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Matthew A. Reluga, decorated World War II Army veteran, dies at 101

Folded flag resting on a headstone. (MaxPixel/Released/TNS)

Matthew A. Reluga, 101, formerly of Rhawnhurst, a decorated Army veteran of World War II, died Friday, Dec. 4, at the Delaware Valley Veterans’ Home in Northeast Philadelphia, where he had lived for the last two years.

Mr. Reluga was born in 1919 to Alexander and Stella Lojewski Reluga. At that time, the country was in the midst of the influenza pandemic that had begun in 1918. As fate would have it, he died during the coronavirus pandemic, which struck a century later. He did not have COVID-19, said Joanne Moss, his niece by marriage.

Mr. Reluga attended Central High School but graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School in Philadelphia. He was playing football when he heard that the Japanese had bombed American forces at Pearl Harbor.

He was inducted into the Army in December 1942, his discharge papers indicate, and served as an intelligence officer and rifleman. He saw combat with the infantry in Normandy, northern France, the Rhineland, Ardennes, and central Europe.

He fought at the Battle of the Bulge and was honorably discharged in 1945. His military decorations include the Distinguished Unit Award, the Silver Star Medal, the European — African — Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with five bronze stars, and the World War II Victory Medal.

After the war, he arranged a voluntary extension of his Army service and attained the rank of master sergeant. He served as a drill and technical instructor at bases in Texas and California until his final honorable discharge in February 1952.

He worked at the Philadelphia Mint, Roxborough Glass Co., ITE Circuit Breakers Co., and as a window dresser for Wanamaker department stores. He married Stella Serbun Reluga in December 1958. The couple bought a house in Rhawnhurst a year later.

Among the highlights of his life were membership in American Legion Post 405 and attending the monthly meetings of the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge. He was present at the meetings through February 2020.

His hobbies included reading, gardening, trips to the casinos, and vacationing in Florida and at the Jersey Shore. He enjoyed watching his nephews play baseball. Until the last few years, he mowed his own lawn, and even his neighbor’s lawn when the neighbor was away, said his caregiver and neighbor Patricia A. Lowe, with whom he lived in Rhawnhurst before going to the veterans’ home.

“Even at the age of 96, Matt still did his own laundry and fixed his own lunch,” she said.

A friend, Nancy Griggs, said Mr. Reluga often attended yoga evenings at Gilda’s Club in Warminster. “He was always a welcome visitor with his quiet sweetness,” she posted in an online message.

He spoke fluent Polish.

Over the years, Mr. Reluga became close to his grand-nephew, Matthew A. Moss, who survives him. He is also survived by several nieces, nephews, and an extended family. His wife died in 1992. A sister and two brothers also died earlier.

A viewing will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 9, at the John F. Fluehr & Sons Inc. Funeral Home, 3301 Cottman Ave., Philadelphia. Participants should wear masks, and social distancing will be observed. A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 10, at Resurrection of Our Lord Church, 2000 Shelmire Ave., Philadelphia. Burial will follow at Holy Cross Cemetery, Yeadon.

Donations may be made to American Legion Post 405 (Battle of the Bulge Memorial Fund), Union League of Philadelphia, 140 South Broad St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19102.

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(c) 2020 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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