New Hampshire Archives - StoryCorps

‘I’m Honoring His Life, Not How He Died’: After Losing Her Father to COVID-19, A Daughter Reflects On His WWII Service

Army Staff Sergeant Emilio “Leo” DiPalma was drafted at age 18 to join World War II. He fought on the front lines in Germany until the end of the war, and went on to serve as a guard during the first Nuremberg trials where he guarded infamous Nazi soldiers such as Hermann Göring.

His daughter Emily was close to her dad growing up, but after moving away and starting a family they had started to grow apart. They reconnected around Memorial Day in 2000, after Emily planned a trip to take her father back to Germany for the first time since WWII.

But as Leo aged, he developed dementia and other health issues. Following his wife’s death, his daughters decided it would be best to move him to the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

On April 8, 2020, Leo was the 28th veteran at that home to die of complications due to COVID-19. He was 93 years old. Unable to have a funeral due to the pandemic, Emily recorded this memorial of her father with her daughter, Hannah Sibley-Liddle, using StoryCorps Connect.

Photo: Hannah Sibley-Liddle (left), Staff Sgt. Emilio Di Palma (middle), and Emily Aho (right) on a trip to the White House where Emilio was honored with the Legacy of Nuremberg Award. Courtesy of Emily Aho.
Top Photo: Staff Sgt. Emilio Di Palma, far right, on guard at the Nuremberg Trials in 1945. Courtesy of Emily Aho.

Originally aired May 22, 2020, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

David Plant and Frank Lilley

This is a story about reaching the end of life.

It was recorded as part of our Legacy Initiative–an effort to collect interviews with people who have life-threatening conditions.

In 2010, David Plant was diagnosed with skin cancer. Since then, the cancer has metastasized in other parts of his body.

David sat down for a StoryCorps Legacy interview with his stepson, Frank Lilley.