P. Michael Pezzella

Vice prin­ci­pal at Pat­ter­son High School served in the Marine Corps and was wounded dur­ing the Korean War

Baltimore Sun - - OBITUARIES - By Jac­ques Kelly jac­ques.kelly@balt­sun.com

P. Michael Pezzella, a re­tired Baltimore public schools prin­ci­pal who was wounded in the Korean War and helped es­tab­lish a war me­mo­rial in Can­ton, died Satur­day at Mary­land Shock Trauma Cen­ter af­ter suf­fer­ing a fall at his home. The For­est Hill res­i­dent was 86. Born in Baltimore and raised on North Av­enue, he was the son of An­gelo Pezzella, a paint­ing dec­o­ra­tor and drap­ery maker, and Carmelina Pezzella, who owned a beauty sa­lon.

He was a 1948 City Col­lege grad­u­ate and en­listed in the Marine Corps Re­serves as a se­nior in high school.

He was work­ing at a Har­ford Road soda foun­tain when he was called up for mil­i­tary ser­vice in 1950. He was as­signed to the 11th En­gi­neer Bat­tal­ion, which later was dubbed “Baltimore’s Own.”

“They were the most or­di­nary of Baltimore boys, 19 go­ing on 20, when they mus­tered out­side Fort McHenry on a steamy Au­gust morn­ing,” said a 1998 Baltimore Sun ar­ti­cle. “A few months later, at Chosin Reser­voir, they were among 20,000 Amer­i­can sol­diers sur­rounded by 120,000 Chi­nese troops — the same Chi­nese that U.S. of­fi­cials had be­lieved would not en­ter the war. It was 30 de­grees below zero, a tem­per­a­ture at which hands and feet froze and ma­chine guns jammed.”

In that ar­ti­cle, Mr. Pezzella was quoted say­ing: “’It was the dumb­est mil­i­tary tac­tic in his­tory. ... They sent us into the moun­tains on a sin­gle sup­ply line, and the Chi­nese cut it in 22 places. They sent us with weapons and equip­ment, even boots, that had never been tested in ex­treme cold.”

In the ar­ti­cle, Mr. Pezzella re­called be­ing shot in the leg near a vil­lage called Ha­garu-ri. He made his way to a makeshift field hos­pi­tal and, while wait­ing out­side for med­i­cal care, fired at the ap­proach­ing Chi­nese. He re­ceived a Pur­ple Heart.

“Mike was a fine young man,” said a fel­low Marine, Ed­ward King, who lives in Glen Burnie.

“He loved life. I re­call we had been in Camp Pendle­ton [in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia] be­fore we shipped out to Korea. He talked meinto hitch­hik­ing into Los An­ge­les for the day. And we hitch­hiked home that night. He was like that.”

Af­ter his mil­i­tary ser­vice, Mr. Pezzella re­turned to Baltimore and earned an as­so­ci­ate’s de­gree at the old Baltimore Ju­nior Col­lege, where he was later in­ducted into the school’s ath­letic hall of fame.

He then earned a bach­e­lor’s de­gree from what is now McDaniel Col­lege.

He taught so­cial stud­ies, first in Mont­gomery County and then in Baltimore City schools.

He be­came prin­ci­pal of Cherry Hill El­e­men­tary School and vice prin­ci­pal of Pat­ter­son High School, where he of­ten filled in for Prin­ci­pal Frank C. Robey Jr. — who served in the Mary­land House of Del­e­gates.

Mr. Pezzella later be­came an Army cost an­a­lyst at Aberdeen Prov­ing Ground in Har­ford County.

“He was a funny guy, but he had a shy side,” said his wife, Chris­tine Brown Pezzella.

“He didn’t like to talk about him­self, but he could be talk­a­ble af­ter he got to know peo­ple.” She said her hus­band rarely missed an op­por­tu­nity to join in Me­mo­rial Day and Veter­ans Day cer­e­monies.

In1993, on the site of the Mary­land Korean War Me­mo­rial in Can­ton, Mr. Pezzella as­sisted in the es­tab­lish­ment and ded­i­ca­tion of a sep­a­rate mon­u­ment to the mem­ory of the 11th En­gi­neer Bat­tal­ion, Marine Corps Re­serve.

He was a loyal mem­ber of the Har­ford County Lodge of the Or­der Sons of Italy, where he held lead­er­ship posts.

His wife said Mr. Pezzella was proud of his Si­cil­ian her­itage and his mil­i­tary ser­vice. He took trips to Italy and the United King­dom, where he at­tended re­unions of Royal Marines who served at Chosin Reser­voir.

“Mike had very strong opin­ions,” said a friend, Ch­ester Thur­low of Bel Air. “He pro­claimed, ‘I am a Si­cil­ian.’ ”

Ser­vices will be held at 10 a.m. Thurs­day at the Schimunek Fu­neral Home of Bel Air, 610 W. MacPhail Road.

In ad­di­tion to his wife of two years, a re­tired worker in Johns Hop­kins med­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion, survivors in­clude two sons, Martin Pezzella and Robert Pezzella, both of Bel Air; two daugh­ters, Michele Brady of The Vil­lages, Fla., and Kath­leen No­vak of Ch­ester­field, Va.; two step­sons, Robert Brown and Thomas Brown, both of Baltimore; a step­daugh­ter, Jen­nifer Brown of Dover, Del.; and seven grand­chil­dren. His first wife, A. Pa­tri­cia McCarthy, died in 2001. P. Michael Pezzella rarely missed an op­por­tu­nity to join in Me­mo­rial Day and Veter­ans Day cer­e­monies, his wife said.

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