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DOWNEY — The second of eight children, Giulio Mirabella never went beyond the sixth grade, but he is proof that by dint of hard work, good living, a positive mental attitude, and a thing called character, one can transcend one’s early limitations and gain the respect and admiration of everyone he meets.
Last Feb. 6, in celebration of his 98th birthday, he was presented yet again with another certificate of recognition, this time by none other than Mayor Roger Brossmer. In addition to his longevity, Giulio was being honored for his long and impactful association with the Stonewood Mall Walkers — that group of men and women who, after walking all the mall’s corridors each morning, would visit with one another over a cup of coffee.
He was hailed at the same time for leading an exemplary life. The ceremony was held at the mall among his fellow walkers who have become steadfast friends.
It was also learned he had been recognized a number of times in the past for his unselfish contributions towards the upliftment of seniors’ lives (he was noted for doing blood pressure readings) when he was still active at the Community and Senior Center as a regular and as a community volunteer.
He is also proud of his “wonderful, loving” family — from his Italian father who at one time worked with the construction crew that built the Empire State Building to the youngest of his five great-grandchildren — with his two offspring, Jo Ochoa and Tom Mirabella, and their spouses, Art Ochoa and Nancy Mirabella, who are all retired, at the ready to drive him to buy groceries and otherwise render needed assistance whenever, clearly in reciprocation to his sacrifices and unstinting devotion to their welfare especially in the early years.
The fact that he is now a little hard of hearing is understandable because of his advanced age. Also he has come to accept the hard reality of walking with a cane. But otherwise, he looks fit and he says he feels fine: his blood pressure is “not too high,” his “appetite is that of an ox” (his daughter’s words), he does his own cooking still, he reads the paper (“Before, it was the L.A. Times, now he reads The Downey Patriot”), and he still lives by himself, unassisted, here in Downey.
Giuliano says the secret to his longevity is eating the right foods (lots of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as fish and chicken, “nothing fried and not a lot of red meat”), lots of exercise (“Whenever I experience pain nowadays, I walk through it. I walk to get rid of the pain.”), and thinking positive, happy thoughts. He says, “I can’t sit in one place for long periods. I get up and move around.”
Daughter Jo says her father has always been a perfectionist. “He always paid attention to detail, and he was very focused.” Giuliano chimed in, “And I’ve always tried to look at the bright side of things.”
Giuliano’s traits mostly explain why he was given more exacting responsibilities in his jobs, Jo said. Indeed, as a young lad of 9 or 10 growing up in Italy, Giuliano spent some time as an apprentice cabinet-maker, so his skills set included woodwork. His healthy attitude towards work (“I took my job seriously”), always wanting to improve his skills, thus led to greater challenges and greater responsibilities.
While he was working for North American Aviation between 1963 and 1977, because of his previous experience at the Naval Shipyard and demonstrated skills, he was selected to install portholes and/or windows on test Apollo capsules at first, then on the real thing–including the Apollo 11 capsule that went to the moon.
Giulio was born in New York City in 1914 where his father found employment with his work permit. He was a native of Calatafimi, which lies in the western part of Sicily. When Giulio’s parents had saved enough money, they went back to Italy to expand operations on their 10-acre farm (where “we raised everything, wine, olives, fruit trees, and vegetables, and so on”) as well as buy other smaller farms.
When life on the farm became hard circa 1930, Giulio returned to the U.S. by himself to help his family. He was 16. He found employment at a macaroni factory in Brooklyn, but after many years, he developed an allergy, and had to quit. He worked for a while in 1944 in the shipyards which was then involved in defense work. When the war ended, he worked in the garment industry, in the Richmond Hill area of Queens, until 1963.
Earlier, in 1940, Giulio met Maria Elaine whom he would marry six months later. The couple had two children, Jo and Thomas. The family moved to Downey in 1963. Giulio’s initial instinct was to go into business for himself, but soon found work instead at North American Aviation where his brother-in-law then worked. Because of his experience in the shipyards, they put him to work as a structural mechanic.
This suited him fine, and pretty soon he was installing windows for the Apollo capsules.
Soon after arrival in Downey, the family would join the Downey Memorial Christian Church. Several years would elapse before Giuliano would become a Mason. Attaining the title of Master Mason, for 38 years he was responsible for coaching new members in the rituals of Masonry, in addition to his other duties.
He retired in 1977. He and Maria Elaine thereupon traveled extensively in the U.S. Giulio also traveled many times to Australia to visit his parents and siblings, who had immigrated to Melbourne shortly after WWII ended. Among his other distinctions is the little known fact that he was a bowling champion, several times over, in Downey from 1977 to 1998.
When asked what he thinks matters most in his life, now that he is nearing life’s century mark, he replied: “Love, respecting other people, and doing what makes me and my family happy. And remember, money never buys happiness.”
Published: March 08, 2012 – Volume 10 – Issue 47