Frank Baldrini

Syracuse Herald-Journal, May 5, 1944
Sgt. Frank Baldrini, 53, of 224 Woods Road, Solvay, is back home after 18 months overseas in railway operations battalion service in the Persian Gulf. He has a citation for “heroic service” in saving the lives of several Polish refugee children from under the wheels of a train at risk of his own life.

Sgt. Baldrini was one of the oldest men in his railway battalion, although most of the members were over 40. He is a veteran of World War I, serving with the 33d Division and was in the battles of the Argonne and Meuse. He also was in action on the Mexican border. He was in the North African, Middle East and European battle areas of the present conflict.

He said men of the railway operations service had to work often in temperatures of 150 or 180. Often they brought supplies by train and other times evacuated refugees.

Capt. Czernecki, town major of a Polish camp, wrote to Baldrini’s commanding officer commending him for saving the lives of the refugee children. A train had stopped and children and adults alighted. When the train started, Baldrini saw the children playing under the train and while it was in slow motion he managed to get them out.

From his commanding officer, Lieut. Col. R. E. Mattson, Sgt. Baldrini has a letter of commendation for that service. Col. Mattson viewed the action of the sergeant as “responsible for saving the lives of several children” and added, “I wish to commend you for your quick thinking and presence of mind.”

Sgt. Baldrini was a conductor with the New York Central System before entering military service in 1942. He has been a railroad employee 31 years. He is married and has four children. His son, Francis, is a seaman, 1/c, in the Navy; his daughter, Mary, a nurse at St. Joseph’s Hospital, while two other children, Edna and Jean, are at home.

Frank Baldrini died in January, 1991, four months shy of his 100th birthday. His obituary in the Syracuse Herald-Journal, written by Anne Roth, said that Baldrini was an interpreter in the Mexican Revolution in 1916 and participated in World War 1 battles in the Argonne and Belleau Woods.

"I was in the front line, the infantry," he said of his World War 1 experience. He was a bugle boy who led troops into battle. "A lot of bugle boys were used as messengers," he said. "That's how they got killed."

In 1943, when he was 52, he decided to enlist in the Army for World War 2. According to a 1990 story in the Syracuse Post-Standard by Shu Shu Foo, Baldrini's wife, Margaret, told him he wouldn't pass the physical. He seemed to take that as a challenge. "I went right down there and Boom!" He passed and immediately enlisted.

He said one reason he joined the Army again was an attempt to prevent his son, Francis, from being called into service. That may have worked for awhile, but the younger Baldrini joined the Navy a year later. The Navy had been Baldrini's first choice for World War 1 service, but he said that because he wasn't yet a citizen the Navy wouldn't take him, so he joined the Army.

Jean Sardino, one of Baldrini's three daughters, said her father so loved his adopted country that he wanted to go to Vietnam with his grandsons. But this time, finally, he really was too old.

Baldrini was born in Austria and never went beyond first or second grade, according to Mrs. Sardino. But he spoke five languages: English, Spanish, Italian, German and French.

She said perhaps the best thing that ever happened to him was meeting and marrying Margaret Grogan, who was born in Ireland. Her father was feisty, said Mrs. Sardino, while her mother was very gentle. They met in a Long Island hospital where he was convalescing after World War 1. She died in 1981.

Frank Baldrini also outlived his son, Francis, who died in 1987. He was survived by his three daughters, Jean Sardino of Camillus, Mary Stone of New York City and Edna Strazzini of San Diego, California, and 18 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren.

He came to the United States in 1907 and settled in Solvay because the village had become sort of a colony for Tyroleans who quickly found work at the Solvay Process Company. Baldrini followed suit, but then went to work for New York Central where he would spend 40 years as a brakeman and conductor, with time off, of course, for his service in not one, but two World Wars.

For more on Solvay way back when, check out
the Solvay-Geddes Historical Society