still held a barbecue indoors, serving up hamburgers, hot dogs, and fried chicken - and a big cake for Cuccia.

"I call him 'young man'!" exclaimed C. Anthony Confalone, 93, of Vineland. On Friday, the Philly Phanatic paid tribute to the 287 veterans at the home. "That was a wild party," Confalone said.

Festivities are to continue Sunday, with the annual Memorial Day events just two weeks away.

"It's an appreciation day. And I love it," said Confalone, a World War II veteran. "It makes us feel good. It makes us feel like we're not forgotten."

Added veteran Ernest Webber: "There's nothing better."

Local VFWs donated $3,600 to the memorial home Saturday. Such donations have been used in the past to spruce up the facility with amenities like a theater.

"Whatever we can do to make their day really nice," said Thomas MacPherson Jr., an officer with the Runnemede VFW and an Iraq war veteran. "That's what it's all about."

Gus Papahanges, 80, a former military intelligence officer, was admitted to the home a month ago. He misses his mother - she's 97 - and sister, who live in Ohio, and doesn't see his wife much because she works two jobs in Woodbury.

But he was all smiles Saturday: "These people here are very good."


Contact Andrew Seidman

at 856-779-3846, aseidman@phillynews.com,

or follow on Twitter @AndrewSeidman.

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