John A. Rega, 97, passed away unexpectedly on May 13, 2023. He leaves behind his devoted wife, Joan M. Rega (Santos), who was also his best friend and loyal caregiver. John was the son of the late John and Antonia (Iannucelli) Rega. Besides his wife, he is survived by his five daughters, three granddaughters, three grandsons, one great-granddaughter, 2 great-grandsons and many nieces and nephews. He is the brother of Mary Magno and the brother of the late Jean Martin, Rita Rega, Joseph Rega and Anthony Rega, all from Cranston.
As soon as John graduated from Cranston High School, he was drafted to serve in World War II as a foot soldier in the United States Army (83rd Infantry Division, 331st Infantry Regiment, K Company). John is a survivor of The Battle of the Bulge, where he ultimately sustained injuries to both of his feet. He was taken from the battlefield in Belgium and put on a medical ship heading to England for immediate treatment of his injuries. From England, he was shipped back to the United States for continued medical treatment in North Carolina and then transferred to up-state New York for his final medical treatment. He was awarded The Purple Heart and The Bronze Star and he received his Honorable Discharge. John wore his WWII Purple Heart baseball cap all the time and he was humble when people would thank him for his military service. When people called John a hero, John would say to them, “The real heroes didn’t make it back home. I was just lucky.” John was from the greatest generation that this country has ever seen.
When John first returned home from the hospital, it took him some time to adjust from his injuries but as soon as he was physically able, he began his professional career as a contractor with his father’s construction business and John went on to own his own construction business as well and he built a lot of the houses in his own neighborhood in Cranston and surrounding cities. John was hired as the Director of Building Inspections for the City of Cranston and when he retired from that position, John was then appointed by the Governor to be the Liaison at the T.F. Green Airport in Warwick. John had a love of flying so he received his private pilot’s license and he purchased his own Cessna airplane. John enjoyed going to North Central State Airport in Smithfield and meeting up with his fellow pilots for a day of flying.
John became a very accomplished man and provided well for his family. John was well-respected and was held in high regard by anyone who had the honor of meeting him.
John had lifelong memberships with the Italian American War Veterans (ITAMS) Post # 8, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post # 2812 and he was a 3rd Degree Knight with the Knights of Columbus Council # 3547. John was an active parishioner at St. Brigid Church in Johnston.
Two of the greatest experiences that John had was being invited on the Rhode Island Honor Flight called “Golf” in 2014 when they traveled to and from Washington, DC. John was one of twenty-three Military Veterans who attended this flight and then John was recognized as a WWII Veteran in a packed McCoy Stadium during a Pawtucket Red Sox game in 2018.
After John retired, he loved being outdoors and tending to his beautifully landscaped gardens at his home that he created and he loved going for long walks in the neighborhood and stopping in at his brother’s and sister’s homes, who all lived within a couple of streets away from each other. Later in life, John and Joan adopted two kittens, Baby and Benji, and John found so much joy watching them play throughout the house.
John always said that he felt very blessed to have experienced many opportunities in his lifetime and he felt that he lived a good life. John will be sadly missed by many.
At John’s personal request, a Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Saturday May 20, 2023, at 10:00 am at St. Robert Bellarmine Church, 1804 Atwood Ave. Johnston, followed by a private burial at St. Ann’s Cemetery, with full military honors so he would be laid to rest surrounded by his parents and siblings. Everyone is asked to go directly to the church. Visiting hours are respectfully omitted. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, 501 St. Jude Way, Memphis, TN 38105 or to the RISPCA 186 Amaral St., Riverside, RI 02915.
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