Honoring My WWI Ancestor on the 100th Anniversary of the Armistice!

Posted by: Eileen A. Souza

Leon Bianchi on the left with two friends

Leon Bianchi on the left with two friends

This Sunday, November 11, 2018, commemorates the 100th anniversary of the signing of the armistice ceasing hostilities between the Allies and Germany. Armistice Day commemorations initiated in 1919 in the US. In 1938, Congress declared November 11 a legal holiday to be known as Armistice Day. In 1954, after World War II and the Korean War, the holiday was renamed Veteran’s Day to honor American veterans of all wars.

The only veteran of WWI that I found in my family was my great-uncle, Leon Victor Bianchi. Leon was born on 17 April 1891 in Hazleton, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, the son of Bonaventura and Mary (Bunt) Bianchi. I don’t know when this family moved from Hazleton to Mount Carmel, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania but they appear on the 1900 US Census in Mount Carmel.

Leon served in World War I and, according to his son, he was very proud of his military service. We can see this pride by his footstone which lists his rank and unit: Pvt. Bat. A 50th Fld. Art.

His WWI Veteran’s Compensation Application states that he enlisted as Regular Army for the duration of the war on 18 April 1917. He was 26 years old. He served overseas from 7 October 1918 to 14 February 1919. He was discharged honorably on 22 February 1919 on demobilization. He was promoted to Private First Class on 22 April 1918, promoted to Corporal on 21 July 1918, and then demoted to Private on 25 October 1918. Until I obtain his service records, I do not know the reason for this demotion. It occurred while he was overseas.

On 7 June 1935, he married Helen (Grochowski) Toczylowski at Saint Peter’s Church in Mount Carmel. A special dispensation was required, possibly because she was previously married. It is currently unknown whether she was a widow or a divorcee.

Helen brought three children into this marriage: Leonard Toczylowski, Edward Toczylowski, and Leona Toczylowski. Together, Leon and Helen had Victor J. Bianchi, born 25 December 1925, died 28 August 1997 and Gerald Bianchi, born 30 January 1927, died 24 August 2009.

After a working life as a minor, Leon died 14 December 1949 in Atlas, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania at the age of 58 of tuberculosis. Leon’s grave is in St. Peter’s Cemetery in Mount Carmel. Below are photos of his headstone and footstone.


Headstone of Leon and Helen Bianchi

Headstone of Leon and Helen Bianchi

Footstone of Leon Bianchi

Footstone of Leon Bianchi

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One Response to Honoring My WWI Ancestor on the 100th Anniversary of the Armistice!

  1. So great to remember the veterans in our families!

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