By Brianna Staudt —
Sleepy Hollow may be host to “The Legend (of Sleepy Hollow),” but locals of North Tarrytown — now named Sleepy Hollow — know the true local legend was Chick.
World War II veteran, Pearl Harbor survivor and lifetime North Tarrytown/Sleepy Hollow resident Armando “Chick” Galella died yesterday, Sept. 29, 2021, at Phelps Memorial Hospital due to complications of COVID-19. He was 100.
“This is a tremendously sad moment for our village. He really was a local treasure, and in a time when words like ‘hero’ are way, way over used, he actually was one. A real one,” said Sleepy Hollow Mayor Ken Wray.
The village so beloved Galella it threw him a 100th birthday party last January, complete with a motorcade and fireworks. Residents eagerly lined the streets to wave hello.
In a testament to how widely revered Galella was in the community, Sleepy Hollow Middle School students threw him his 99th birthday party. It was a surprise.
Galella was born in 1921. He enlisted in the army and was assigned to the 443rd Signal Corps at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii. He was 20 years old when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Galella was awarded the Bronze Star for his bravery and service in the Battle of Okinawa and achieved the rank of battalion sergeant major, the highest rank an enlisted service member can reach.
Shortly after the war, he married Leda DiFelice, who preceded him in death in 2015 after 68 years of marriage. Surviving Galella are two sons, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Galella served as North Tarrytown village trustee, deputy mayor and held various leadership roles in the now Sleepy Hollow Volunteer Fire Department. His membership in the Pocantico Hook & Ladder Company dates back to 1948.
Galella continuously gave back to his community. At his 100th birthday celebration, he broke ground for a statue honoring Gold Star Mothers at Sleepy Hollow’s Horan’s Landing Park. He raised the money for the statue together with his son with the support of the historical society. (The park itself is named after his friend, fellow resident John J. Horan, who didn’t make it home from the war. Over 40 young men from North Tarrytown High School didn’t.)
Historical Society Curator Sara Mascia explains many men returned from World War II and entered public life, but what made Galella special was his longevity. Long after others “retired” from advocacy, Galella continued to look for ways to support veterans and military families and educate the next generation about the sacrifices made in the war.
“His very historic participation in World War II made him the ideal spokesperson for these organizations,” explains Mascia.
In the twilight of his life, Galella frequented the farmer’s market, village parties and concerts. He was the grand marshal for the Sleepy Hollow 2018 St. Patrick’s Day parade. Where there was music, he danced.
“I’m for the people, not for myself,” he said in the interview. “What’s your purpose in life?”
The Public Schools of the Tarrytowns is lowering all of the flags at its buildings to half-staff until Galella’s funeral in honor of his commitment to the local school children. Notably, in recent years, Galella worked with students to place 400 flags on the grounds of the Sleepy Hollow High School and Middle School campus to commemorate each Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day.
The village isn’t sure if there will be a celebration of Galella’s life now that he has passed. Wray notes time is needed to absorb the loss, and anything done would need to be in accordance with Galella’s family’s wishes. And, he notes, they celebrated his life pretty darn well in January, when he was here to enjoy it.
Galella’s wake will be 4-8 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 4, and Tuesday, Oct. 5, at Immaculate Conception Church in Sleepy Hollow (199 North Broadway). The funeral mass will be Wednesday, Oct. 6, at 11 a.m. at Immaculate Conception. The procession will lead to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.