Vincent Illuzzi Sr., 93, who lived on the Barre-Montpelier Road in Berlin for 54 years, died on Wednesday, July 31, 2013, at the Berlin Health & Rehabilitation Center, where he had been staying for the past several weeks.
He was born in Giovinazzo, a port city on the Adriatic coast in southern Italy, on July 22, 1920. He attended school until eighth grade and then received training to be a granite sculptor.
In 1937 he immigrated to the United States, where he learned how to speak English and eventually settled in Barre to work as a granite sculptor and carver. He sent part of his earnings to his mother back in Italy to help support the family that remained there.
On January 21, 1943, during WWII, still an Italian citizen, he volunteered to join the U.S. Army. A photograph at the Montpelier Historical Society shows him with a group of other enlistees in the front of the Washington County Court House, ready to depart for war. He was stationed in Iceland as a translator. During the war, Army officials realized he wasn’t a U.S. citizen and ordered him to become one because the U.S. was at war with Italy. He was honorably discharged January 5, 1946.
In 1952 he married Angela Piscitelli, who was also born in Giovinazzo, at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in New York City. She predeceased him in 1993.
As a self-employed sculptor, he was commissioned to carve monuments that are located in parks and cemeteries across America. One commission was for a large granite sculpture to be located at P Street, between 22nd Street and 23rd Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., near Dupont Circle. It was dedicated to the liberation, freedom and independence of all citizens of captive nations and stands alongside the bronze statue of Taras Shevchenko. Both are owned by the U.S. Park Service and cataloged by the Smithsonian Institution. The monument was authorized by the 86th Congress on August 31, 1960, and unveiled by former president Dwight D. Eisenhower on June 27, 1964, with Illuzzi in attendance.
Another monument he created commemorates the role of U.S. soldiers in Vietnam. Located at the East Hills Kiwanis Memorial Park in Richland Township near Johnstown, Pa., the granite statue of a U.S. soldier holding a Vietnamese child was dedicated in June 1974. In May 2007, vandals broke off the statue’s head and stole it. Described as “priceless” by one community leader, it is also cataloged by the Smithsonian. Illuzzi offered advice on how to repair the damage, but by 2007 he was personally too old to repair it.
After retiring as a sculptor, he returned to his trade one last time when he volunteered to carve a book of learning for the lobby of the Barre City Elementary School.
He was a member of the Barre Historical Society and an early supporter of the restoration of the Old Labor Hall in Barre, and he supported creation of the Barre Granite Museum at the Jones Brothers granite shed, where he carved many monuments, including the one in Washington. The shed needed roof and foundation work to preserve it for future generations.
He was a member of the Montpelier Gun Club, American Legion Post 10, VFW Post 790 and Moose Barre Lodge 1391 among other organizations. Although self-employed, he joined the Granite Cutters Association as an associate member to support the collective bargaining rights of granite workers.
He is survived by three sons, Vincent of Derby and his wife, Eileen, and their son, Vincent; Frank of Brattleboro; and Joseph of Berlin, who lived with and took care of him for the past 10 years; and a sister, Giovanna of Bitonto, Italy, who survives him. He was predeceased by four brothers and one sister.
A funeral mass will be held Saturday at 2 p.m. at St. Monica’s Church in Barre. Burial will be at Berlin Corner Cemetery. Calling hours will be Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Guare & Sons Funeral Home, 30 School Street, Montpelier.