Paul McKenzie Llufrio Sr., a retired Esskay meat cutter and decorated World War II veteran who survived being a prisoner of war, died of congestive heart failure Sunday at Franklin Square Medical Center. The Essex resident was 95.
Born in Baltimore and raised on South Poppleton Street, he was the son of William Llufrio, a United Railways streetcar conductor, and his wife, Lena Carolyn Seibert.
He was the 12th of 15 children born to his parents. After completing the eighth grade at the old St. Peter the Apostle School, he began working at a neighborhood grocery store, where his parents had an account.
He learned to cut meat and did other jobs. He later became a bellman at the Lord Baltimore Hotel. He later told family members it was a favorite job — he met visiting celebrities, and he would go fishing with pals from the hotel.
In 1943 he enlisted in the Army and was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division. He was trained as a heavy machine gunner and sent to North Africa. He later participated in three amphibious landings: at Salerno in Sicily, at Anzio in Italy and at a beach near Marseilles in France. He fought in heavy combat during these operations but was never struck by fire.
Mr. Llufrio was present when Rome was liberated in June 1944. He and his company were received by Pope Pius XII, who gave Mr. Llufrio a papal blessing.
He was sent to France and fought in the Rhone Valley as a part of Operation Dragoon. He was in a campaign to open a second front in France that would bring needed supplies to Allied forces after the invasion at Normandy.
While fighting in Alsace in 1945, he was captured by enemy forces after a farmer’s wife — who was of German descent — turned him in as he took cover in a barn. He spent the last three months of the war in prison camps, including one outside Frankfurt. He also recalled surviving a bombing of Munich, when he and others were not allowed to take cover in an air raid bunker.
He was liberated in May 1945 by his 3rd Division. He was transported to a French hospital for treatment and later recuperated in Miami at the Hotel Poincianna. He weighed 114 pounds and was down to a 27-inch waist. His normal weight had been 145 pounds.
Mr. Llufrio was awarded the Bronze Star, the French Croix de Guerre and the French Fourragère, a unit decoration.
“He was an ordinary man cast into extraordinary circumstance,” said his son, Michael Llufrio of Monkton. “He came home from the war and married his sweetheart, Elizabeth Schiesser, a girl from Essex.”
He returned to his old job at the Lord Baltimore but in 1951 joined the Schluderberg-Kurdle Co. — or Esskay — and used the skills he had learned at the neighborhood market to become a meat cutter. He remained at the East Baltimore meat packing firm until he retired in 1985.
“My father was dedicated to his family. He could fix anything. He was a man of basic common sense and had a grand wisdom with knowledge far beyond his eight years of formal education, “ his son said.
“When he needed to accomplish a task — fix a washing machine, build an addition on the house — he went to the library and took out a book, read it, then did it,” he said. “He set an example to his sons and daughter. He was always his happiest when he was holding his grandchildren or great-grandchildren.”
His son also recalled a moving experience in Washington.
"One of our family's finest days with Pop was Aug. 14, 2014, the day we made the trip to the World War II Memorial,” he said. “Our group included all of his children, spouses, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. There were 30 of us who got on a rented bus that dropped us off.”
“From the minute we entered the memorial, my father was treated like a rock star,” his son said. “Once one of the people working at the memorial spotted this large group of people and baby carriages accompanying a somewhat frail man wearing his 3rd Infantry Division hat, his stripes and medals, they rushed to greet him. They thanked him for his service, and brought him a wheelchair.”
“That day was the first day anyone can remember him talking about the war. His story started to unfold,” he said.
His grandson, Matthew Llufrio, of Hydes, later recorded more than an hour of an interview with his grandfather.
“After going to the memorial, he became open to talking. He had an excellent memory. He could recall dates and time,” said his grandson.
A funeral Mass will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at St. Clare Roman Catholic Church, 714 Myrth Ave., Essex, where he was a member