Local WWII veteran’s son speaks about his father’s legacy

Published: Mar. 27, 2023 at 6:06 PM EDT
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CLARKSBURG, W.Va (WDTV) - Earlier this month a local WWII veteran passed away at the age of 102.

Staff Sergeant Benjamin Portaro was a highly decorated veteran most recently getting the French Legion Honor Medal.

Portaro served on the frontlines during the Battle of the Bulge where he and his comrades were overrun and captured.

3 months into his capture, Portaro and his friend escaped a German prison camp; running and hiding in the cold for days until they came upon fellow U.S. troops.

But if you asked Portaro he wouldn’t say he was a hero -- it was a time when everyone had to work hard together.

“He’d always say, you know the people in the warehouses in the U.S. that put things together to send over to us were just as important, it took 10 of those people to keep 1 of us alive over there, so don’t ever disrespect anyone who was working here to support the troops overseas,” said his son Jim Portaro.

Portaro was born in Italy, but lived most of his life in West Virginia.

Portaro’s son, Jim says how dedicated of a father he was.

“He was never anything other than just lovingly strict and he taught us everything we know,” said Portaro.

Portaro worked in construction before and after the war for the same company until his retirement more than 40 years later.

When he wasn’t at work Portaro kept himself busy with more work.

Jim says it was because his father appreciated life and wanted to share it with others.

“He did everything for the long haul and he had a will to live that is unsurpassed,” said Portaro. “He wanted to pass on knowledge on everything from his gardening techniques, to how to build something, or why we needed to do something one way or another.”

Portaro is perhaps most popular in the neighborhood for his garden.

Jim says his father showed the same care for his famous peppers, just as he did for everything else he loved and nurtured in life.

“Learn to go through these things and produce out the soil and what we take out we put back in, things like that, he would preach that to everyone who would listen,” said Portaro.

Jim says while his family will always remember his father down to his great-grandchildren, his kindness has been felt and will be carried on by many others.

“I really feel his legacy is the people that he touched and made our lives better by doing -- so I think that is the true legacy of my dad.”