Wilbraham WWII Veteran Celebrates 100th Birthday with Drive-by Party

WILBRAHAM — On July 15, a line of cars gathered in the parking lot of Wilbraham Middle School. Fire trucks and police cars lined up in what looked like an emergency-response effort. However, the lights and sirens were not in response to a fire, but rather the occasion of a 100th birthday party. Fleming Cocchi, a longtime resident of Wilbraham, turned 100 years old on July 15.

While the COVID-19 pandemic restricted the ability to gather in person, this did not limit the festivities. Organized by Visiting Angels of West Springfield, the home-care service that has taken care of Cocchi and his wife since 2014, a parade of friends, family, and community members gathered to drive by Cocchi’s house in Wilbraham with signs, balloons, bows, and birthday wishes. Cocchi waved from his porch with a big smile on his face as the cars and trucks passed by.

Fleming Cocchi was born in 1920, just as the Spanish influenza epidemic was ending. He lived through the Great Depression and served in the Navy during World War II. During the war, he was deployed in the Pacific on a minesweeper ship, which was utilized to detect and remove mines from the ocean floor. After the war, in 1951, he married his wife, Genevieve. Cocchi was an elementary-school teacher for many years before being promoted to serve as the principal of Elias Brookings Elementary School in Springfield. He and his wife have lived together in Wilbraham since 1951, and remain in the same house to this day.

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