Richard Del Piero, a lifelong resident of the Monterey Bay area, passed away peacefully at the age of 96. Richard was born on March 7, 1924 in Davenport, California (Santa Cruz County). His parents, Timo and Caterina Del Piero and his two sisters, Rita (m. Stringari) and Aurora (m. Mitchell), had immigrated to the United States in the early 1920’s from Nimes, Italy after the devastation of World War I. Here, they joined the community of immigrants from the Friuli region of Northern Italy who farmed from Castroville in Monterey County to the northern coast of Santa Cruz County.
The Del Piero family began farming in Castroville when Richard was a young child. He attended elementary school in the one-room school house on the hill in Moss Landing, which remains visible from Highway 1. For his initial three years of high school, Richard attended Monterey High School. Due to changes in school boundaries, he completed his fourth year and graduated from Watsonville High School. It was during World War II.
Richard voluntarily entered the U.S. Army Air Corps at the age of 18, in spite of being eligible for a deferment because he was the only son in a farming family. Initially trained as a pilot, he was assigned to become a “top turret gunner” behind a .50-caliber Browning machine gun on a B-17 bomber. The gunner who manned the upper turret on a B-17 didn’t need a parachute because, once the plane was airborne, there was no way out until it landed.
He and his nine-man crew flew a total of 25 combat raids over Nazi Germany from their base in England. He bombed Berlin on his 21st birthday. During those missions, his plane took many hits from German fighter aircraft and ground forces, including one anti-aircraft shell that lodged unexploded in the plane’s left wing.
When he returned from Europe, Richard applied to join the F.B.I. In spite of his war record, he was rejected because his mother, an immigrant, had not yet secured her citizenship. He then bought the family farm in the Pajaro Valley and married the love of his life Patricia Borcovich of Watsonville. They lived on the ranch for the rest of their lives. They had three sons, Marc Del Piero of Pebble Beach, Dr. Eric Del Piero of Carmel, and Kris Del Piero of Watsonville.
Ever the advocate of education, Richard was elected to the Pajaro Elementary School Board of Trustees. He then helped to create the Pajaro Valley Unified School District and was one of the two surviving original members of that new Board of Trustees created after the successful PVUSD unification vote. He farmed with his son Kris until he retired in 1994. He was also active in his son Marc Del Piero’s three successful elections to the Monterey County Board of Supervisors.
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