Joseph L. Sterbenz, 87, of Stapleton, a former Port Authority director and a retired U.S. Army brigadier general who fought in Normandy and in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II, died Saturday at his second home in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Born in Brooklyn, he graduated from Townsend Harris High School there and earned his bachelor of science degree in accounting from St. John’s University.
Mr. Sterbenz’s 32-year military career began when he was inducted into the U.S. Army in 1940. A member of the 80th Division, U.S. Third Army, he was sent to England in July 1943 and reached Normandy three days after the D-Day assault began.
“I was scared to death,” Mr. Sterbenz told the Advance in 1995 of his landing on Utah Beach in 1944, adding that “the ones that could tell the great (war) stories are the ones who didn’t come back.”
Later that year, orders came to support the defense in the Bulge and he arrived in the Ardennes forest in Belgium after the fierce fighting there broke out on Dec. 16, 1944.
Of his experiences, he told the Advance in 1998, “War is savage.”
Mr. Sterbenz retired from the Army as a brigadier general in 1978.
After returning home from the war and settling on Staten Island, he worked for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for 35 years, retiring as Staten Island director of the agency.
Mr. Sterbenz was active in several veterans’ organizations, including the Cpl. A. F. Kivlehan Chapter, Korean War Veterans.
A member of the Staten Island Chapter, Service Corps of Retired Executives (S.C.O.R.E), he also served as chairman of the board of directors of the Staten Island Chapter, American Red Cross, from 1982 to 1984 and was later named an honorary lifetime member of the American Cancer Society. He also worked with the Kiwanis Club of Staten Island and the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce.
In 1992, he was presented with a Paul Harris Fellow Award, given for noteworthy service above self by the Rotary Clubs of Staten Island.
Mr. Sterbenz was very active in the local Scouting community and had received the Silver Beaver Award, the highest given to adult volunteers.
He was very proud of his grandsons, Clinton and Justin Sterbenz, family said.
Mr. Sterbenz enjoyed traveling, and had journeyed throughout Europe. He also was fond of taking an annual trip to Mexico.
“Our father was the strongest man we ever knew and accomplished so much in his life. We always knew we could count on him,” said his daughters, Darlene Sterbenz and Debra Alleva.