FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — APRIL 30, 2014 –
Note: This past week longtime West Sacramento resident Marino Pierucci passed away at the age of 91. Over Marino’s long and eventful life he played an important role in how our city grew and prospered and was also the Assistant Superintendent for Business Services for the Washington Unified School District until his retirement in 1981. He was an incredibly bright, interesting and fun person to spend time with and the following article about him and his beloved wife of 72 years, Mary, is reprinted below in his memory. Marino’s warmth and easy smile never failed to light up a room and he will be greatly missed by all those who knew and loved him.
Marino Pierucci’s Italian parents, Joseph and Ida, moved to Broderick in the late 1920s.
“My father actually came to the United States shortly after World War One,” remembered Marino, “and he met my mother a few years later, while he was working on a farm in Courtland that was owned by my mother’s sister and cousin. My mother had originally left Italy with the help of an old world matchmaker, who had arranged for her to marry a man who wasn’t my father. But when my parents met, my mother decided to marry my father instead, and he ended up having to pay the $350 owed the matchmaker.”
By 1931, the Pierucci’s had established themselves in Broderick and Joseph built a new two-story home for his growing family on 6th Street.
“We lived upstairs,” recalled Marino, “and my father and mother ran a little Italian restaurant downstairs. It was really a pretty idyllic life. Other Italian families, most of whom were all from the same part of northern Italy, lived all around us and my brothers and I had lots of friends. We would all go fishing at Fat Jack’s Pond, or shoot marbles on this little corner lot that we had made as smooth as a pool table, or we would go swimming at our favorite swimming hole, which was between two wing dams on the nearby Sacramento River. Our parents didn’t want us swimming in the river so we always had to leave our bathing suits at home, but that didn’t stop us — we just took off all our clothes and jumped in. We also played a lot of softball in the streets and regularly walked across the old I Street Bridge to go to the movies in downtown Sacramento, which cost all of five cents back then.”
In 1941 Marino spotted a pretty young girl walking in front of his house. They struck up a conversation and Marino quickly learned that her name was Mary and that she was staying at her brother’s house, which was only a few blocks away.
“Mary lived on a farm about 50 miles away, near Lincoln,” recalled Marino, “but she stayed with her brother in Broderick during canning season. When there was no more work, she would have to go home, but I did my best to keep seeing her, including sending her a round trip bus ticket back to her brother’s house as often as I could. We would go to dances and the movies and always have a good time, and come this August, we will have been married 57 years.”
“What wasn’t there to like about him?” said Mary with a warm smile. “From the very beginning, he was extremely kind and wonderfully Italian!”
Like with most young people of Marino and Mary’s generation, World War Two soon interrupted their lives.
“In 1943 I was drafted into the Army Air Corp and I trained to be a gunner radio operator,” said Marino. “Along with thousands of other guys from around the country, I was sent to radio school in Chicago, where we all stayed in the Stevens Hotel, which was right across the street from Soldier’s Field. I ended up being a gunnery school instructor and I will never forget how wonderful the people of Chicago were to soldiers. They gave us free tickets to baseball and football games, let us ride all the public transportation for free, and basically wouldn’t let us spend a dime of our own money. Unfortunately, not everyone in my family was as lucky as me. My brother Ernie, who was a wonderful person and athlete, was killed in 1945 during a B26 strike over Cologne, Germany.”
After the war, Marino went back to his job working for the Southern Pacific Railroad, but it wasn’t long before he decided to take advantage of the GI Bill and go to college.
“The GI Bill was such a blessing for so many returning veterans,” said Marino. “College would have been impossible for most of us without it, and I really studied hard once I was admitted. I also got to play on the Sacramento City and Sacramento State baseball teams, which was a lot of fun, and shortly after I graduated, Jake Misfeldt offered me my first teaching job in the Washington Unified School District. To earn a little extra money, I even drove the buses to and from school. I would pick up the kids in the morning, teach most of them during the day, and then drive them home.”
Marino quickly went from being a classroom teacher at old West Acres School to being its vice principal. Then he was made the principal at the new Westfield Village Elementary School and by 1956, he was the Assistant Superintendent for Business Services for the whole district, a position he held until his retirement in 1981.
“Those were really great years,” recalled Marino. “Not only was I privileged to work with some very dedicated educators, but in the 1950s, we were able to use a government matching funds program to build a number of new schools. Unfortunately, in the 1960s, our student enrollment dropped off dramatically and we had to consolidate some of those facilities, but I really enjoyed all the years I spent working to improve the public schools in the this area. It was a very rewarding career.”
Since his retirement, Marino has stayed active in the community by being a member of the Planning Commission, which he has served on since West Sacramento became a city. He also likes to golf and help Mary transport their grandchildren from activity to activity.
“Mary and I have both been blessed with good health,” said Marino, “and our grandchildren are very active and doing their best to keep us young.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: The title of this column comes from something Marino Pierucci often said as he looked back upon his life.
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