ELMWOOD PARK, N.J. — An Indiana photo enthusiast uncovered a piece of Elmwood Park history from halfway across the country while adding to his growing collection of old military pictures.
Mike Harpe found a picture of James Martinelli, formerly of Elmwood Park, while shopping online and won a bid for it. The main reason he bought it was because the photo came with a name of the person on it, allowing him to research its history.
What he found was the life story of Martinelli, a soldier Harpe said formerly lived in Elmwood Park when it was known as East Paterson and was killed in action during World War II.
"I love collecting photos, I've always been interested in it since I was a kid," Harpe said. "As I got older I refined the idea that it's like the only time machine we know. You're looking at something 100 or so years ago. You're actually seeing something a person who is now dead has seen. It's always fascinated me."
Through his research, Harpe said he discovered that Martinelli was born in March 193 in Pennsylvania before the family moved to East Paterson.
Martinelli was drafted in 1942 and was killed in action in Strass, Germany, Harpe said. He was eventually buried in Cedar Lawn Cemetery in Elmwood Park.
The Indiana researcher said he found most of his information through online searches that provided letters sent home by Martinelli and his military information.
"I feel he's probably typical of most of that generation that was in World War II," Harpe said of Martinelli. "But it brings that two-dimensional image to life because you get that backstory."
Harpe said he didn't get to speak to any of Martinelli's relatives but read online he has one surviving sister, 91-year-old Lena Fosca Martinelli.
Harpe uploads the images he finds, such as Martinelli's, online in case people want to find out more.
He said anyone who wants a high-resolution image of Martinelli can email him at email@example.com.
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