World War II Veteran Eli Fatow Dies at 97

A man in a blue  shirt. This is Eli Fatow.
Eli Fatow courtesy of Suzanne Pollak

Eli Fatow, a Jewish World War II veteran who earned five Bronze Stars, died on Aug. 2. He was 97.

He was born in Philadelphia in 1924. The timing meant that as he was graduating from high school he wasn’t just receiving his diploma: He was receiving his draft notice. In 1943, at just 18 years old, Fatow began 3½ years of service in the Army Air Corps during World War II. He was deployed in North Africa, Sicily and Italy.

He served as a troop carrier, which meant dropping food and supplies from planes and helping to transport wounded soldiers.

In 2015, Fatow spoke with the Jewish Exponent about his experience in World War II.
“I was pretty much the only Jew in my division,” Fatow said.

The Bronze Stars he received are awarded for heroism, outstanding achievement or meritorious service not involving aerial flight. Fatow even met Pope Pius XII when he and his fellow soldiers arrived in Rome and went to Vatican City.

Fatow was a member of the Jewish War Veterans, an organization that defends the rights and benefits for all service members and veterans, fights antisemitism and supports Israel, according to its website.

While Fatow was proud of his service, he was humble, saying that he “just did his job” in the Exponent article. What Fatow was most proud of was his family and the relationships he had with each member.

“He just wanted to make sure we were happy and healthy. He was not a guy to worry about details. He was a very optimistic guy; if we had a problem, he’d always say, ‘Tomorrow will be better,’” his daughter, Suzanne Pollak, said.

Being there for his family was what he enjoyed most. Whether it was spending time with his late wife Dorothy at the Philadelphia Orchestra or attending every event he could for his grandchildren, he always tried to be there for them.

Fatow and his wife were original members of Main Line Reform Temple, and all three of his children were married there.

Fatow, who worked as a manufacturer’s representative, spent much of his time cultivating unique and meaningful relationships with each member of his large family. He enjoyed camping with his family and patronizing local restaurants to celebrate the achievements of his children.

“He had a special relationship with each one of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He’d always send them stickers. He used to cut out the crossword puzzles and send them to me weekly,” Pollak said.

Fatow made sure to pass on the wisdom he collected over his life, not letting any of his experiences go to waste.

“[He taught me] to have a good attitude, to enjoy yourself. That’s the way he lived, the way he was,” Pollak said.

Fatow enjoyed bowling with his neighbor for many years.

He also enjoyed volunteer work. He volunteered at Bryn Mawr Hospital for nearly 20 years, where he typically ran the elevator and handed out challahs to Jewish patients there.

Fatow was buried at Har Jehuda Cemetery in Upper Darby. He is survived by his three children, Nina (Michael) Mazloff, Jerry (Gail) Fatow and Suzanne (Dan) Pollak; six grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren. JE

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