Alfio S. Sapienza – Sergeant, United States Marine Corps

From a press report:  18 March 1999

A deep sense of patriotism and special love for the Marines were two things that defined Alfio S. Sapienza.


Alfio S. Sapienz in a 1957 photo.

Mr. Sapienza, the first member of his Italian family to be born in the United States, spent 20 years in the Marine Corps, becoming a Sergeant and seeing a lot of the world.

When he left the Marines in 1965, he brought his sense of patriotism to his neighborhood. Outside his home in Castle Shannon, Mr. Sapienza proudly displayed an American flag year-round, keeping it lit at night.

“He taught us the Fourth of July is to be celebrated, but the flag should be flown every day,” said his daughter, Jeanne Erickson of Duquesne.

Mr. Sapienza died Monday in Allegheny General Hospital of emphysema. He was 73. As a tribute to his long military career, he will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery next Thursday.

As Mr. Sapienza's children and grandchildren studied history, they heard his rich personal stories, about maneuvers in Spain or his trek up Mount Fuji in Japan.

Once, while on vacation at a beach near Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, a Marine ase, Erickson watched her father, then 56, climb to the top of a pole and shimmy over it, outdoing a young Marine who was trying to show off for his daughter.

“Like they say, once a Marine, always a Marine. He really believed that,” Erickson said.

Mr. Sapienza was born in Massachusetts, where his parents, Salvatore and Maria Sapienza, had immigrated from Italy. He joined the Marines in 1945, at the end of World War II, and remained in the service until 1965.

While serving on the USS Worcester CL-144, he participated in the invasions of Wonsan, a seaport in North Korea, and Pusan, a seaport in South Korea, during the Korean War. While still aboard the ship, he circled the globe in 1950.

He retired as a recruiting officer, working in Mount Oliver. In 1960, he married Dolores Simpson, and they settled in Castle Shannon.

After his military service, Mr. Sapienza became a letter carrier at the Mt. Lebanon post office and, later, a police officer for the Postal Inspection Service. In 1979 and 1980, he was president of Local 8, Federation of Postal Police. He also belonged to several Masonic lodges and VFW posts, as well as the USS Worcester CL-144 Association. He was a member of Hill Top United Methodist Church.

Pete Santore, funeral director at Laughlin's in Mt. Lebanon, bowled with Mr. Sapienza in a South Hills businessmen's league. He said Mr. Sapienza was a good bowler and a knowledgeable, but introspective, person – “very much a gentleman and as neat as a pin.”

In addition to his wife, he is survived by four daughters, Erickson, Dee Ann Cleary of Baldwin Borough, Lisa Jo Pierce of Pleasant Hills and Rae Ann Tedesco of South Park; two sons, Salvatore Sapienza of Castle Shannon and John Schmidt of Everson, Westmoreland County; a sister, Ann Rapisarda of San Jose, Calif.; 13 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. today at Laughlin Funeral Home, 222 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon.

Services will be at 10 a.m. tomorrow at the funeral home chapel.


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