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* This article first appeared in The Sentinel on April 20, 2001. Used by permission.



Local Veteran Calls for Free Burial At County Veterans Memorial Cemetery

By John Gaudioso, Jr.

A World War II veteran from New Windsor is urging the Orange County Legislature to eliminate a $500 burial fee for a Goshen based memorial cemetery for veterans.

Tony Pellegrino, an 83-year-old World War II Second Lieutenant who retired with a Battlefield Commission, approached the County Legislature during the public forum session in a regularly scheduled meeting recently.

The Orange County Veterans Memorial Cemetery is the eternal resting place for veterans of a variety of different wars. When a veteran dies, the family must pay a $500 burial fee to Orange County.

Pellegrino explained that he is aiming for complete non-payment for burial in the cemetery. "I believe veterans should be buried with honor and dignity without paying a fee." he declared.

The issue was first brought up by Pellegrino four years ago when he attended a legislative breakfast in Monroe and county officials stated there would be a fee for burial in the Veterans Memorial Cemetery. When he heard that, he explained, he got up and questioned, "Why should we pay, don't you think we did enough (for our country)?"

Pellegrino stressed that he is doing this to help all of his fellow veterans and will continue to pursue this matter. I'm not doing it for myself," he said, "I'm doing it for the veterans." He already owns a plot in another cemetery.

In addition, Pellegrino pointed out that the limited amount of remaining World War II veterans should be taken into consideration. He suggested that Orange County set up a fund in their budget for the cemetery to replace the $500 fee. He observed that just one dollar per taxpayer could make the fund a success.

When Pellegrino brought these points up to the Orange County Legislature, he said, he received some positive feedback. County Legislator Michael Paduch of the 19th District from Middletown and County Legislator Jeffrey Berkman, representing the 20th District from Middletown, each approached Pellegrino following the meeting and expressed their willingness to work with him to eliminate the fee.

Berkman stated that he made the original recommendation to the legislative veterans committee a few years ago for free burials for veterans. It was discussed on the floor and other legislators went back and forth on the topic, resulting in the idea never being approved.

I appreciate the fact that Mr. Pellegrino came to the legislature to express his concern." Berkman stated. In fact, Berkman took the initiative to contact Orange County Veterans Administration Director Zippo regarding the matter and the two have discussed it together.

Berkman explained that the way the system works now, if a veteran has no money when he dies, the County will provide for a free burial. The Orange County Veterans Administration stated that this is as long as a certain criteria is met.

Pellegrino, however, feels that the burial should be free regardless of the veterans' financial status.

Berkman continued that even if the county fees are eliminated, the families of the deceased veterans would still face general burial fees such as the opening and closing of gravesites.

"I'm open-minded on the subject," Berkman declared, expressing his hope of working with everyone involved on the issue and come to an agreement. "I'm looking forward to talking to Mr. Pelegrino on the issue as well."

New York State Senator William Larkin's assist Ralph Caruso also approached Pellegrino and offered to help eliminate the tax.

"How is it a memorial cemetery." Pellegrino questioned. "When veterans have to pay a fee?"


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