Pastor “Pat” Toro was remembered by friends and family this week as a “veteran’s veteran,” who tirelessly advocated for downtrodden comrades throughout the years.
The decorated Forest Hills war veteran died last Thursday after a months-long battle with Myelodysplastic syndrome, a precursor to leukemia.
“He could not do enough for other veterans,” said Jacqueline Fiorello, Toro’s sister-in-law. “He loved all his family and he’s going to be really missed but never forgotten.”
Toro, 65, endured months of chemotherapy and had been receiving three blood transfusions a week when he took a turn for the worse recently and his illness became leukemia.
Relatives said his malady was likely a result of Agent Orange exposure while he was on tour in Vietnam with the U.S. Marine Corps.
Toro served as president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 32 in Queens from 2001-10 and was known for helping to bring a mobile replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., to Juniper Valley Park. Under his direction, VVA Chapter 32 also started a program that has provided some 90 indigent veterans with military funerals since 2008.
“Chapter 32’s motto is ‘This generation of veterans will never abandon another generation of veterans,’ and Pat lived by that code,” said Paul Narson, current VVA Chapter 32 president. “He was there for veterans no matter when and how they served.”
He also became director-at-large of the Vietnam Veterans of America National Board of Directors and was inducted into the state Senate Veterans Hall of Fame in 2006.
The lifelong Forest Hills resident worked for the NYPD after he left the Marines and then served in the Port Authority Police Department until he retired in 1991.
When Toro was diagnosed with his illness last fall, VVA Chapter 32 decided to help its former president by organizing a blood drive in April.
A fund-raiser had also been organized to raise money for Toro’s treatment July 12, but was canceled after he died. Fiorello said donations can still be made to a fund, which was set up to help Toro’s family deal with his medical costs.
Borough President Melinda Katz issued a statement offering the family her condolences.
“Pat served his country with courage and valor,” Katz said. “It was an honor to have known Pat Toro, and I can say with certainty that he will be remembered as a leader, a humanitarian and an American hero. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones.”
Toro’s family has asked that in lieu of flowers donations be made to Vietnam Veterans of America’s Agent Orange Committee in Toro’s honor.
A wake was held for Toro Tuesday and his funeral was set to take place at Hess Miller Funeral Home, at 6419 Metropolitan Ave., Wednesday morning.
Narson said an honor guard would be provided by VVA Chapter 32 for the funeral.
Toro’s body was set to be buried with other veterans at Calverton National Cemetery in Suffolk County.
“VVA will miss his leadership and I will miss his advice,” Narson said.
Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at arobinson@
©2014 Community News Group
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