Shrine remembers Vietnam casualty Thomas Davino
July 6, 2018

U.S. Army Sgt. Thomas Davino, killed in action in the Vietnam War, was honored at a Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii.

Parishioners at the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii marked two important anniversaries Sunday, June 3: Italian Republic Day, commemorating the vote in 1946 when Italy established a republic as its government, and the 30th anniversary of the death of local resident and U.S. Army Sgt. Thomas Davino, killed in action in the Vietnam War.

On hand during a Mass celebrated in Italian, a detail from the Illinois Army National Guard posted colors on the altar as a host of dignitaries including Giuseppe Finocchiaro, the Italian consul general for the Midwest area, commemorated both Sgt. Davino’s service and one of Italy’s major holidays with a wreath laying several blocks away at a monument to Italian patriot Giuseppe Garibaldi in Garibaldi Park, 1502 W. Polk St.

According to one of Sgt. Davino’s superiors, Army Lt. Col. Richard Holaday (Ret.), Sgt. Davino’s job on the day he was killed was to handle communications with headquarters; he was a radio telegraph operator. When Davino’s helicopter moved in to get a closer look at an area the Army was scouting, Ben Luc, Long An, South Vietnam, enemy fire hit the aircraft, causing it to crash into a nearby river.

Although three decades have passed since Sgt. Davino died at age 20, his family and neighbors have never forgotten him.

“He was a fantastic guy,” his sister, Kathy Davino Alagna, said. “Everyone who knew him had wonderful things to say about him.” She said she thinks about him every day. Sgt. Davino’s postwar plans, she noted, included going to work in the family business, Pompei Restaurant, now located at 1531 W. Taylor St. Formerly Pompei Bakery, the establishment was founded by their grandfather back in 1909.

An outdoor procession was part of the events when the shrine marked Italian Republic Day and remembered Sgt. Thomas Davino.

Family businesses like Pompei Bakery remain fairly commonplace in the Taylor Street community despite fast-changing times, said Carlo Vaniglia, a parishioner who remains active in Italian-American organizations and put together the Italian Republic and Thomas Davino memorial.

“We try to uphold Italian language and heritage, but it’s getting harder,” Vaniglia said. “First of all, there’s no Italian immigration to speak of today. And many second- or third-generation Italian Americans don’t speak the Italian language,” Vaniglia explained, attributing the problem at least partly to “discrimination during the war. We were taught not to speak it.

“And all the gangster movies haven’t helped either,” he added.

On the other hand, said Fr. Richard Fragomeni, the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii’s rector, “A few years ago when I was back home in New York, we had an Italian mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, and an Italian governor, Andrew Cuomo.”

Sgt. Davino is honored on Panel 54W, Line 41, of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. He was born on July 14, 1947, and died July 3, 1968. He was the son of Alphonse and Marcella Davino and brother of Kathy and Brother Louis Davino, OFM. He is buried in Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillside, IL.

The Shrine is located at 1224 W. Lexington St. Log on to www.ourladyofpompeii.org. Pompei restaurant is at 1531 W. Taylor St. See www.pompeiusa.com.

—Patrick Butler