One of Ceres’ last surviving World War II veterans has passed away at age 102.
Tom Dimperio died on Nov. 26 at the VA Palo Alto Medical Center in Menlo Park. Salas Brothers Funeral Chapel is in charge of arrangements but no services are planned.
Wounded twice in battle, Dimperio’s body carried a piece of Nazi mortar shrapnel behind his left ear, a wide scar on his chest, a left arm shortened and mangled by a German bullet.
Dimperio was inducted into the Army on Nov. 19, 1942 and assigned to the Fifth Army 88th Infantry Division. He boarded a troop ship to Casa Blanca, North Africa, arriving on Christmas Day 1943. After months of mountain training, he and his comrades were sent to Naples, Italy in February 1944. Hitler had invaded Italy on Oct. 9, 1943 and advanced to Rome.
March 1944 was the first time the Ceres native saw combat. He was 24 and scared.
“We relieved the British Army,” Dimperio told the Courier in 2014. “The Italians had surrendered before we got there so we were fighting strictly just the Germans.”
By April 6, Allied Forces had entered Rome to take it back.
On May 5, 1944 in Castle Forte, Italy, Dimperio was wounded when a Nazi mortar shell landed near him. He was struck by seven pieces of shrapnel, healed and rejoined his company on July 3.
Tom’s near-life-threatening injury came on Oct. 2, 1944 between Florence and Bologna. Coming down a slope Dimperio and company were fired upon by a machine gun. With bullets zinging past him, Tom ran with his rifle through a muddy field as a round hit him in the upper left chest and exited out the arm pit and pulverized his upper arm bone. His life was spared after taking cover behind a large pile of manure.
Dimperio stated: “He kept shooting and I could hear those bullets plunking into that manure. Thank God it was big enough to where the bullets wouldn’t go through. So let’s say that a pile of manure actually saved my life.”
He was scooped up by Army medics and spent the next two years in nine different hospitals. He was discharged from the Army in November 1945.
While recuperating at a hospital in Auburn he met his future wife, Genevieve “Gene” Foster. They were married March 18, 1946.
After the war, Dimperio worked at the Texaco station in 1951 and 1952 and at the Modesto Post Office from 1952 until retiring in 1978.
His Italian immigrant parents, Luigi and Lena Dimperio, brought him to California from Hoboken, N.J. where he was born on Aug. 18, 1919. They first settled in San Francisco before buying a 21-acre ranch on Richland Avenue in Ceres in 1925 for $9,000. There they grew wine grapes and walnuts.
Tom attended Ceres Grammar School (Whitmore School) where he graduated eighth grade in 1934. He remembered being paddled by both teacher Mae Hensley and Principal Walter White. Dimperio was a member of the Ceres High School class of 1938 but did not earn his diploma until after the war.
Besides his wife, Tom also leaves behind two sons David and Thomas.
Dimperio was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, Purple Heart Foundation and Disabled Veterans of America.