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Celebrating the life of

Valentino Panzitta

January 13, 1928 - January 16, 2024

Valentino Panzitta

Valentino (Val) Panzitta, LTC, U.S. Army, Ret., passed away peacefully January 16th surrounded by his loving family, due to complications from pneumonia. He and his loved ones had celebrated his 96th birthday three days earlier.

Val was born January 13, 1928, in Montville, N.J. to Salvatore and Mary Janetta Panzitta, both Italian immigrants.  He was the middle of three sons born to them.

Val was a highly decorated military veteran, one of few who served in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

Upon graduating high school, Val enlisted in the Navy towards the end of WWII.  After being honorably discharged at the end of the war, he joined the Roller Derby, where he was a star skater, skating in such renowned venues as Madison Square Garden, the LA Coliseum, and many others across the nation. While in the Derby, he met his wife-to-be, also a star skater, Edith Branum, from Chattanooga, TN. Together they were known as the Italian Stallion and Chattanooga Choo-Choo.  They left the Roller Derby in 1951, immediately got married, and continued to attend Roller Derby Reunions for many years thereafter.

Val later joined the U.S. Army during the Korean war and served there for 18 months. He then went to flight school and helped form the 1st Air Calvary Division out of Fort Benning, GA, which deployed to Vietnam in 1965. There he served two tours flying Huey gunships on combat and rescue missions. He played a pivotal role in the famous Battle of Ia Drang, which was the first time helicopter gunships were used in assault combat.  He was awarded a Bronze Star with Valor for his role in saving many lives during that battle, and his brave actions were chronicled in the book We Were Soldiers Once and Young. 

During his military career, he attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, was airborne qualified, and was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Bronze Stars with Valor, six Air Medals with Valor, the Vietnam Service Medal with three stars, and numerous other commendations and citations. Though he received many commendations, he always reminded us the ones who deserved the medals and recognition were the ones who gave their lives on the battlefield. “Greater love has no man that this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) He would agree, and he himself lived this out his entire life.

Val retired from the military in 1972, the same year he graduated from Armstrong State College with a Bachelor’s degree in business.  He went on to own and operate the Baskin-Robbins ice cream stores in Savannah, where many of the youth of Savannah had their first job, including his son’s wife, Karen. Many of his employees looked to him as a second dad.  Throughout his life he was a friend, mentor, and hero to many young people and was close to many of his children’s good friends (who all thought he and Edith were way cooler than their kids were!).

During retirement, Val especially loved flying his Cessna airplane, teaching his children to fly, and playing golf, at which he excelled.  He especially loved golfing with his buddy Rodney Rogers and all his good friends and compatriots at the Hunter AAF Golf Course. And he enjoyed nothing more than spending time with Edith, his wife of nearly 42 years, roller skating, showing up his kids (and everyone) on the dance floor, and spending time with his family and friends.

After Edith’s sudden passing in 1993, he eventually connected with his partner, fellow Roller Derby skater GG (Gloria) Goodson. They’ve had a beautiful 18 years together, and Val and her son Neil (Littleton, CO) had a very close and loving relationship.

Val remained active and maintained his vigor and love for life until the very end.  He spent his last 14 years actively trading stocks and exercising complicated options strategies.  We all knew not to call him when the market was open!  He was totally independent and always in charge. Case in point: At the age of 94, in the August heat, his kids had to talk him down from his roof where he was installing a skylight, though refused to come down until the job was finished. Classic Val.

Val is predeceased by his mother and father, his older brother Gene and younger brother Lenny, and his beloved wife Edith.  He leaves behind three children, twins Tina Maxwell (Mark) and Lenny Panzitta (Karen) and his daughter Terri Wheeler (Spencer), grandchildren Mark, Jr. and Dave Maxwell (Abbey), Elena and Geena Panzitta, and Spencer, Jr. (Lauren), Ameri, and Stege Wheeler (Lauren), great grandchildren Caleb, Lily, and Aurora Maxwell, Peter Valentino Maxwell, Spencer III and Reid Wheeler, and Riley Kate, Rowe and Shep Wheeler. He also leaves behind his beloved partner Gloria and her son Neil Goodson, and several nieces and nephews he loved like his own. He was especially close to and spent a lot of time with his nephews Lenny Panzitta (yes, another Lenny Panzitta!) and Perry Mason, and his niece Gail Panzitta.

