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Joseph Salvatore Amato
Joseph Salvatore Amato,"Joe", of Salinas, passed away at 2:40 p.m. Sunday, March 2, 2014. He was 94 years old. Born in Omaha, NE on April 25, 1919 to John and Alice Amato, Joe was the oldest of seven children.
Joe was very close to his parents. While growing up, his mother made sure he made it to church on Sunday and his father kept Joe busy after school working around the family-owned barber shop. Joe started out doing odd jobs around the shop but it wasn't long before he was working the trade as a barber.
In April of 1941, Joe volunteered for the Army and was assigned to the 60th Coast Artillery on Corregidor Island in the Philippines. In December that same year, the Japanese attacked the Philippines and Joe fought in the battle for Corregidor. On May 6, 1942, after several months of heavy fighting, U.S. forces were forced to surrender to the Japanese and Joe was taken prisoner. Joe spent the next three years and four months as a Japanese POW. He endured and witnessed many unimaginable events but he was determined to get back home to see his family again. Joe was held prisoner at many POW camps including Cabanatuan and Palawan. Later, he was transferred by what were known as "hell ships" to Formosa Island. When the war ended, Joe was in Sendai, Japan laboring in a zinc mine. In September of 1945, he was liberated and in March 1946, he was reunited with his family in Omaha.
Joe was married later that same year to Phyllis McNew and it wasn't long before they moved to California and began raising a family. He and Phyllis had two children, Marc and Kim. In 1951, following in his father's footsteps, Joe purchased Valley Beauty Center in Salinas and later renamed it "Joseph's Beauty Salon". Joe built a sizable reputation for quality and style and his salon quickly became "the" place for women to go in the Salinas Valley.
Joe returned to hunting and fishing again as he had done as a boy in Nebraska. He loved to hunt and fish just about anywhere, but his favorite spot was Alaska. He loved Alaska so much he began to hire out as an assistant hunting guide. He also loved to tinker and fix things which he had a knack for. Even at 92 years of age, he did not hesitate to crawl under the house or climb up on the roof to fix what needed to be fixed.
In 1980, Joe met his second wife Cathy Walsh, and the two spent the last 34 wonderful years together. They enjoyed each other's company, small outings and trying new restaurants. He often referred to Cathy as his "angel".
Not only was Joe a hero during the war but also a hero in life. He was kind, soft spoken, warm and winsome. He had the ability to make you feel welcomed and at ease. Joe was also a devoted husband and father and he was deeply loved by his family and friends. He will be greatly missed!
In addition to his parents, Joe was preceded in death by daughter, Kim Amato, and brothers, Frank Amato, Paul Amato and John Amato.
He is survived by his loving wife, Catherine Walsh of Salinas; sister, Mary Hicks; brothers, Jack Amato, Carl Amato and Bob Amato; son, Marc Amato; step-sons, Jeff Walsh and Gregg Walsh; and seven grandchildren.
Funeral service with military honors will be held Friday, March 14, 2014 at 11:30 a.m., at the Struve and Laporte Chapel, 41 W. San Luis St., Salinas, CA 93901.
Funeral arrangements by Struve and Laporte Funeral Home.
For more information and to share a memory, visit www.struveandlaporte.com.
Struve and Laporte Funeral Chapel
41 West San Luis
Salinas, CA 93901
Published in The Salinas Californian from Mar. 8 to Mar. 11, 2014