This obituary originally appeared on O’Neill Hayes Funeral Home
Armando John Napoli (affectionately known as “Nap”), 95, of Newport, Rhode Island and North Palm Beach Florida, died at St. Clare-Newport on Saturday, June 20, 2020, surrounded by his loving family. With very heavy hearts, we bid our Dad farewell, fair winds, and following seas.
Born on January 16, 1925, in Brockton, MA he was a son of Carmelo and Maria (Voci) Napoli. He married Rose DeSantis in Worcester, MA on January 14, 1952, and together they raised five children. He was predeceased by his wife, his parents, three siblings (Nicholas, John, Angela) and one grandson. Nap is survived by his children: Maria Johnson (James); Anne Smeglin (Anthony); Stephen Napoli (MaryAnn); Joseph “Jay” Napoli (Michaela); and Elizabeth McCaffery (Kevin), as well as 10 grandchildren, three great-grandchildren (with another on the way) and his youngest brother, retired Lt. Col. Joseph F. Napoli.
Nap tried to enlist in the Navy when he was seventeen following the bombing of Pearl Harbor but had to wait until he was of age. This was one of his greatest disappointments as he loved his country and wanted to “do his part” in the war effort immediately. Though Nap was initially denied entry into the Navy because of his age and his parents’ refusal to sign early enlistment papers, he was still determined to enlist. He decided to hitchhike from his home in Worcester, MA to San Diego, CA and try his luck with the Navy there. Upon arriving in San Diego ten days later, he was once again denied. He spent the next six months delivering eye-glasses by bicycle for an optometrist around the city of Los Angeles. When he turned eighteen, he was finally able to realize his dream of serving his country and joined the U.S. Navy.
It was his Navy career that ultimately brought him to Newport and where he and Rose decided to place down roots and raise their family. For all who are native to or raised in Newport, you know what a great gift that was to their children, and both Nap and Rose really loved Newport. He served in the Navy for 20 years with dedication and rose to the rank of Chief Petty Officer, retiring in 1962. Nap then worked for the Newport Torpedo Station which later became the Naval Underwater Systems Center. He traveled the world in support of the United States Navy and Department of Defense and retired from NUSC/NUWC in 1987, after being officially recognized many times for his performance.
In April of 2015, the U.S. Navy invited Nap, then 90 years old, and his family to the simulation center at the Naval War College and honored him with both a tour and acknowledgment of his service. A family member had discovered that the ship’s bell of the USS Ballard was displayed on the Newport Naval Station. Nap had proudly served aboard that destroyer in the Pacific Theatre during World War II. The USS Ballard was Nap’s favorite ship and assignment and was involved in the battle for Peleliu (Palau), the Marianas Turkey Shoot, and the invasion of Guadalcanal. Although the ship had long since been decommissioned, its bell had been saved and held great meaning for our Dad. He attended many Ballard ship reunions throughout the United States. Nap was one of the only two surviving members of that crew; sadly, now only one remains. Nap was a frequent guest speaker at Veterans Day events. In recent years, he traveled with other Rhode Island veterans to speak to students at the University of Rhode Island about their core values, his WWII experiences, service to our country, and historical events. Nap was a virtual walking encyclopedia, especially on the subjects of WWII and U.S. history. One of the highlights of his life was participating in 2016 in the last WWII veterans-only Honor Flight from Florida to Washington, DC, where he visited several landmarks and monuments, including his first and only visit to the WWII Memorial.
As a long-time member of Wanumetonomy Golf & Country Club, Nap played golf nearly every day, (or at least that is how his family remembers), and won several tournaments as part of a foursome, having made three holes-in-one in his lifetime. Nap made lifelong friendships in the Navy and at Wanumetonomy, and it was at Wanumetonomy that he introduced the game of golf to his sons, both of whom are passionate, lifetime golfers.
His family will remember Nap as smart as a whip, strong as a bull, tough as nails, generous to a fault, and a man of integrity. He loved his family, his country, the Navy, and playing golf. He was a member of the Greatest Generation and we will miss him beyond measure. The family wishes to thank the staff of St. Clare-Newport, where Dad lived for the past two years, as well as the staff at Newport Hospital, for their care and support. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation in Nap’s name to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN 38015. Due to the conditions associated with Covid-19, funeral services will be private.