Santo "Sandy" Conti

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CONTI--Santo "Sandy" Joseph, Linguist, D-Day Veteran, Painter, Photographer, and New York City high school teacher died on January 29, 2008 in New York City. He was 89. His death was announced on his WWII unit's memorial website: Sandy Conti was born on December 17, 1918 in Brooklyn, NY. From an early age, Sandy's classmates and teachers recognized his talent for learning foreign languages. Despite the Great Depression, he graduated from New York University with a degree in French Literature. Sandy served with the U.S. Army Air Corps, 834th Engineer Aviation Battalion, Company C from April 1942 to October 1945. On the morning of D-Day +1, Sandy and his unit landed in Normandy on Omaha Beach. Before D-Day, the Office of Strategic Services tried to recruit Sandy, but the officers of the 834th--knowing that his linguistic skills would be needed after the invasion-- would not relinquish him. During his service as a translator, he regularly worked with members of the French Resistance. As a reward for his services, the U.S. Army assigned him to the University of Grenoble for additional language training. Among his fondest memories of the war were talking with Ernest Hemingway at Mont Saint Michel, and flying in an airplane for the first time over the French countryside. After the war, Sandy resumed his education at Columbia University and received a Masters in French Literature; Dwight Eisenhower signed his diploma. He was an instructor and a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Pennsylvania. Because of his close friendship with William Dean Fausett, the painter, Sandy split his time between New York City and Dorset, Vermont. During his time in Dorset, Sandy worked as a set designer and photographer for numerous opera productions. After spending 17 years teaching Foreign Languages for the New York City Board of Education, Sandy spent his retirement learning about emerging digital technologies, trading investments online, attending productions at the Metropolitan Opera, and contributing information to World War II historians and journals.

Published in The New York Times on June 7, 2009