Joe Ruggiero, aka “Joey Chips” since he always shows up at a party with a bag of chips, is a WWII vet who is still driving in 2016. He served as a Bosun Mate on the Navy vessel THURSTON and participated in 6 D-Days in 4 years including Normandy, Casablanca, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
Joe Ruggiero was born in 1925 and moved to Red Hook, Brooklyn when he was 6 years old. He remembers South Brooklyn during the depression when the docks were bustling but the living was hard.
He joined the Navy at age 17 in 1941 six months after Pearl Harbor and served aboard the USS Thurston for the duration of the war. The USS Thurston, a troop transport ship which served at many of the war’s major invasion sites — North Africa, Sicily, Normandy and Iwo Jima.
The USS Thurston was outfitted in Atlantic Basin from cargo ship to troop carrier in 1941. The USS Thurston returned to Todd Shipyard dry docks (where the Ikea is presently) throughout the war years.
After returning to Brooklyn, Ruggiero held a variety of factory jobs — as a cutter and then mechanic at the Exquisite Form brassiere factory, among others- before landing a job as a deckhand on the Staten Island Ferry.
Ruggiero worked for 25 years on the Staten Island Ferry and then 13 years on the Governor’s Island Ferry before retiring at 73 years old.
He was married for 58 years has 2 daughters and several grandchildren. He lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn and enjoys visiting the Red Hook VFW Post 5195 where he is a regular.