By Nicole Hennessy
Samuel Minichiello, a Westlake World War II veteran who died Feb. 9 at the age of 93, wasn’t Peter D’Amico’s biological father, but that doesn’t stop him from calling himself Minichiello’s son.
Spread out on a table in front of him are about a hundred pictures of the two of them traveling together the past few years. Photo after photo shows them standing beside each other, enjoying sunny states like Florida and Arizona. As Minichiello got older, D’Amico planned these trips as a way to get his biological uncle out of the house. To give him a break from the harsh Northeast Ohio winters.
“I miss him,” he said, choking up.
Born in a small Italian town he can’t even recall the correct spelling of anymore –Rionero Sannitico – D’Amico came here at the age of 14 after Minichiello, who immigrated to America when he was 2 years old, expressed to his Italian family members he and his wife’s desire to offer a child an American education. Not able to have their own children, they made D’Amico a part of their family, a generosity he never took for granted.
Over the years D’Amico remembered meeting his uncle’s fellow World War II vets and a few stories, but mostly he remembers his uncle’s kindness and desire to help others. While sharing his story is a way for him to celebrate Minichiello’s legacy, he believes that World War II vets, in general, deserve more attention than they get. People seem to forget about veterans of any war, and that they suffer poor medical treatment and homelessness, which is something that really bothers him.
Once, in North Olmsted, he saw a car piled with belongings blocking the windows and noticed military insignia mixed in with what he assumed were all of this person’s possessions. Knowing this was a veteran who was probably living in his car, he walked past sadly, wishing something could be done.
While Minichiello’s two younger brothers, Mike and Al, also fought in World War II, they didn’t really talk about it. To the extent of the gory details, best forgotten, Minichiello didn’t either. But the 5th Air Force tech sergeant always remained connected to his service, proud to have helped his country. Often, he’d show D’Amico maps of where he was in Australia, New Guinea and the Philippines.
Clearing the photos off the table, organizing them into separate stacks and wrapping rubber bands around them, D’Amico cheered up a bit, recalling the 90th birthday party he planned for his uncle. His father.
For a month he made pasta from scratch, freezing it, eventually cooking enough food to feed 100 people. He also commissioned an artist to paint a portrait of Minichiello’s late wife, Henrietta. A photo shows him posing with it, surrounded by friends and family.
Still feeling his loss very deeply, D’Amico said, finally, “He fought for our country, and people should know.”