The Story of Dominic Campanelli
Dominic Campanelli was gifted to this life April 6, 1921 and crossed over November 9, 2020. When he arrived up there, his beloved wife, Grace, had a table already set with his favorite Italian dishes. Jesus sat at the table with Dominic, and while breaking Mom’s homemade bread, Jesus said, “ Dom, thanks for sending Mary Grace ahead. Before she came, I had not had a great meal since that ‘Last Supper’! Abbondanza”!
Dominic was born to Giuseppe and Angelina Campanelli (Pa and Ma), in the village of Loseto, Apulia Province, Italy, a few miles outside of Bari. Pa (Giuseppe “Big Joe”) migrated to America in 1910, first working on the railroad from Los Angeles to Seattle until moving to Detroit to work in the growing automobile industry. Dominic and his younger brother Mike stayed in Loseto with his mother and Aunt Sandonette, who helped raise him, until he was 16 years old, at which time he migrated to Detroit to join his father and work at Ford Motor Company, where he became a master tool and die maker. Soon Dominic’s mother (Ma) and brother (Mike) followed. The family made many friends in Detroit’s Italian community and were well liked and respected.
It was at one of the big Detroit Italian Hall dances that Dominic looked across the room and saw a beautiful, young girl, Mary Grace Scola. He twirled his finger above his head, asking her to dance. They swept each other off their feet and have been dancing ever since! She became Grace Campanelli, and they started an amazing family in a two story brick house on Grey Street and Mack Avenue near uptown Detroit. Dominic and Grace lived upstairs along with her mother, Mamma Josie. Ma and Pa lived downstairs, and the basement below had Pa’s kitchen and wine room, Dominic’s workshop, Grace’s canning room, and the giant red coal burning furnace. Their first child, Jeanette, joined the family in December 1942.
With World War II, Dominic joined the Navy. He was sent to Pearl Harbor, stationed on the US Arizona but (lucky for us ) arrived a few weeks after the Japanese attack and sinking of the ships. He became a Naval barber, one of many trades he mastered over the years to provide for his family. After his Navy service, he returned to Detroit where he did Neon Repair, electronic refrigeration, and what ever it took to provide for his growing family, which now included his first son Joe, born in 1949, then sons Dominic Jr. (1950) and Mark Anthony (1956). During this time, Dominic attended night school, always learning, always expanding his skills to take care of his family. He and Grace had an active social life, filled with dances, weddings, Italian feasts, and Sunday dinner gatherings with friends and family. Dominic was also an active soccer player and coach on local Italian teams.
In September 1958, Grace gave birth to son Steve just as Dominic made a bold step: he answered an ad for an aerospace job at Aerojet General in California and was hired. So on short notice, he headed west to Sacramento, California. To prepare for his family’s arrival, he bought a house at 1731 Rolling Hills Road in Sacramento. Three months later, Grace hopped a plane with baby Steve, Mark, Dominic Jr., Joe, Jeanette, Ma, Pa, and Mamma Josie in tow. Thus, began new life and new horizon for the hardworking Dominic. Three generations under one roof! And the family was to grow even more with the birth of child #6, daughter Antoinette, in 1960.
Dominic always wanted a family business, so while working at Aerojet General, he decided to open a restaurant, “Campanelli’s Italian Food” at Arden Way and Eastern Avenue, just around the corner from the family home. Dominic built the booths and tables and refurbished equipment for the restaurant, and Grace cooked and ran the restaurant, with help from Pa in the kitchen. The children helped too, --- they manned the dishwasher, helped make Italian sausage, and bused tables after school. Pa also had an amazing garden, providing fresh fruit, vegetables, cured olives, figs, etc., a garden, which Dominic later took over. Life was always busy and exciting at the Campanelli’s
Over the years, Dominic’s children gave him eight grandchildren and eight great grandchildren, all of whom he adored and was very proud of. Jeanette moved to the Bay Area and eventually settled in Santa Rosa, California and married Ray Ambrosio, a successful builder, developer and accomplished pro-am golfer who got all of us into the game. Ray passed in June this year. Dominic Jr. married his high school sweetheart Annie Morton and has two wonderful daughters, Cassandra and Courtney Grace. Cass married Larry Jefferies; they have a daughter, Fiona, and a son, Davis. Courtney married Jason Wuchenich; they have two daughters, Ella and Aurdrey. Mark married Kim Hedrick and has three daughters, Lisa, Kayla and Josie. Lisa married Matt Hendrick; they have two boys, Dylan and Ryan. Steve is married to Jeanne Zitano with daughter Valerie; Valerie’s son Sam and daughter Ashley are an endless joy. And Joe married Paula Amiot; they have two wonderful daughters, Isabel Josie and Anna Grace. Dominic’s children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren are all part of the wonderful legacy Dominic worked to create and sustain.
And so today, it is always a large, wonderful gathering at the Campanelli’s with plenty of food, fun, and love. Just as Dominic and Grace planned. They devoted their lives to family and loved unconditionally. And we are better people for it.
Dominic always had a story to tell, a lesson to share, a helping hand, a skill to teach, a smile, a warm heart, and traditions to instill. He liked to listen to Paul Harvey on the radio with his tag line , “And the rest of the story when we come back.” Well there is much to the rest of the Dominic story--who he was, what he did, his gifts to everyone, what he meant, what he stood for, and the kind of man and father he was. “The Rest of the Story” will unfold on a special website dedicated to Dominic that family and friends will tell. To Stay tuned.
If you would like to add to the Dominic and Grace Story click on dominiccampanelli.com to share your story
In lieu of sending flowers you can make a donation in Dominic’s name to ___JDRF “Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation” just click on this link https://www2.jdrf.org/site/TR?px=1550234&fr_id=8328&pg=personal
or you can also donate to "The Piemonte Reale Benevolant Society,” PO box 19982, Sacramento Ca. 95819 where the donations will go into a fund for a special dedicated dinner in Dominic’s honor. He was an active and much loved member of the club. He and his boys enjoyed the crab feed and activities including help with the monthly dinners, sharing his biscotti and olives and sharing many stories with his Italian Club members and friends.
In addition, our family would like to acknowledge our Fathers incredible caregivers. Mele and her daughter Bee and son-in-law Josh played significant Roles in making our Father happy and content. We are so lucky to have had them over the last several years of our Father’s life. We have all become close with Mele and her family, who supplied our Father with so much love and care, music, food, activities, outings, prayer, laughter and abundant conversation. My Father had the Fijians cooking Italian recipes in not time, even mastered Cannoli Shell making! We are truly blessed to have our Father looked after by such caring people.
And let’s not forget the years Dad had cousin Paul Carrone living with him. Paul was Dad’s godson and they had fun together. Paul added 10 years to Dad’s life.
PS: Dominic had many one liners or sayings – if you remember any of them please feel free to share on the website. Thanks for being a part of Dominic.
To send flowers to Dominic's family, please visit our floral store.