Xaverian alum pens book honoring World War II veteran

January 6, 2015 Jaime DeJesus
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A former Bay Ridge resident who found inspiration in the remarkable life story of a World War II has written a book about the hero entitled Untouched Heroics.

Twenty-eight-year-old Steven Attanasio, who graduated from Xaverian High School in 2004 as class valedictorian, attended a wedding reception two years ago. He had just left a job in finance and was looking for the next step and a new challenge in his life. It was at the reception that he met 95-year-old Tony Varone, a veteran who served a remarkable eight tours during World War II. After conversing for nearly two hours, Attanasio realized how special Varone’s story was.

“The way he carried himself from the very beginning showed he had lots of pride and self-respect,” Attanasio recalled. “He was 94 at the time and at the wedding, he always got up to shake people’s hand with a smile on face.”

Attanasio, who has always appreciated Varone’s generation and the individuals who endured the war, was fascinated by the veteran’s candor. “We started talking about war and anecdotes from his life,” Attanasio said. “He told me stories and got into the idea that he always wanted to write them down but didn’t think it was going to happen.”

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With some free time on his hands, Attanasio told Varone that he was interested in making his desire a reality by writing the veteran’s life story. That turned into the book, which is a retelling of Varone’s triumphs and tragedies, along with a compilation of letters he wrote during his time at war.

Over a period of 18 months, Attanasio traveled to Varone’s home on Long Island and interviewed him over a dozen times. He compiled over 25 hours of recordings, in which the vet discussed both tragic and humorous moments.

“It was just a whirlwind of emotions,” said Attanasio. “I knew people needed to hear this story. One of the biggest things is that there are not lots of World War II vets left. Not lots of guys got to write it down. I made it a point to be delicate about things he went through. Everyone knows war is ugly. But he really opened up.”

One of the things that struck the first-time author was Varone’s outlook during such dark times. “He remained positive,” noted Attanasio. “He said in letters sent to his mother that he was in the best of health and that everything was perfect. When he was going through horrific ordeals, he was still able to send positive letters. He didn’t express any sort of pain.” Despite suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Varone remained the optimist.

“I called it Untouched Heroics because he got through all these things and should have died dozens of times and he didn’t,” said Attanasio. “In that sense, he was untouched.”

Once he completed the 200-plus page book, Attanasio shopped the work around to publishers. However, during the process, Varone’s health declined. Attanasio then decided to self-publish the book in order to release it faster so Varone could witness the release.
Varone recovered from the illness, and was able to hold the book in his hands, which Attanasio described as one of the best moments of his life. “He loved it,” said Attanasio. “He was overwhelmed by it. He’s been proud to have a story out there and have legacy he could pass onto.”

To purchase Untouched Heroics, visit www.untouchedheroics.com.

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