Remembering Mike Dipietro

When a Kennett Square resident turned 100 in November 2013, an outpouring of birthday wishes came from around the world, even from the White House.

On Tuesday, Feb. 24, Michele “Mike” DiPietro, a congenial, good-humored man who charmed everyone he met, passed away at the age of 101 at Neighborhood Hospice in West Chester.

Despite his centenarian status, those who knew him marveled at this ability to pack even more adventure into his lifetime than the years should have allowed. He was drafted into the Italian army in 1933, long before most Kennett-area residents were born. He was deployed in Mombasa, Kenya, and endured five years as a British prisoner during World War II before finding his way home to Cesa, a village in southwestern Italy, in 1946.

DiPietro immigrated to the U.S. in 1957, where he continued to generate accomplishments and longstanding relationships. During his 100th birthday bash, he garnered accolades for being a superlative friend, father, godfather, adopted father, neighbor, mentor, worker, winemaker, and inspiration.

DiPietro’s coveted merlot once took first place at an Italian American Club competition, and provided some insight into his longevity. He said he drank a glass of his own vintage once a day while continuing to produce more. His tip for a prizewinner? Mix some Muscat grapes with the merlot.

DiPietro lived for nearly five decades with his wife, Teresa D'Anastasio DiPietro, 86, in the Kennett Square duplex they bought after he persuaded her to leave Italy and join him in America. Like many area immigrants, DiPietro was initially “sponsored” by a mushroom company, working long, grueling hours for low pay.

He then worked in construction before taking a job as a machinist at Hewlett-Packard in 1963, retiring at age 70 after 20 years with the company. In addition to wine-making, he enjoyed gardening, reading, being with family and friends, and going to Mass. In his later years, he watched Mass on TV.

Repeatedly cited as an inspiration, DiPietro was the subject of a Kennett Middle School English assignment some years back. Laura Elliott, the daughter of longtime family friends, penned an essay about him that her teacher liked so much that it was shared with the whole class.

Explaining DiPietro’s philosophy, Elliott wrote: “…to try to be the best person he can, try to meet nice people and learn from them, and to care for others. “

In addition to his wife of 49 years, he is survived by a daughter, Lisa G. DiPietro of Kennett Square; one sister, Lisa DiPietro of Teramo, Italy (age 99); one nephew, Gianni DiPietro of Pinerolo, Italy, and one niece, Antonietta DiPietro of Ancona, Italy. He was predeceased by two brothers, Father Pietro DiPietro and Giulio DiPietro.

Family and friends are invited to visit from 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday evening, March 1, and again from 8:15 to 9:15 a.m. on Monday, March 2, at the Kuzo & Grieco Funeral Home, 250 W. State St., Kennett Square. His Funeral Mass will follow at 10 a.m. at St. Patrick's Church, 212 Meredith Street, Kennett Square. Burial will be in St. Patrick's Cemetery, Route 82, Kennett Square.

In memory of Mike, a contribution may be made to the American Heart Association, 1617 JFK Boulevard, Suite 700, Philadelphia, Pa., 19103, or Neighborhood Hospice, 400 E. Marshall St., West Chester, Pa., 19380.

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