MANCHESTER — Regina Marie Cavagnaro was 19 years old and serving as a corpsman in the U.S. Navy when she was killed along with three others from her base, Naval Station Great Lakes.
The group was out on a weekend pass and headed to the movies when their taxi was struck by a train as it crossed the tracks.
Cavagnaro’s family, who lived in Manchester, was devastated. Her mother, Lucille Kiely Cavagnaro, became seriously ill after her daughter’s death, and any effort that should have been made to file the paperwork for a military burial and foot marker was delayed, said Arthur Sladyk, commander of American Legion Post 133 in South Windsor.
Mark Cavagnaro, of South Windsor, Regina’s brother, was just 14 years old in 1974. After their father’s death, he discovered the paperwork and contacted the Navy, said his wife, Dawna Cavagnaro, but was told that as nearly 40 years had passed, the two-year time limit to get a foot marker was long past.
Dawna Cavagnaro, who makes quilts for the Quilts of Valor Foundation, happened to tell the Cavagnaros’ story to an officer from Post 133, who put the wheels into motion, contacting Ken Lewis, the post’s Soldier Sailor and Marine Fund officer.
Lewis contacted the Veterans Administration. The family’s story was a compelling one, and the stone was procured in just two weeks instead of the usual six weeks. A military ceremony was arranged at Regina’s burial place, St. James Cemetery in Manchester.
That graveside ceremony took place Saturday, with full military honors, and a flag was presented to the Cavagnaros.
“It gave us closure,” Dawna Cavagnaro said. “It had bothered my husband for quite a few years, to go there and not be able to pay her proper respects because her headstone wasn’t there.”
“We’ll do whatever we have to do,” Sladyk said, “to honor our veterans.”