Decorated WWII veteran earned respect as judge
Police officers with criminals in tow would turn up at the home of Michael Giannini, justice of the peace, at all hours of the night.
“They would come to the door, and my dad would have to arraign them and have their hearing right there in the house,” said son Terry Giannini.
His father was always fair, even in parenting him and his older brother, Ron.
“He listened to us; he didn't form an opinion before talking to us,” Terry Giannini said.
Michael Giannini of Derry Borough died on Sunday, Aug. 3, 2014, of complications from a fall three years ago. He was 93.
He retired from Westinghouse Electric Corp. in Derry in 1982 and turned his energies to public office, serving as a justice of the peace from 1960-72, then as district justice in Derry from 1981-91. He was mayor of the borough from 1974-80.
A former president of the Westmoreland County Magisterial District Judge Association, Mr. Giannini was humble and well-respected, said Derry District Judge Mark Bilik.
“I just thought the world of him,” said Bilik, who shadowed Mr. Giannini before taking over the office. “He wasn't someone who would make light of a situation or belittle anyone in the courtroom. ... People didn't want to lie to him because they didn't want to disappoint him.”
Mr. Giannini was a World War II veteran in the European Theater in the Fifth Infantry, 3rd Army, from 1943-45, earning a Bronze Star.
His son Ron said Mr. Giannini told stories about digging foxholes in a cabbage patch to escape German gunfire.
Chris Johnston, post quartermaster of Derry VFW Post No. 444, said Mr. Giannini was active in the club until a few years ago.
“He was very outgoing,” Johnston said. “He always had a smile and a hello for anyone who approached him.”
Mr. Giannini was commander of the post from 1986-87 and was part of the ritual team at military funerals. The Blairsville and Derry posts will honor him with one.
“He's a great role model for the younger (members),” Johnston said. “If we had more people like that, we'd have less problems.”
Mr. Giannini was preceded in death by his first wife, Ann L. Giannini. He is survived by his wife, Rose Petrarca Giannini; two sons, Ronald Giannini and wife, Linda, of Danville, Calif., and Terry A. Giannini and wife, Susan, of Derry Township; two stepsons, Patrick Petrarca and wife, Karen, of Stahlstown and Michael Petrarca and wife, Marcy, of Latrobe; two stepdaughters, Rose Ann Neiman and husband, Ralph, of Derry, and Georgene Falcon and husband, Ken, of Unity; and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Family and friends will be received from 2 to 4 and 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday in Matthew X. Merlin Funeral Home, 529 N. Chestnut St., Derry, with a Mass of Christian Burial at 10:30 a.m. Friday in St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church.