June 6, 1916 - October 5, 2013
Carmel Valley and Santa Cruz; El Cerrito and San Ramon
On a beautiful, clear, warm October afternoon, unexpectedly and peacefully, with son Scott at his side, Joe Armanini soared into the Heavens at the young age of 97 after a day of laughing, joking, watching the baseball playoffs and a golf tournament on tv with family members - and flirting with nurses at San Ramon Regional Medical Center where he had just begun tests for low blood pressure. Active and vibrant to the very last moment, it was as if an angel's breath gently touched his candle's flame.
Dad will always be remembered for his kind heart, warm smile and world-famous gnocchi, suck-bone chicken and Manhattans. A Mason for nearly 60 years, dad attributed his long life to a combination of good genes, regular exercise, moderation in food and drink, a positive outlook, thirst for knowledge, and hard work.
Dad had a truly blessed life, growing up in Carmel Valley and Santa Cruz in the 1920s and 30s where his father was an entrepreneur (founding the Montebello Winery in San Francisco), rancher and artichoke farmer (Sea Mist). He played football for Santa Cruz High School and San Mateo Junior College, where he was elected class president, until a scholarship lured him east to Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, playing Defensive and Offensive Tackle on Earl "Red" Blaik's ("You've Got to Pay the Price") teams of 1938 and 1939.
After graduating with honors in 1940, earning a degree in romance languages, dad returned to Santa Cruz, working for Bank of America in Pacific Grove before volunteering for the Army Air Corps in 1941 where he served as Lead Bombardier for the 100th Bombardment Group ("The Bloody Hundredth"), stationed at Thorpe Abbotts, England. After flying 25 missions, he reenlisted for a second tour of duty, retiring at the end of the war as a Major.
In 2009, he was interviewed for the History Channel's documentary, "WW2 in HD: The Air War". Dad had no idea that the producer would select his experiences (alongside fellow 100th Bombardment Group B-17 pilot John Gibbons, fighter pilot Steve Paisanos and journalist Andy Rooney) to help tell the story, and was embarrassed by all the attention. Dad always said that the real heroes never came home.
Dad married his sweetheart and life partner of 50 years, Victoria, of Santa Cruz and Davenport, and moved to El Cerrito - and, later, Rancho Palos Verdes - where they raised two children, Scott and Laurel. Dad worked for Bank of America in San Francisco for nearly 20 years before joining BofA buddy Andy Regalia at Kjell Qvale's British Motor Car Distributors (BMCD) where dad held sales and operations positions, retiring after nearly 30 years as Executive Vice President, Marketing.
After mom passed in 1999, dad continued living in their home - surrounded by wonderful, loving neighbors - until 2011 when he stopped driving and moved to San Ramon to live with Scott, Teri and grandsons Jefferson and Kellen. We were incredibly fortunate to have two incredible years with dad.
Throughout their lives, dad and mom always made time for the most important things: Family and friends. They taught us about the importance of getting a good education and hard work, being good citizens, helping others, and saving for a rainy day. Whether it was teaching us to play the piano, cook, fish, garden, save money and balance a checkbook, or play golf, develop our passions for learning and reading, helping with homework, Cub Scout and Camp Fire Girl projects, school plays, coaching Little League, and learning how to establish lifelong relationships with customers, dad and mom were always there to share their many talents and experiences. Both loved to cook, laugh, sing, and enjoyed comedy, crosswords and karaoke.
Dad is survived by children Scott (Teri) of San Ramon and Laurel (John) Tronolone of Rancho Palos Verdes; grandchildren Jefferson and Kellen Armanini of San Ramon, and Lindsey, Richard and Paige Andersen of Rancho Palos Verdes; nieces Lynn (Cal) Ponzini of Aptos and Valerie Reed of Scotts Valley; nephews Doug (Faith) Armanini of Wailuku, Maui and Michael (Cory) Engelking of Santa Cruz; grandnephew and grandniece Christopher and Bianca Armanini of Wailuku, Maui; grandniece Jessica (Tony) Warner and their children Chelsea, Aaron and Dillan; grandnephew Zachary Sterns of Seattle, Washington; daughter-in-law Debra (James) Bierwagen and their children Daniel and Rosie of Chicago Park, California; daughter-in-law Laurie (Thom) Anderson and daughter Ali of Huntsville, Alabama; and many cousins in Spain and Italy.
Waiting for dad in Heaven were his wife, Victoria (Ferrari De Luca) Armanini; mother and father Francesca Barrutia Armanini Colavizza and Isidoro Armanini; step-father Nello Colavizza; mother-and-fathers-in-law Eva Ferrari De Luca Tabacco, Victor De Luca and Ernest Tabacco; brothers and sisters-in-law Edward "Eddie" (Marian) Armanini and Hugo "Googs" (Helen) Armanini; step-brother Mario Armanini; sisters-in-law Lorraine (Les) Bongiovanni, Dolores (John Zanella, Edward Koontz, and long-time companion Al Ebert) and her twin sister Dorothy; brother-in-law-and-sister in law Eddie and Sandria Nelson; cousins Andone and Inkai Arano, Louis Ferrari, and Louis and Florence Knafla; nephews Melvin Silva and Errol Zanella; and grandnephew Gary Zanella.
In lieu of flowers we ask that you please consider making a donation to the 100th Bombardment Group Foundation (www.100thbg.com), or the Davenport Resource Service Center (www.cabinc.org/DRSC).
Published in Contra Costa Times on Nov. 10, 2013