Cesare Albert (“Charlie”) Ciantra, 97, died December 6, 2020, surrounded by his loving family.
Born in Springfield, he was the son of the late Vincenzo & Antonia (Lanza) Ciantra, originally of Abruzzo, Italy.
Charlie attended the public schools in Springfield and graduated from Trade High School in 1941 where he trained to be an electrician. He and his brother worked from an early age to support their mother who was widowed in 1928.
In 1943 Cesare enlisted in the Naval Reserve. Following basic training and advanced electrical work, he was assigned as part of the commissioning crew of aircraft carrier Gambier Bay. Gambier Bay participated in the Palau and Mariana campaigns. In October 1944 it was assigned as part of a task force of sister “baby flattops” defending the Philippines invasion force. The task force was surprised off Samar by most of the Japanese fleet which was somehow repulsed by the destroyers and destroyer escorts screening the carriers. Gambier Bay was sunk by enemy shell fire. Charlie was wounded by shrapnel and suffered hearing loss. After two days at sea, he was rescued with several other survivors. He returned to the United States and completed his service on USS Goodrich in the North Atlantic. Charlie was awarded the Purple Heart, and his campaign ribbon boasts four battle stars. The crew of Gambier Bay was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation.
After the war, Charlie worked in the electrical trade and at other industrial firms in Springfield before joining the Springfield Fire Department. Charlie rose through the ranks of the department, retiring as Captain in 1986. He commanded Springfield’s initial emergency rescue squad as well as fire stations in Indian Orchard, Winchester Square and Sixteen Acres, where he lived after he married in 1959.
In retirement, he, and his beloved wife of almost 62 years, Virginia (Frentzos) Ciantra, wintered for many years in Clearwater, Florida. They enjoyed travel and gardening. Charlie cultivated raspberries for many years and his preserves were a family staple. He was a member of the Springfield Association of Firefighters Local 648, and Springfield Elks Lodge 54 where he was a regular at the gym and enjoyed many an afternoon with fellow Elks.
Cesare will be dearly missed by his wife Virginia, sons, Thomas Ciantra and wife Stacy of Alexandria, VA, and Nicholas Ciantra and wife Susan of Mendon, MA, and his 3 cherished grandchildren, Emily, Charlie and Zoe. Charlie was proud to have attended the college graduations of each of his grandchildren.
He was predeceased by his brother Thomas.
Family and friends are invited to Cesare’s visiting hour, Friday, December 11, from 10-11 a.m. at St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 22 St. George Road, Springfield, MA 01104. Cesare’s funeral will begin at 11. His burial, with full military honors, will follow at Hillcrest Park Cemetery. Masks and social distancing required at all.
The family will schedule a memorial luncheon once it is safe.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to St. George Cathedral’s Building Fund.
Please visit www.TazziniFuneralHome.comfor condolences.