Died: March 12, 2008 (Kremlin-Bicetre, France)
Best Known as: last surviving French World War I veteran
Lazare Ponticelli was the last surviving French veteran of World War I. He outlived 8.4 million other veterans of France. Pontecelli was born in Italy but moved to Paris to find work. He worked as a chimney sweep and a paperboy, and joined the French Foreign legion in 1914. Ponticelli fought with the French in the battles at Argonne and Verdun, and then was drafted to the Italian army when Italy entered the War in 1915. After the War ended, he returned to France and became a citizen in 1939. Former French president Jacques Chirac wanted to honor the last surviving World War I veteran with a state funeral, but Ponticelli was against the idea. He believed that it would be an insult to the French soldiers who died in battle without tribute.