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The legend of Sleepy Hollow: Pearl Harbor survivor hits 100


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He’s the legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Armando “Chick” Galella is a Pearl Harbor survivor and World War II veteran who is the toast of his tranquil town, population 10,000.

But this year is extra special because Galella is 100 — he marked a century on New Year’s Day.

On Saturday, the locals saluted their beloved patriotic hero with a motorcade and a surprise recorded shout-out from country music legend Willie Nelson, who is a fellow military vet and Galella favorite. Fireworks at dusk topped off the party. .

“I’m just a little Italian boy from Barnhardt Avenue,” the centenarian told The Post, adding, “I can’t complain. The good Lord has been good to me …,”

Galella has had quite a life.

Galella enlisted in the Army in 1940. He was with the 443rd Signal Corps at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, pushing the US into World War II.

The sneak attack, which President Franklin Roosevelt famously called “a date which will live in infamy,” killed 2,403 service members and civilians. Japanese pilots wounded another 1,178 when they sank two Navy battleships — the USS Arizona and the USS Utah — and destroyed 188 aircraft.

“We had no more chance than a snowball has in hell,” Galella said somberly. “It was wave after wave after wave. I’m just happy with the grace of the good Lord that I survived.”

Galella rose to the rank of bat­tal­ion sergeant ma­jor. He received a Bronze Star for mer­i­to­ri­ous ser­vice and brav­ery in the Bat­tle of Ok­i­nawa, the largest amphibious invasion of the Pacific campaign.

Galella’s latest mission is to honor the mothers who lost a son or daughter in service . His best friend and neighbor, John Horan, was a Pearl Harbor casualty.

In 1999, Galella petitioned the village to rename a waterfront park in Sleepy Hollow to “Horan’s Landing” in honor of his friend, who was the village’s first resident to be killed in the war.

Galella helped the Historical Society raise $95,000 for a memorial dedicated to Gold Star Mothers.

“This is the one that’s closest to my heart,” the veteran said of the life-size bronze statue, which will be sculpted by decorated Vietnam War Veteran Andrew Chernak and placed at Horan’s Landing. A ceremonial groundbreaking was scheduled for Saturday afternoon.

An old photo of Armando "Chick" Galella
An old photo of Armando “Chick” Galella

On New Year’s Eve, the His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety pre­sented Galella with its prestigious Preser­va­tion Award for his “lifelong commitment to ­preserving local history, his stew­ard­ship of lo­cal mon­u­ments to vet­er­ans and their fam­i­lies, and his heart­felt work to honor es­pe­cially those vet­er­ans who have given their lives.”

Galella spent his birthday at home with family, dining on his go-to of capon and tortellini soup. “Every New Year’s Day, capon with tortellini soup,” the proud Italian emphasized.

A man of his time, Galella’s passions include listening to Frank Sinatra, watching movies with Bogie and Bacall — Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, that is — and rooting for the Yankees, a pastime that dates back to the days of the great Joe DiMaggio and Phil Rizzuto.

Galella lost his beloved wife of 67 years, Leda, in September 2015, but has sons Armando and Michael as well as two granddaughters and five great grandkids.

These days, he rises every morning around 8 and savors a cup of Dunkin’ coffee. And he likes to sit in his “Memory Room,” filled with honors and keepsakes.

And he has no problem sharing his secrets to longevity.

“A sense of humor and a glass of wine with apples every day between 4 and 4:30 p.m. … And when you wake up in the morning, put your feet on the ground and live like it’s your last day on earth.”

Additional reporting by Mackenzie Dawson and Khristina Narizhnaya

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