The Greater Cleveland Veterans Memorial




Army Sgt. William James Papa, 22, the son of Salvatore and the Late Theresa (Trecarichi) Papa of 5654 Turney Road, Garfield Heights, was first wounded in February 1968. On May 1, Papa was treated for a head injury and was sent back to his unit May 5. In his last letter dated May 4, he had complained of bad headaches and periods of blackouts, which were the result of his head injury. His death was a tragic accident that occurred when he was running to the helicopter to pick up something that had just been delivered. The Cleveland Press carried a letter from Mrs. Mary Rose Burgan reporting her brother had been wounded a second time in Vietnam and was still on active duty. She asked: "How many times do these boys have to be patched up and sent back into combat before they are stationed at a safer place?" Unknown to her when she wrote the letter, her brother was already dead. Wrote Mrs. Burgan: "I don't know if our presence in Vietnam is right or wrong; the only thing I know is that I am not interested in collecting his medals but only want him to come home in one piece..." He had been in Vietnam since August 1967 and was due home in August 1968 when he and his fiancée, Miss Mary Jo Larca were to be married. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, September 1, 1945, Sgt. Papa attended St. Joseph School on Woodland Avenue, went to Benedictine High School for two years and transferred to Garfield Heights High School where he graduated in 1963. He enrolled at Cuyahoga County Community College and became active in Sigma Phi Psi fraternity. It was there that he met his soul mate in 1965. He volunteered through the draft so that he could get on with his plans for the rest of his life. When his service was finished his plans were to get married, have lots of children, a house, a good job... Bill was a good hearted, confident, wise, quiet, serious minded person, with such a gentle, teasing nature and an admirable sense of honor. He was always optimistic. His humor was subtle, but right to the point. He loved deeply, doted on his nieces: Sharon and Lesley, adored his sisters and was a true and loyal friend to many. His presence on this earth is greatly missed by all who loved him, who called him brother, friend, uncle, nephew, and sweetheart. Besides his father, Papa was survived by two sisters, Mrs. Mary Rose Burgan and Josephine Papa. Services were held at St. Joseph Catholic Church.

Sgt. Papa is interred in Calvary Cemetery.

Information as gathered from the Cleveland Press & Plain Dealer, May 14, 15 & 18, 1968 and his "Soul Mate."

This American Hero is sponsored by Mary Jo Larca Webster.