Benedetto Fontana, died on January 23, 2019. He was the widower of Savina Fontana. They shared nearly fifty-five glorious years of marriage together.
Dad was born in San Benedetto in Perillis, Province of L’Aquila, Abruzzo, Italy on May 13, 1930. His patron saint was St. Benedict, whose motto was “Ora eat Labora (pray and work)”. This really is a good summary for Dad’s life.
From birth until the age of 15, Dad endured poverty, the dictatorship of Benito Mussolini, and a World War. His village had no running water, and was occupied by Fascist, Nazi, and, finally, American forces.
He worked to support his parents and sister in Italy until the age of he was 20.
After leaving Italy and before coming to New York, Dad worked four years in Venezuela in various trades, learning to speak Spanish fluently (a valuable skill that he used the remainder of his life).
Dad arrived in New York on June 5, 1951, ten years to the date prior to the birth of his son, Mario.
Dad reunited with his childhood sweetheart, Savina, and married her six months later.
As a construction worker, Dad was sitting on a construction scaffold of a high-rise building having lunch with his co-workers when the Beatles arrived in New York to perform on the Ed Sullivan Show. Ironically, although he had the best seat in the house, he was really a Lawrence Welk fan.
Dad worked as a cement finisher in New York during the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s. One of the projects he worked on was the World Trade Center. He also worked on housing projects, prisons, and roadways.
Dad was known as a very hard worker, holding down multiple jobs, and even starting a laundromat in Brooklyn. Dad and Mom transformed a dilapidated two-story building into a thriving business and family residence. The laundry, also, became a sort of neighborhood social center. During the day, Mom would run the business and helped raise their three children, Mario, Lia, and Domenic. After coming home from work, Dad would repair and empty the change from the washing machines, dryers, and juke box. Although it has changed hands a few times, fifty years later, the laundromat still stands.
On the only real vacation they took in over 20 years, Dad and Mom visited relatives in Florida in the early 70s. Having had enough of the hard work and cold winters of New York, Mom and Dad decided they were going to live under the coconut trees of South Florida for the rest of their lives.
Within months of moving to Florida, the slow pace was more than Dad could take. As a result, he began working construction on beachfront condos.
After recession slowed the construction industry, he became the sole maintenance worker for eleven Florida Coast Bank branches. Dad was always curious and eager to learn new things. This job required him to venture outside cement work, and develop and draw on other skills such as plumbing, electrical, carpentry, locksmith, and HVAC.
After eight years, Mom and Dad decided to move to Tucson, because it reminded them of the old country, and also due to Dad’s love of westerns. They would end up sending all three of their children to college there.
Fifteen years later, Dad retired as a maintenance worker at Pima County, and Dad and Mom were on the move again, this time to Albuquerque, to help raise their two beautiful grandsons, Vincent and Marco. This also gave them the opportunity to get to know their son-in-law, Jordon, and his beautiful family.
In the next ten years, Dad would live in three houses. He would buy his beloved Jeeps because of his memory of the American troops that would liberate Italy during World War II.
Ten years later, and after losing our Mother, Dad moved to Phoenix to be closer to Mario. They made sure that they lived in the same neighborhood.
Dad loved to play the accordion. He played from childhood until the age of 17. After a long hiatus, at the age of 77, Dad resumed playing the accordion. For several years, Dad and Mario visited just about every used music and consignment store, and pawn shop in the valley looking for just the right accordion. He practiced up to 6 hours a day. He loved using Facebook to post his accordion sessions and stay in touch with relatives around the country and internationally.
Even as an octogenarian, Dad kept active. He lived independently, and maintained a garden of vegetables, oranges, grapefruit, lemons, pecans, figs, and tomatoes. He also cooked, made bread and, on occasion, home-made pasta. He employed cooking techniques he learned from Mom, and his grandparents, who were born in the late 1800s.
What Dad lacked in formal education (fifth grade), he more than made up for in God-given intelligence, ingenuity, energy, work ethic, competitiveness, pursuit of excellence, sense of adventure, and charisma.
Dad and Mom loved the United States, and reminded their children that immigrants had to overcome greater obstacles than future generations, such as language, cultural, political, etc. “We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more, and things that are more distant, than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours.” John of Salisbury.
Mom and Dad were married on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The Virgin Mary played a big part of their lives. They even named their first-born son: Mario which is the male name for Maria. Mom died on the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Dad died wearing the Brown Scapular just like Mom. Both received last rites a few days before passing away peacefully.
The Visitation will be held from 4:00 to 7:00 PM, with the Rosary from 7:00 to 8:00 PM, on Friday, February 8, 2019 at Hansen Mortuary, 8314 N. 7th St., Phoenix, AZ, 85020. The Funeral service will be held at 10:30 AM on Saturday, February 9, 2019 at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church, 2312 E. Campbell Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85016. He will be buried at Gate of Heaven Catholic Cemetery in Albuquerque, NM.
The family very much wants to thank all of their friends for their amazing support and encouragement during this very trying time.Print Obituary & Condolences