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Raymond Joseph Costanzo
Sergeant, United States Army
Superintendent, Arlington National Cemetery
New York State Flag
From contemporary press reports:

Raymond Joseph Costanzo Sr., 79, who came to the Washington area in 1972 and served as deputy superintendent and then superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery until he retired in 1990, died August 19, 2002, at Loudoun Memorial Hospital, Virginia. He had Alzheimer's disease.

During World War II, he was a paratrooper in the elite 82nd Airborne Division. Serving with the parachute infantry, he dropped into Normandy during the invasion and was taken prisoner June 18, 1944.

He ended the war with the Bronze Star with "V" for valor, the Purple Heart, the Paratroopers Badge and the Combat Infantryman Badge. On November 10, 1988, President Ronald Reagan presented him with the newly created Prisoner of War Medal.

After the war, Mr. Costanzo joined the the Army's National Cemetery System as a civilian. In 1949, he was named superintendent of the four-acre Winchester, Virginia, National Cemetery. He went on to posts in New York, Tennessee and Texas before being transferred to Arlington.

During his Arlington years, he consulted with five presidents, played host to foreign heads of state and government and officiated at the funerals of a wide variety of prominent men. They included U.S. Supreme Court associate justices William O. Douglas and Potter Stewart, General of the Army Omar Bradley, boxing legend Joe Lewis and actor Lee Marvin.

Mr. Costanzo also presided over interment of the Vietnam War unknown soldier. On behalf of the country, he accepted the American flag from Reagan.

Mr. Costanzo, a native of Buffalo, New York, lived on the grounds of Arlington Cemetery from 1972 until retiring to Purcellville in 1990.

His wife, Doris, died in 1985.

Survivors include two sons, Joe, of Atlanta, and Bill, of Purcellville; a brother; two sisters; eight grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Another son, Thomas, died in 1987.

Mr. Costanzo will be laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery (Section 7A, Grave 191).



Thursday, August 29, 2002
Arlington National Cemetery buries its own
  

RJ Costanzo Funeral Services PHOTO
Soldiers from The Old Guard fold a flag over the urn of former Arlington
National Cemetery superintendent Raymond Costanzo.
 
Former Arlington National Cemetery top official Raymond Costanzo was buried Tuesday, at the facility he called home for 18 years. Costanzo, 79, served as deputy superintendent and later became superintendent of the cemetery from 1972 until he retired in 1990. Costanzo died of Alzheimer's disease Aug. 19 at Loudoun Memorial Hospital.

"He was a great guy, very compassionate and absolutely loved working here," said longtime colleague Helen Perry, who knew Costanzo since the early 1950s. "He was proactive and straightforward. He was the right man for the position [of superintendent]."

Cemetery publications illustrator William Cooper recalls a time when Costanzo treated him more as a friend than a boss.

"I broke my leg and I didn't have any sick leave left," Cooper remembered. "He gave me over 200 hours of his annual leave so my leg could heal properly. I'll never forget that."

Costanzo served as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne division that dropped into Normandy during World War II. He became a prisoner of war on June 18, 1944, 12 days after his war career began.

He was awarded the Bronze Star with "V" for valor, the Purple Heart, the Paratroopers Badge and the Combat Infantryman Badge. President Ronald Reagan presented him with the newly created Prisoner of War Medal in 1988.

"He was strict, but fair. That probably came from his military background," said George Aman, who is in the facility maintenance department at the cemetery.

"He would light up his pipe and sparks would start flying. You knew it was time to leave because he was on a mission."

After the war, Costanzo joined the Army's National Cemetery System as a civilian and headed several cemeteries before being transferred to Arlington.

Costanzo was tasked to overhaul much of the cemetery following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, according to former project engineer Julius Smith.

"We had about 1.2 million people coming here before the assassination and more than 6 million a year after it," said Smith, who had been friends with Costanzo since 1960. 

"He was responsible for making this a Washington attraction and making it easy for all those people to get around."

"He was the best superintendent since I've been here," agreed Cooper, who has been at the cemetery for 24 years. "Race was never a problem -- he was an honest and caring man. He always had an open door policy and he always wanted to here from you. It didn't matter if you were his assistant or working in maintenance."

Costanzo consulted with five presidents from President Nixon to the elder President Bush. He also played host to foreign heads of state and presided over the funerals of U.S. Supreme Court associate justices William O. Douglas and Potter Stewart, General of the Army Omar Bradley, boxing legend Joe Louis and actor Lee Marvin.

Costanzo also presided over interment of the Vietnam War Unknown Soldier and accepted the American flag from President Reagan on behalf of the country.

"He knew a lot of important people around the world," said Phillip Annetti, who is responsible for employee time cards at the cemetery. "He knew all of them on a first name basis.

"Everyone at Arlington National Cemetery loved and admired him," continued Annetti. "I used to call him 'Uncle Ray.'"


Also buried in this gravesite are:

Doris Nightingale Costanzo, Wife of Raymond Joseph Costanzo. August 1, 1925-May 4, 1985.  Army Arlington Lady.

