Al Pisenti dies; flew 55 bombing missions in WWII

By CHRIS SMITH | The Press Democrat | Published: January 31, 2018

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (Tribune News Service) — Pisenti is a well-known name in Sonoma County, but that wasn’t the case when future World War II aviator and milkman-to-many Al Pisenti was born in Santa Rosa in 1922.

His Swiss-Italian family had moved up from the East Bay earlier that same year. Little Al’s parents, James and Rose Pisenti, would give birth to one more child after him — for a total of 14.

From its start in Sonoma County nearly 96 years ago, the diligent, closely knit Pisenti clan multiplied and thrived:

A nephew of Al Pisenti, Ed Pisenti, co-founded the 53-year-old Pisenti & Brinker accounting firm. A brother of Al’s, Bill Pisenti, for decades appeared faithfully before the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors to plead for fiscal restraint. Al and Bill Pisenti’s eldest sister, Ann Beach Burow, became the county’s Registrar of Voters and was among the oldest Americans when she died in April of 2016 at the age of 110.

The youngest of Rose and James Pisenti’s 14 children, Gene Pisenti, a noted teacher and coach, died Dec. 14 at 89. His passing left Al Pisenti as the last of the siblings.

He died Jan. 25 at the age of 95.

“The torch has been passed,” said Al Pisenti’s son, Sam Pisenti of Santa Rosa. “But it’s a pretty bright torch.”

Pisenti’s daughter, Rose Wilkinson of Eugene, Oregon, said her father enjoyed every aspect of his life “and he tried to make the best of every moment.”

Dan Benedetti’s late father, Gene, coached Pisenti on the semi-professional Petaluma Leghorns football team and brought him into what was then Clover-Stornetta as a delivery truck driver, in the era of the ice box.

Pisenti “was an optimist, always had a smile on his face,” said Dan Benedetti, retired president and chairman of Clover Sonoma dairy.

Benedetti said Pisenti was the embodiment of America’s Greatest Generation: “Happy, positive, hardworking.”

When Allen Robert Pisenti was born in Santa Rosa on Oct. 26, 1922, all of the kids in his large family had nicknames. He was dubbed “Midge.”

The Great Depression arrived and he quickly learned what was expected to help put food on the table.

Pisenti graduated from Santa Rosa High in 1941, mere months before the U.S. entered World War II. He went to work helping build ships at Mare Island.

He was drafted in 1942 and assigned to the Army Air Corps, then trained as a gunner on the B-24 Liberator twin-tailed bomber. An extensive book on the Pisenti family quotes him as saying that of the 61 B-24s that left Virginia’s Langley Field for the Pacific Theater early in ’43, “23 were never heard from again.”

He flew 55 bombing missions against Japanese supply convoys and other targets, more than once fearing that his crew’s shot-up bomber would not make it back to base. Prior to his honorable discharge he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal and the Philippine Liberation Medal.

Pisenti returned to Santa Rosa after the war and enrolled at Santa Rosa Junior College, where he was a standout athlete.

His induction into the school’s sports Hall of Fame in 1998 noted that he was captain of the rugby team that beat Stanford 13-3 in 1947 and also shone on the football field and ran hurdles for track.

Following graduation, Pisenti played football for four years with the Petaluma Leghorns, coached by fellow combat veteran and Clover-Stornetta founder Gene Benedetti.

He went to work delivering Clover milk and butter and such to homes. He married Theresa Marie Bilotti in 1951 and they had two children. Theresa Pisenti died in 2001.

In 2003, Al Pisenti married the former Sharon Condrin.

Al Pisenti eventually began delivering Clover butter, cream and other products to the small grocery stores that were scattered throughout Santa Rosa prior to the advent of the supermarket.

Supremely sociable, Pisenti was a grandstand regular during the horse races at the Sonoma County Fair. He savored golfing with friends and was a stalwart of the Men’s Club at Holy Spirit Catholic Church.

“He was famous there for singing ‘MacNamara’s Band’ on St. Patrick’s Day,” Sharon Pisenti said.

Sam Pisenti called his father “one of the best teachers I ever had — and I’m a teacher!” He added that it was quite remarkable to go anywhere in the region with his dad.

“It was like traveling with a rock star,” he said. It seemed everybody knew and loved Al Pisenti.

The milkman retired more than 30 years ago, to enjoy more time with his children, grandchildren and friends.

For years, he volunteered at the benefit bingo games at the former Ursuline High School and administered communion at Memorial Hospital and at Holy Spirit Catholic Church.

Five days before he died at Sunrise Villa Senior Living, he attended the funeral at St. Rose Church for his younger brother, Gene.

In addition to his wife, son and daughter, Pisenti is survived by five grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren; three stepchildren, Sherril Harlow of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Matthew Condrin of San Francisco and Kevin Condrin of San Clemente; and four step-grandchildren.

©2018 The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, Calif.)
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