Luke Gasparre, a Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient who served in the Battle of the Bulge, died Thursday morning at 95.
He was also the longest-tenured usher in Mets history.
Gasparre, a retired postal worker who lived in Astoria, Queens, took a second job as an usher at Shea Stadium when the ballpark opened in 1964. The Army veteran became a fixture at games for the next 55 years, working in Section 109 in the old stadium before shifting to Section 310 at Citi Field. Across the street, he filled a similar role during the US Open.
“He’d see the same people in the same section all the time and they became more than friends,” grandson Jeff Greenberg said.
“He liked being part of the Mets community. He was a staple. He’d been there since the doors opened. He saw everything Mets-oriented, but the greatest highlight of that part of his life was seeing the pope at Shea Stadium.”
Gasparre, one of seven children, grew up in Yorkville, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, before moving to Queens in 1937. There, Gasparre, a talented tap dancer, befriended a gifted singer two years his junior: Tony Bennett.
“Tony would sing and [Gasparre] would tap,” Greenberg said.
At 18, Gasparre was drafted into the Army and served in the 87th Infantry Division in Europe, helping liberate the French city of Metz. During World War II, Gasparre was shot in his right hand and also separated from his unit, before being discovered by fellow American soldiers.
Gasparre received seven medals for his service, including the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, later pinned to his usher uniform. Gasparre then spent 34 years working for the post office and 66 years married to his late wife, Madeline, building a family which would grow to include three children, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
“He was a loving man,” Greenberg said. “He had a very good life, surrounded by people who loved him.”
“Luke held a special place in our Mets family,” the team said in a statement. “He served as an usher for parts of six decades and was a decorated World War II veteran who wore his Purple Heart and Bronze Star on his usher’s uniform.
“So many of our fans knew him as he always welcomed everyone with open arms and a friendly conversation. He will be missed by many and we send our heartfelt condolences to all his family and friends.”