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Pellegrino "Ben" Raia, Jr


Last updated 10/20/2006 at Noon

Pellegrino “Ben” Raia, Jr., 88, passed away Oct. 11, 2006 at Fallbrook Hospital. Born Feb. 12, 1918 to immigrants from Naples in a poor Italian neighborhood in Williamsport, PA, he belonged to a close knit family of eight that loved to laugh and started selling newspapers to earn money in 2nd grade. He then became a shoemaker at age 16 until he graduated high school. After multiple jobs and two deferments, he joined the Army Air Corps in 1943, put in for flight training and in Jan. 1945 earned his wings as a surplus Bombadier with a B-29 crew. After the war ended he was assigned to Lincoln AFB in Nebraska (with his new bride Ann) then was reassigned to Carswell, AFB, TX (1949-1957 where he helped his crew win multiple awards for bombing skills in B-36’s.

He then became a Chief Bombing Navigator and flew in the first B-52 in 1957, rose in ranks from 2nd Lt. to full Colonel by 1967. He then worked as chief of bombing and navigation at SAC Headquarters in Omaha, NB, until retirement in 1973. Despite 3 heart attacks, a 4-way by-pass, a stroke, a pacemaker and the loss of his wife in 1992, Ben never stopped traveling and dancing with his good friend, Lena Fuller.

He is survived by his brother Sammy Ray, Williamsport, PA; daughters and son-in-law Rosalie Adams, Lynn & Pamela Cooman all of Merced, CA, grandchildren, Michael & Katie Adams, Meghan Munoz, & Kristen & Joshua Cooman, great-grandchildren Nathan & Ashlee Adams and Michael & Chloe Munoz. Ben never met a stranger and was loved by many people for his ability to see humor in everything. He will be greatly missed by his family and friends.

Services were held on Friday, October 13, 2006 at Berry-Bell & Hall Mortuary with a mass held on October 14, 2006 at St. Peter’s Catholic Church. Burial was held on October 16, 2006 at Riverside National Cemetery with full Military Honors provided by the Air Force. Arrangements were handled by Berry-Bell & Hall Fallbrook Mortuary.


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