PARIS - Justin Tuveri, who fought for Italy during World War I and was one of the few remaining European veterans of the Great War, has died, officials said yesterday. He was 109.
Mr. Tuveri, who spent most of his life in France, remained active despite his advanced age, pruning trees and cleaning out rain gutters at 90 and driving until age 98, according to the newspaper Le Monde. He died Oct. 5 at his home in the southern French resort town of St. Tropez, the mayor's office said.
Although Mr. Tuveri became a French citizen in 1940, he did not figure on the French Defense Ministry's list of surviving veterans from the 1914-18 war because he had fought for Italy. Only two French veterans from the war are still alive, the ministry said.
Mr. Tuveri, born in Collinas on the island of Sardinia in 1898, was a member of the Sassari Brigade, a Sardinian infantry unit nicknamed the "Dimonios" - "Demons" in the island's dialect.
"We were young and inexperienced, with only the fear of dying," he once told Le Monde.
Defense Minister Arturo Parisi of Italy paid tribute to Mr. Tuveri.
"We honor his youth and his life, and, at the same time, we express again our gratitude for the courage of the Sardinians who, in the ranks of the Sassari Brigade, fought in Italy's name on the bloodied plateaus of the Great War," he said.
The brigade fought Austro-Hungarian and German forces in the heights of northeastern Italy, suffering 15,000 casualties.
Mr. Tuveri's military service was cut short four months after he joined when he was shot twice in the back during a battle with German forces, Le Monde reported.
He was taken to a hospital, where doctors were forced to remove the bullets from his body without anesthesia, he told Le Monde in 2005.
"I heard the sound of the scalpel that cut my skin," he recalled. "I can still hear the sound in my ears."
Following his recuperation, Mr. Tuveri emigrated to France, where he worked as a driver and caretaker for the Greek royal family, Le Monde said. Although he was born Giustino Tuveri, he changed his first name in France.