Irv Pitman, proud WWII veteran, dies at 105

No one ever said Irv Pitman hesitated to answer the call for public service.

After Mr. Pitman graduated from Tufts University’s dental school in 1941, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and soon shipped out to Italy with the 5th Army Medical Corps as World War II raged across Europe. He remained there until war’s end in 1945.

When he returned to his home state of New Jersey, he opened a dental practice in Tenafly, where he was on the medical staff of Englewood Hospital. He also served on the hospital’s chaplaincy committee along with other community groups.

A summer resident of Southold from 1920 — when he was just 3 years old — until he and his wife, Suzanne, moved out permanently in 1982, Mr. Pitman died Nov. 22. He was 105 and the oldest World War II veteran in the region at the time of his death.

By anyone’s account, Mr. Pitman was a quiet, unassuming man of accomplishment, who put others before himself. At American Legion Post 803 in Southold, Commander Charles Sanders welcomed him with open arms.

“Dr. Irving Pitman was 100 years old when he stopped by my office at the American Legion, stating, ‘I would like to march in the Memorial Day parade with the Legion,’ Mr. Sanders wrote in an email. “I replied, ‘No problem, sir, we have a car we can put you in and you will have a great time.’

“That was a mistake, as I noticed the frown on his face as the words departed my mouth. He said, ‘I want to march!’ I thought to myself, who am I to say to a World War II veteran that he can’t march?”

So Mr. Pitman did just that.

Charles Sanders, left, with American Legion member Irv Pitman at the town’s Memorial Day Parade. (Credit: Jeremy Garretson)

“At 100 years old, he was able to march in the parade with no problem,” Mr. Sanders added. “When he turned 104, he said he wanted to march again and I didn’t say a thing this time. I was a little worried until one day I noticed him walking alone in front of the Town Hall. I ran out of my office wondering what he was doing alone and I said, ‘Dr. Pitman what are you doing walking on the sidewalk alone?’ He replied, ‘I’m practicing to make sure I can march this time.’ He marched again at 104. He sure is part of the Greatest Generation.”

The love Mr. Pitman felt for Southold, and the love the community felt for him, was on full display in May 2020, when his son John drove him to the American Legion post on Main Road and Mr. Pitman watched as dozens of cars — including town police cars and trucks from area fire departments — helped him celebrate his 103rd birthday.

Last month, Mr. Pitman was honored at a Veterans Day ceremony at the Cutchogue Presbyterian Church, where he served as an elder. A celebration of life memorial service will be held at the church on Jan. 14 at 11 a.m.