Joseph E. Persico
Joseph E. Persico passed away at 10:45 a.m. on Saturday, August 30, 2014, at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany, NY after a long illness. His family was with him.
Mr. Persico followed eleven years as chief speechwriter for New York Governor and Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller with a career as biographer and historian.
He wrote his first book, “My Enemy, My Brother,” about the Battle of Gettysburg, as he once put it, “while moonlighting from my speechwriting job, out of desperation at having to write in somebody else’s shadow.” After leaving government and politics in 1977, Mr. Persico began writing books full time. His works include several acclaimed biographies and histories. Eric Sevaried described Mr. Persico’s Edward R. Murrow: An American Original as “the definitive” biography of the broadcast pioneer. The New York Times reviewer said of Mr. Persico’s, The Imperial Rockefeller, “No one has written a book like this about Nelson Rockefeller before.” His Nuremberg: Infamy On Trial was described by the broadcast journalist, Howard K. Smith, as “simply the best account of the trial.” The Nuremberg book was adapted by Turner Network Television for a miniseries winning two Emmy Awards. Mr. Persico also co-authored Secretary of State Colin Powell’s autobiography, My American Journey, which remained for 20 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Mr. Persico’s other books include Casey: From the OSS to the CIA, Piercing the Reich, The Spiderweb, a novel, Roosevelt’s Secret War, A New York Times, Notable Book of the Year, Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour: Armistice Day 1918, Franklin and Lucy and most recently Roosevelt’s Centurions: FDR and the Commanders He Led to Victory in World War II.
As a member of the American Battle Monuments Commission he wrote the Announcement and Field of Gold Stars inscriptions inscribed on the World War II Memorial in Washington DC. Mr. Persico also served as a consultant, writer and on camera commentator on several television documentaries for PBS, A&E and The History Channel.
Joseph E. Persico was born in Gloversville, New York on July 19, 1930, where his parents, Thomas and Blanche Persico, worked in the local glove trade. He graduated from the State University of New York at Albany in 1952, and entered the Navy where he served as a lieutenant junior grade aboard a minesweeper during the Korean War and later with NATO headquarters in Naples, Italy. He subsequently joined the U.S. Information Agency and was posted to Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Washington, DC. He then went to work for Governor Rockefeller.
In 1996, his alma mater awarded Mr. Persico an honorary degree as Doctor of Letters, “for your outstanding contributions as a writer in illuminating the human actor on the public stage.” Of his career Mr. Persico once said, “I was infected with the writing virus after winning a ninth grade essay contest – prize, $10 in 1944 War Savings Stamps – and I never recovered.”
In recent years, Mr. Persico divided his time between homes in Albany, NY and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
He is survived by his wife, Sylvia LaVista Persico; daughters, Vanya Perez, and Andrea Holder; five grandchildren, Amanda and Joshua Perez, and Georgia, Daniela and Sofia Holder; a brother, Richard Persico; and sister, Annabelle Townson.
The calling period to pay respects will be held on Thursday, September 4, 2014, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Guilderland’s DeMarco-Stone Funeral Home, 5216 Western Turnpike (Route20) just west of Carman Road (Route 146). A private burial service will be held at the Saratoga National Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Mr. Persico’s name to his beloved hometown library, the Gloversville Public Library, 58 E. Fulton St., Gloversville, NY 12078