His family wishes to thank all the people who loved him, cared for him and made his life better. Thank you to his health care providers, especially during his last several years and days, in particular Drs. Wally Holland, Ken Hardigan, Giff Lorenz, Bud Holmes, Tony Sussman, Nick Eskandar, John Rathbun, and his “in the family docs” Spencer Wheeler and Karen Panzitta. We also wish to thank the great and caring staff at St. Joseph's Hospital (thank you, especially, Dalton, Brianna, and Heather) and the compassionate folks at Hospice Savannah (special thanks, Tony and Waffa). And our unending thanks to all those friends and family who have given us “exceedingly abundant” love and support these last several weeks.  

Most of all, we thank our Father above and our Lord Jesus Christ for giving our family the most wonderful and loving dad, husband, mentor, and example. We couldn’t be more thankful!

Visitation will be 5:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m., Friday, January 26, 2024, at Fox & Weeks, Hodgson Chapel. 

Mass of Christian Burial will be 12:00 p.m., Saturday, January 27, 2024, at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church.  Entombment will follow in Hillcrest Abbey West Cemetery, 1336 Dean Forest Road, Savannah, GA 31405. 

 ** One last note, in lieu of flowers, please consider a memorial gift in his memory to Hospice Savannah or one of the fine organizations supporting veterans. **




That is a wonderful discription of Mr P.'s life. As long as I have known him he has always been a genuinely kind man and although we were not very close whenever I saw him at the golf course he acted as though we were pals. He always had an encouraging word and a friendly handshake or even a hug. I know he will be missed by all that new him.

- Alan Walls, Savannah, GA

That is a wonderful discription of Mr P.'s life. As long as I have known him he has always been a genuinely kind man and although we were not very close whenever I saw him at the golf course he acted as though we were pals. He always had an encouraging word and a friendly handshake or even a hug. I know he will be missed by all that new him.

- Alan Walls, Savannah, GA

Dear Family, I am so grateful that I was part of the family and got to know Val. We always got together (when possible) for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other special events. Picture taking was usually number one priority. I will miss Val but he will always have a special place in my ♥️

- Joan C. Clark, Sav, GA

Heaven has gained another great and honorable soldier., only eternity could have has the expression and the vernacular to describe such a man of great flair

- Paul Allan Hodge, savannah , Ga

Val will be missed! Wonderful human being! Always happy and smiling!

- Ousmane Diarra, Savannah , Ga

Your Dad sounds like a wonderful man and I’m very sorry for your loss. I hope the love and support from friends and family helps lift your spirit.

- Jane Peebles Martin, Tampa, Florida

My condolences to the family. I am so sorry to hear about the passing of your dad. Terri and Tina, my prayers are with you.

- Teresa Gregory Hallstein , Savannah , Ga

I had the awesome opportunity to know Mr P since I was a young child. My mother , Willie Arnold, was close friends to Mr and Mrs P, she worked for him at Baskin Robbins for years, along with going on vacations together....spent time at the house in Windsor Forrest getting to know Terry, Tina and Lenny. He was a great man and always had a smile on his face. He was loved by so many and will be greatly missed. Terry, Tina and Lenny, so sorry for your loss and know the yall will be in my prayers.

- Joey Arnold, Palm Bay , Fl

Will never forget their 40 anniversary at Hunter. Damn near 40 of us there. With about 2/3 all the kids age. Val an Edith were a trip. We formed a circle with the two of em in the middle dancing. A moment i’ll always remember. More love in that room than i’ve ever experienced. Keep on dancing.

- Craig Mac , Keller, Ga

Lenny, I remember your mother and dad as very happy people. I'm so sorry for your loss, but am thankful that he had a long and memorable life. You are in my prayers. Jane

- Jane Powers Sparks, Stone Mountain, GA

Services under the direction of:

Fox & Weeks Funeral Directors, Hodgson Chapel