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Mario Barsotti

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Mario Barsotti Obituary
Judge Mario Henry Barsotti

1/1/1924 to 9/6/2013

Mario was born on new years day 1924 in a farmhouse on the San Francisco/San Mateo county border. The doctor came to deliver him in a Model T Ford at the farmhouse. He had an older sister named Wanda and his mother's name was Bruna.

His family moved to the mission district in San Francisco while his father was seeking work. His father, Quinto Barsotti, was a machinist and blacksmith at Del Monte Foods for a while. Later, as he prospered, he moved the family to a house in the marina district on Chestnut Street, across the street from Funston Playground, where Mario grew up playing tennis, football, and basketball.

Mario went to school at St Vincent De Paul grammar school for 8 years. It was only about 8 blocks away from his home so he usually rode his bicycle to school. After graduating in 1937 from grammar school he attended St Ignatius high school for 4 years. It was an all male school then. He received a great education from the Jesuit faculty and when he graduated he had the highest kind of diploma you could have, an honorary classical diploma, which includes 4 years of Latin and 2 years of Greek. In his freshman year at USF he enlisted in the Army Air Corps.

He ended up in the Army Air Corps as a pilot trainee. He flew 3 different kinds of planes and was so exuberant that he buzzed the airfield 2 days in a row. The commanding officer issued an order, "no more buzzing by anyone". Two days later he buzzed again, not knowing the CO had ordered no buzzing two days before. This happened while a visiting general and congressman were watching a review. The CO wanted to court marshal him but a captain intervened and instead he was sent to South Dakota. Mario was no longer an air corps cadet, they broke him down to a private and he was in South Dakota in the wintertime, it was freezing. He finished his radio school training there and ended up in California after freezing all winter. They wanted him to be a radio instructor but he refused. He volunteered for combat duty.

In California he was trained in a B-17. Later he was assigned to a flight crew on a B-24 bomber with 9 other guys. The pilot Ken Brown, became a good friend, who's wife Rosemary is still alive. He corresponded w/ her recently. As far as we know most of the crew members are now deceased. He had a couple of reunions w/ the co-pilot, Bill Curran, while they were both still alive.

One of the last combat missions he had was over Japan, where they were flying from a base in Okinawa called Ie Shima. On that day, Aug 9 1945, they were flying over southern Kyushu, their target was Kumamoto. Following their mission they turned south towards home base, however they were over southeastern Kyushu and had to fly west in order to avoid big storm clouds. As they flew west they saw a flash of light. They had heard of the atomic bomb a few days before by rumor and they thought this could be a second one. Mario had a small box camera and he took a picture of the mushroom cloud as they passed by. They were probably 15-20 miles away, like from Oakland to the Golden Gate Bridge. How they were not affected was beyond him. The B-29's that dropped the bombs were at 30,000 feet. They were coming from the southeast and Mario's crew were coming from the south and intended to go back but they were flying west. Flying west took them over part of Kyushu Island just south of Nagasaki where the bomb went off. He doesn't think the bombers knew they were there flying below them at 12,000 feet, and Mario's crew didn't know they were above them at 30,000 feet. Their mission was a secret miion, unknown to anyone in that part of the air corp. The squadron they were in almost caught the explosion. They felt it and saw it but it didn't effect their plane. They kept going west and later south to get home.

Later Mario found out from a book written by the co-pilot of the B-2 that dropped the bomb that they were running low on gas and landed on Mario's home base island of Ie Shima, to refuel on their way home. He also said that Nagasaki was the secondary target, the city in the northern part of Kyushu, Kokura, was the primary target. The bomb couldn't be dropped by radar unless the primary target could be seen by the B-29. Since Kokura could not be bombed because of visibility problems, the crews flew further south towards Nagasaki, almost intersecting Mario's flight path at different altitudes. Because of the smoke from other raids the unfortunate people of Nagasaki ended up the target. Our bombardier Al Feldbin had all the official photo records so he gave Mario his photo of the bomb and he had it copyrighted.

When the war ended they flew home from the Philippines to California in their B-24 and were discharged. A very short time after arriving home, attending parties and social functions, he met the love of his life, Florence Heffernan, the lady he married in his early 20's. They had a wonderful marriage that gave them five sons, Peter, Stephen, David, Bob & Mark. Mario worked for his family business in Oakland and after 5 years he attended UC Hastings Law School in San Francisco. After law school he worked in the Alameda County district attorneys office for Frank Coakley. After a number of years he went into private practice. Then he got a call from Gov Ronald Reagan who appointed him to the Alameda County bench. He was a judge for some time and over the years he was assigned by 4 different chief justices, Traynor, Wright, Bird, & Lucas, to work in other counties to assist those counties with their work. When he retired he worked on judicial assignment around the state for a time and he stayed living in the SF Bay Area.

Mario expressed great joy in sharing the time he's had together with Bev Goggio in the last years of his life.

There will be a memorial mass on September 28, 1PM at the Cathedral of Christ The Light, 2121 Harrison St in Oakland, immediately followed by a reception at the Claremont Hotel, 41 Tunnel Rd in Berkeley. In lieu of flowers the family asks that a donation be made to a local .

Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Sept. 15, 2013
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