Biography: Italo Quinto
Italo Quinto’s birth in 1923 in the Italian hamlet of Lenola was at first foreshadowed when his father, Michael Quinto, returned briefly to the Old World from the United States to find himself a lovely wife. Although today such a journey costing weeks at sea and untold sums seems a mighty gamble, it was by no means an extraordinary feat for the age and indeed continues to be a common marriage rite for many immigrants. As is often the case with family stories, we can only assume it was Michael’s charm and good looks that convinced Maria D'Appollonio that America would be the home for the new generation.
Once the couple became a family, they came to Plainfield, New York, where tragedy struck and young Italo was left motherless. Not one to let fortune undo his plans, Michael returned to Italy, found a new bride and soon the Quintos were four.
At the age of 16 skirts can be chased or they can be sown, and it was this latter that Italo chose to make his living in a knitting factory. However, world events became young men’s fate. The World War first came for Italo’s younger brother, who was deployed to northern Africa and then invaded his mother’s homeland (“I don’t know if he saw much action, because he didn’t say much”). And then a few years later fate came to the Quinto’s door again, and this time Italo was drafted. He didn’t like the National Guard (“To hell with this walking.”) and asked to be transferred to the Rangers (“I didn’t like the Rangers. As a matter of fact, I didn’t like flying.”). The moment he found a way to find peace in the heavens, he was shipped off to England, and manned his post as a turret gunner of a beloved B-17 Flying Fortress: “We renamed our plane ‘I’ll Get By’ from a popular song then, ‘I’ll get by as long as I have you.’” Such words were not only the vessel for hopes, but were a pretty accurate description of the soldiers condition when flying at 20,000 feet wrapped in an electric heating suit and wearing an oxygen mask.
Italo Quinto survived 35 missions, and received five Battle Stars and the Distinguished Flying Cross and was already back in the Redding Airforce Base in Mississippi when news came of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Relieved not to be flying to Asia next, he was discharged on September 3rd, 1945. Domestic life was coming, but as he put it, “I did not go looking for a job right away upon getting home. I went drinking for four weeks.”
In 1947 Italo met Margaret and soon they wed, with one boy and two girls in the coming. A family meant he needed work. A bus driver job quickly became a chauffeur job when in 1948 Quinto joined the Bell Labs motor pool. In 1967 he rose to Executive Chauffeur, and retained this position until his retirement in 1984, at the very moment when Bell Labs was being broken up by a Federal anti-trust suit against AT&T.
Margaret Shotwell Quinto died in 1995, and then on Tuesday, July 29, 2008 Italo followed from Palmyra, Tennessee.