Peter J. Nannetti, 89
May 1, 1926 ó March 24, 2016
Peter J. Nannetti, a World War II veteran, devoted educator and beloved patriarch, passed away Sunday, March 24, 2016, in Peoria, Arizona. He was 89.
If it were possible to encapsulate the essence of the Greatest Generation into one life, Peter lived that life. Born May 1, 1926, to Otavio and Bianca in Bagni di Lucca, Italy, Peter immigrated to the United States aboard the Conte di Savoia in 1935. During his cross-continental journey, he had his first experiences with the modern world, including a humble banana, which he did not know how to eat, and a flushing toilet, which he did not know how to use. Peter traveled through Ellis Island and onto Milwaukee, where Otavio worked at a factory making plastic figures of such pop culture icons as The Lone Ranger and Shirley Temple.
Although he would go on to enjoy a distinguished career in education spanning four decades, Peter faced several hurdles in the American schooling system as an immigrant. He was placed in the wrong grade at enrollment and actually failed an Italian language class in high school. Bianca told him his teacherís Italian was wrong. To ease the assimilation process, Peter learned English from his school principal who took him into his office every day for lessons.
By the time Peter came of age in 1943, World War II was already in its third year. Throughout high school, Peter was forced to carry an enemy alien card to denote his Italian heritage. He received a draft notice from Italy, but Peter instead enlisted in the United States Army. He shipped overseas and soon saw action in the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes Forest of Western Europe. As the Allied forces marched toward Berlin, Peterís 76th Division helped liberate Buchenwald concentration camp. True to his gentle nature, Peter, who rose to the rank of sergeant, rarely spoke about his time in World War II. He opened up more later in life and finally received proper recognition for his service in May 2014, when he visited the memorial in Washington, D.C., as part of an Honor Flight.
Peter returned from the war on the famed Queen Mary and soon resumed his schooling. He earned his undergraduate degree in education from Milwaukee State Teachers College (now the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) and his masterís from Arizona State College (now Arizona State University). He devoted his professional career to the West Bend School District, where he worked for 39 years as a teacher, coach, special education instructor, principal and assistant superintendent. Peter found love through a serendipitous meeting at school as a young man. One sunny day at Milwaukee State Teachers College, he spotted Faith Alene Koehn walking past the track oval where he ran. Struck by cupidís arrow, Peter sheepishly ran up to Faith and popped one of the balloons she was carrying for her birthday. Faith was furious, but she eventually agreed to go on a date with Peter. They remained happily married for 63 wonderful years.
Peter retired to Arizona in 1992. In his twilight, he could be found on the golf course, celebrating happy hour at any time of the day or supporting his grandchildren at any number of sporting events or performances.
Peter is survived by Faith and his five children, Christine (Shaun) Weaver of Glendale, Arizona, Thomas of Scottsdale, Arizona, Cindi (Chaz) LeMay of Glendale, Arizona, Rick (Kaye) of West Bend and Terri (Brian) Josten of San Diego. His grandchildren include Brian, Victoria, Brandon, Leslie, Ryan, Kyle, Tyler, Alex, John, Haley and Jack. His great-grandchildren are Dean and Layne.
Peter was preceded in death by his parents; in-laws, Robert Koehn and Walter Sr. and Hazel Beyer; brother, Ansalmo (Sam); daughter, Victoria Marie; brothers-in-law, Robert Koehn Jr., Walter (Sonny) Jr. and Donald Borisch; sisters-in-law, Dorthy Beyer and June Borisch; and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews.
Peterís legacy will live on for generations, not because of any concerted effort on his part, but because anyone who knew him undoubtedly feels a sense of responsibility to be more like him. Peter was the standard ó weíre all just chasing it.
A memorial service will be held at noon Friday, April 8, at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church in Sun City, Arizona. The celebration of Peterís life is open to all. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Arizona Folds of Honor (www.foldsofhonorgolfaz.org) or West Bend Columns (www.wbcolumns.org).