rugged individual who's always relied on his own desire and determination,
Richieri (Gus) Pegoraro was born on July 10, 1914 in the small town of Caspian
in Iron County Michigan to Italian-born parents who immigrated to the U.S.
just after the turn of the century in order to afford themselves a chance
to raise a family in a more hospitable economic climate.
in the coal mines as well as renting rooms in their already crowded house
to boarders, the Pegoraro's found a mom-and-pop bootlegging operation greatly
assisted them in putting together the funds necessary to feed and clothe
their rapidly growing family. The third eldest, Gus had one sister and seven
brothers, all U.S.-born, attending public school until the entire Pegoraro
family engineered a return to the northern Italian town of Spesia (between
Venice and Verona), where Gus' aunts and uncles lived. Mulberry trees grow
well in this region, so the family used their land to raise silkworms, while
reading about the rise to power of one Benito Mussolini.
experienced the American public school system, and having English as his
first language, Gus experienced some difficulty integrating into the Italian
system, and when he reached the age of 13 or 14, his folks decided to place
him in a monastery run by the Brothers of St. Anthony. He emerged at the
age of 18 and was promptly drafted by Mussolini's army. Although it was
during that time that Mussolini was invading Abyssinia, Gus remained with
his unit in Italy, until his release from service at the age of 21.
was 1935 and Gus decided to return to America, but to San Francisco this
time, where he was welcomed by an uncle and his brother, Joe. He soon got
a job with friends of his family who ran a successful rose nursery about
15 miles south of S.F., near the town of Half Moon Bay. Bright and industrious,
Gus attended night school studying mechanics and taking refresher courses
in English, which he hadn't had a chance to practice during the previous
ten years. Still a citizen of the U.S., it wasn't long before Gus was inducted
into the U.S. military. With thousands of others, Gus was sent to build
the great Alaska Highway, where bear encounters proved a striking contrast
to the Mulberry orchards and vineyards of Tuscany. To their delight, Gus
and his Field Artillery unit were eventually sent down to Orange County.
On a break from duty one sunny day, Gus was strolling around the town of
Orange with his good buddy, Jesse Chavez, when they came to the town circle
where several young local girls were playing. Emily, a precocious ten-year-old
with 18 brothers and sisters, decided the young men looked dapper in their
crisp uniforms. She and a friend walked up to the two soldiers, engaging
them in small talk, and after a while, little Emily started thinking of
one of her favorite, unmarried sisters-Josie, by name. "You wanna come
meet my sister?" she asked the men. Emily and her offer proved irresistible,
and it wasn't long before the two GIs were visiting Josie and her family.
The Chavez house became a regular destination for Gus and Jesse and they
soon became very familiar faces. "He'd always be sitting by the gate-we
couldn't get rid of him", Josie tells it. They didn't have a phone
then, says Josie, but Gus would visit whenever he could, and always manage
to show up in the church the Chavez' attended. "He was always sitting
I could feel his eyes on me!" Josie laughs.
. . . . . . .
would have blossomed but Josie was already engaged to a soldier named Trini
whom she married in 1942, when he returned to California on furlough from
the South Pacific. She and Gus remained friends, however, and they continued
a warm correspondence.
Trini lost his life serving in the South Pacific, Josie grieved for a few
years, occasionally recalling that young soldier who'd befriended her. She
often thought about his kindness and companionship, and one day decided
to write to him. Their correspondence bloomed anew, and Gus subsequently
drove from San Francisco to southern California to visit her a few times.
On one of his visits, Gus finally asked Josie to marry him. They got married
on May 18, 1947 in the church in Orange that Josie's family had always attended,
and afterward moved to San Francisco.
on Warner Street (off Mission) in a $40-a-month house, the enterprising
couple managed to save enough money to eventually buy a house on Lowell
Street in San Francisco, in which they raised their two daughters, Gloria
and Yvonne, born in 1948 and 1949. After more than 25 years working as a
machinist and tool and die worker, Gus retired from American Can Co. A gentleman
with strong opinions who has never been at a loss for words, Gus has his
own ideas about how things should be done. He's resourceful and inventive,
capable of building and adapting tools and devices. He approaches tasks,
big and small, with zest and confidence. He loves to work in stone and has
created beautiful mosaics, commessi (intarsias), inlays, spheres, and sculpture
using a wide variety of ore-based materials and often, tools he's designed
and made. Gus, a lover of fine music, opera in particular, and the fine
arts, will happily critique almost anything.
with a high level of energy and chronic good health, Gus has always been
a dedicated and responsible husband, father, and provider, and continues
to live happily with his "trophy" wife, Josie, in San Francisco.