'I'd never thought I'd make it.' 103-year-old saxophonist, WWII vet from Floral Park reflects on birthday milestone

Dominick Critelli was awarded five medals of honor for his outstanding service, something this humble war hero rarely even talks about.

Antoinette Biordi

Apr 9, 2024, 12:32 AM

Updated 47 days ago

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Music is said to be good for the soul - and it seems to be working well for a 103-year-old saxophonist from Floral Park.
Dominick Critelli, who celebrated his birthday on April 8, has been playing saxophone for the past 90 years.
The World War II veteran was born in Calabria, Italy.
He came to New York through Ellis Island with his family when he was just 8 years old at the start of the Great Depression and Prohibition.
Critelli eventually learned English in school and at the age of 20 he was drafted into the Army and trained as an airplane and engine mechanic. He arrived in France a week after the D-Day invasion at Normandy and remembers the aftermath on the beach.
"I felt very bad," he says. Every time, I think that I came home, and those guys I left over there."
By December 1944, Critelli was in Germany and his unit was in charge of airdropping supplies to the surrounded allied soldiers. He was there for the Battle of the Bulge and on V-E Day when the Nazis surrendered in May 1945.
Dominick was awarded five medals of honor for his outstanding service, something this humble war hero rarely even talks about.
"I never even show them," he said when asked of his medals.
When he came back to the U.S., he continued to go to school and graduated college. He went into the construction business, and even built seven homes in the Village of Floral Park where he now lives.
Critelli plays five different saxophones, and he learned to play all by himself when he was just 13 during the Great Depression.
He says he liked it because of the swing songs he would hear on the radio. Now Critelli plays at different venues across Long Island in a band called the Sound of Music Orchestra.
Critelli is about to hit another high note.
He will be knighted by the French government in June for his service during WWII and his contribution to the liberation of France.
It's a visit that will coincide with the anniversary of D-Day, and he will be joined by his daughter Nancy McLaughlin.
"It's very exciting now to be going to France with him and back to Utah beach. It's going to be hard," she says.
Dominick says he hopes we never forget the sacrifices he and others made.
"In this country, everybody is free. They better get someone to protect us because the veterans are gone," he says.
At 103, Critelli still leads a pretty busy lifestyle.
Other than practicing his saxophone at least once a day, he also likes to exercise at the Floral Park Recreation Center.
He takes a senior agility class that combines tai chi and a gentle workout twice a week. He walks with a cane after he fell and broke his right femur when he was 101.
He can still make it up and down the stairs and walking around pretty quickly.
"I'd never thought I'd make it," he said about turning 103.


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