Angelo "Scooter" Sylvester owned a local taxi service for several decades after World War II as well as a rooming house sometimes used by the traveling railroad men in the years when the city was a major railroad hub.
But Sylvester, well known and well liked around the city, was also a former warrior, a U.S. Army veteran of the Battle of the Bulge — the last great German counter-offensive of World War II.
A tank crewman whose tank was hit by German fire, Sylvester lost toes on both feet to frostbite in that battle, which was fought in sub-zero weather in December 1944. The injuries were enough to get him evacuated to a hospital in England, and he was honorably discharged on July 4, 1945.
His service was recently publicly recognized, as Sylvester was honored Oct. 18 as Saratoga County's Deceased Veteran of the Month. He was spoken of fondly and respectfully as a member of "the Greatest Generation" at a well-attended ceremony in Ballston Spa.
"He trained to be a tanker, a member of a five-man armored tank crew. Not the easiest way to fight a war, going into battle sealed in an iron capsule," said Eugene Corsale, co-chairman of the county's Honor Our Deceased Veterans Committee.
The county ceremonies, which have been held monthly for the last 12 years, have often honored those who fought in World War II.
Some 16 million Americans served in the military during World War II, of whom only about 2.9 million are still alive, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. By some estimates, those aging veterans — the youngest of whom is in their 80s — are dying at a rate of about 1,000 per day.
Received Purple Heart
Sylvester, who died in 1982, was older than many of his fellow privates. Born in 1915, he was nearly 30 years old when the army sent him to Europe. The main action he saw was during the Battle of the Bulge, and he received a Purple Heart for his frostbite injuries.
Angelo — whom nearly everyone in the close-knit city knew as "Scooter" — was one of three Sylvester brothers to serve in World War II, along with John, also in the army, and Nick, who was in the Army Air Corps.
All three returned safely to the city, putting them among the fortunate. The blue-collar city, which had 7,500 residents in 1940, saw many of its young men enlisted or drafted, and 48 of them never came home.
"Many came back, battle-hardened, scarred by their experiences, but happy to get on with their lives by returning to work at the paper mill or railroad, or taking advantage of the GI Bill, by resuming the education they had abandoned to serve their country," city Historian Paul Loatman once wrote in an essay.
Angelo Sylvester's two children include Anthony Sylvester, the current mayor of Mechanicville.
"Everyone liked him," the mayor recalled.
After returning to his hometown, Sylvester spent 36 years in business, most of them owning a fleet of up to five taxis.
Until the 1970s, his son said, not everyone owned a car, so taxis were a needed service. Sometimes, he said, workers at the Mechanicville railroad yard would arrive on a train and then need transportation into the city, or a place to stay.
In addition to his business career, Sylvester was also active in the local Elks Club, the American Legion and the local chapter of the Italian-American Veterans.