Ernest “Ernie” Deeb was a young man of 19 when he enlisted in the United States Army in 1942.
Mr. Deeb, the son of Lebanese immigrants Shaheen and Zahee Deeb, served in the Army’s 150th Combat Engineer Battalion, who did its training and was dispatched out of Fort Devens. Mr. Deeb was the last surviving member of the Batalion who fought through six major European campaigns, including the Invasion of Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. They served under General George S. Patton and received the Presidential Unit Citation from President Harry Truman.
Mr. Deeb, the patriarch of an outstanding Winthrop family and the proud parent, with his wife, Rose, of four sons – Ernie, Billy, Bobby, and Sammy – died on July 5, 2020. He was 97.
The United States Military sent three Honor Guards to the memorial observance to present the flag and honor Mr. Deeb’s service to his country.
Mr. Deeb also served with distinction in the Boston Fire Department for 31 years. He was a genuine hero there as well, saving a three-year-old girl from a burning building in Charlestown. Fifty years later in an emotional reunion, that child – now an adult woman and a mother – thanked Mr. Deeb for his incredible actions that saved her life
“The woman said to my father, ‘I owe my life to you,’’’ recalled Ernie Deeb.
Ernie Deeb said his father did not reflect often on the man outstanding achievements in his military service and in his career as a Boston firefighter and inspector.
“He didn’t talk too much about his individual heroism, but did speak about his ‘Army buddies,’” said Ernie. “His outfit used to meet every year for a reunion at the old Statler Hilton.
“In the late 1980s, my father said to me, ‘I haven’t seen my Army buddies in over 20 years and I’d really love to see them. They were meeting in Falmouth and I said, ‘if you want to go, I’ll take you.’
“For the next 15 years, they met in May and I took him to his Army reunion and I met so many of his fellow soldiers and their wives and even some of their children who were my age – they were amazing people,” said Ernie Deeb. “They were all heroes in my eyes. Going to those reunions was probably one of the greatest things I ever did. One year they made me an honorary member of the Batalion and it caught me by surprise.”
The City of Boston honored Mr. Deeb with the dedication of “Deeb Corner” in the South End where his parents had settled and Mr. Deeb had grown up and raised his family before their move to Winthrop in 1984.
The Boston City Council also paid tribute to Mr. Deeb by proclaiming June 6 – the anniversary of D-Day – as “Ernest Deeb Day” in the city of Boston.
Mr. Deeb never sought recognition in Winthrop for his heroic service to his country. He lived humbly here for decades. He and the family were visible at local events, notably the Winthrop High football team’s Father’s Day Pancake Breakfast. The Deebs would gather at a large table and support the event with the quiet dignity and class for which they are revered in town.
Mr. Deeb instilled in his children and grandchildren the principles of hard work, honesty, integrity, graciousness, and being kind to others.
Family and friends have reached out to the family to express their condolences following Mr. Deeb’s passing.
Winthrop has a lost a true American hero.