On Friday, January 13, 2023, Leon Vaccarella “slipped the surly bonds of earth” and made his final flight to heaven, where he was welcomed by his Heavenly Father, his wife Annetta, and family and friends who had gone before him. Leon lived 99 years of a full, rich life. A week before he passed, “Vacc” called several family members to say “goodbye”. His message was clear. He wanted each one to know what a wonderful life he’d had, that he loved them, thanked them for the love and many kindnesses he’d received, and to tell them he was ready to go. He passed peacefully in his sleep a few days later.
Leon was born December 1, 1923 in Hammonton to Antonio and Josephine Vaccarella; both having emigrated from Gesu, Sicily. He grew up with a sister and five brothers on a small farm the corner of 13th St. and Chew Rd. Leon (or Ollie as they called him) was the last of this “band of brothers” Joe, Nein, Frank, Sam and John and his sister, Lena. He and his siblings were the first American-born generation of the Vaccarella/Macri family. Leon graduated from Hammonton High School in 1941. He was drafted in 1943 and assigned to the US Army Air Corps. He was a bombardier during WWII. After the war, Lt. Vaccarella was stationed in Germany where he met his wife, Annetta, who was there with her father and family stationed at the same base. They were married in Schleisheim in 1948. Lt. Vaccarella went on to become a pilot in the USAF. He and Annetta raised a family, moving about the country to various bases, eventually settling at Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls, Texas.
At Sheppard AFB, Leon served as a B-52 pilot and aircraft commander in the 864th Bomb Squadron Strategic Air Command until he retired in 1965. After retiring from the USAF as Lt. Colonel, Leon worked for the US Postal Service until1987. Leon was passionate about his family, his service to country and community. He loved being involved in the lives of his children. He served as a Boy Scout Master and he took pride in seeing sons Tony and Joe become Eagle Scouts. Leon was an avid bridge player and achieved Life Master Certificate in 1996. He continued to play up until he was 98. He was a good neighbor and friend to many, always willing to help out if needed. He loved to garden and always had a bountiful garden and fruit trees wherever he lived. Hunting and fishing were favorite pastimes.
Leon is survived by his daughter, Glenda (James) Jeter; sons, Joe (Sherrie) Vaccarella and Anthony Vaccarella; six grandchildren, Krysten (Coy) Chastain, David Vaccarella, LeeAnn (Matthew) Price, Jay Vaccarella, Leslee (Kris) Henning, and Bryan Vaccarella; and 10 great grandchildren, Katelynn and Karsyn Vaccarella, Jace Vaccarella, Wyatt, Jolee, Oliver, and August Henning, LilyAnn and Samuel Price, and Kyndle Chastain. He also is survived by many nieces and nephews residing in the Hammonton/South Jersey area and in Florida. Except for the last few years, Leon would travel to Hammonton to attend the family reunion, which has taken place every August for 65 years. He was the last of his generation in the Vaccarella family and he will be greatly missed by everyone.
A visitation for Leon was held Thursday, January 19th, 2023 at Hampton Vaughan Crestview Funeral Home, Wichita Falls, Texas. A funeral service followed on Friday, January 20th. A graveside service with full honors were heldWednesday, January 25 at DFW National Cemetery. Condolences and fond memories may be shared at www.hamptonvaughancrestview.com for the Vaccarella family.