Felix Contanzo, Jr., MEG-2, United State Navy,  World War II, Korea. May 7, 1926-Dec 8, 1987.  The brother of Raymond Joseph Costanzo.

Thomas Edward Costanzo, Sergeant, United States Air Force. September 29, 1946-May 16, 1987. National Cemetery Director.  The son of Raymond J. Costanzo.


COSTANZO, RAYMOND JOSEPH, SR. (Age 79)

Former director of Arlington National Cemetery, on August 19, 2002 at the
Loudoun Hospital Center, Leesburg, Virginia.

Ray was predeceased by his wife, Doris in May, 1985 and by his son, Thomas in May, 1987. He is survived by his son, Joe (Susie) Costanzo, Atlanta, Georgia, his son, Bill (Linda) Costanzo, Purcellville, Virginia; his sister, Mary Eldridge, Buffalo, New York, his sister Mary Palica, Buffalo, New York and his brother Anthony Costanzo, Florida. He is also survived by eight grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Memorial visitation will be held at LOUDOUN FUNERAL CHAPELS, 158 Catoctin Circle, SE, Leesburg, on Monday, August 26 from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. Funeral services will be held at the Fort Myers Old Post Chapel on August 27 at 9 a.m. Graveside services will follow in Arlington National Cemetery, with full military honors for his rank.

Those who wish to attend the services should enter Arlington National Cemetery over the Memorial Bridge to be directed to Fort Myers Chapel.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Ray's memory to the Alzheimer's Association, National Captial Area, 11240 Waples Mill Rd., Suite 402, Fairfax, VA 22030. Please note family contact of gift should be made to Bill Costanzo, c/o Loudoun Funeral Chapel.


August 30, 2002
Arlington National Cemetery buries its own

RJ Costanzo Funeral PHOTO

Soldiers from The Old Guard fold a flag over the urn of former Arlington 
National Cemetery Superintendent Raymond Costanzo.

Former Arlington National Cemetery top official Raymond Costanzo was buried Tuesday, at the facility he called home for 18 years. Costanzo, 79, served as Deputy Superintendent and later became Superintendent of the cemetery from 1972 until he retired in 1990.

Costanzo died of Alzheimer's disease August 19, 2002, at Loudoun Memorial Hospital.

"He was a great guy, very compassionate and absolutely loved working here," said longtime colleague Helen Perry, who knew Costanzo since the early 1950s. "He was proactive and straightforward. He was the right man for the position [of superintendent]."

Cemetery publications illustrator William Cooper recalls a time when Costanzo treated him more as a friend than a boss.

"I broke my leg and I didn't have any sick leave left," Cooper remembered. "He gave me over 200 hours of his annual leave so my leg could heal properly. I'll never forget that."

Costanzo served as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne division that dropped into Normandy during World War II. He became a prisoner of war on June 18, 1944, 12 days after his war career began.

He was awarded the Bronze Star with "V" for valor, the Purple Heart, the Paratroopers Badge and the Combat Infantryman Badge. President Ronald Reagan presented him with the newly created Prisoner of War Medal in 1988.

"He was strict, but fair. That probably came from his military background," said George Aman, who is in the facility maintenance department at the cemetery.

"He would light up his pipe and sparks would start flying. You knew it was time to leave because he was on a mission."

After the war, Costanzo joined the Army's National Cemetery System as a civilian and headed several cemeteries before being transferred to Arlington.

Costanzo was tasked to overhaul much of the cemetery following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, according to former project engineer Julius Smith.

"We had about 1.2 million people coming here before the assassination and more than 6 million a year after it," said Smith, who had been friends with Costanzo since 1960.

"He was responsible for making this a Washington attraction and making it easy for all those people to get around."

"He was the best superintendent since I've been here," agreed Cooper, who has been at the cemetery for 24 years. "Race was never a problem -- he was an honest and caring man. He always had an open door policy and he always wanted to here from you. It didn't matter if you were his assistant or working in maintenance."

Costanzo consulted with five presidents from President Nixon to the elder President Bush. He also played host to foreign heads of state and presided over the funerals of U.S. Supreme Court associate justices William O. Douglas and Potter Stewart, General of the Army Omar Bradley, boxing legend Joe Louis and actor Lee Marvin.

Costanzo also presided over interment of the Vietnam War Unknown Soldier and accepted the American flag from President Reagan on behalf of the country.

"He knew a lot of important people around the world," said Phillip Annetti, who is responsible for employee time cards at the cemetery. "He knew all of them on a first name basis.

"Everyone at Arlington National Cemetery loved and admired him," continued Annetti. "I used to call him 'Uncle Ray.'"


Posted: 23 August 2002  Updated: 22 February 2003 Updated: 10 August 2003  Updated: 1 January 2004 Updated: 23 September 2005 Updated: 12 June 2008
     Bronze Star Medal
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Prisoner of War Medal
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Purple Heart Medal
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

RJ Costanzo Gravesite PHOTO June 2003

Felix Costanzo Jr. Gravesite PHOTO June 2003

TE Costanzo Gravesite PHOTO June 2003
Photos By M. R. Patterson, 28 June 2003