Pete Balistreri

Pete Balistreri

Monday, April 11th, 1955 - Saturday, September 23rd, 2023
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Aspra is a small town located on the coast of the Mediterranean, close to Palermo, Italy. It was on April 11, 1955 that Pietro Ulderico Balistreri was born to Filippo Balistreri and Rosa Salerno, in the town of Aspra, Sicily. That year, his birthday happened to be on the day after Easter, which was a holiday that was celebrated by all, by going on picnics. Well, his arrival disrupted the plans of many in the family, who could no longer enjoy this holiday! But he was celebrated as the 3rd son born to his parents. His birth was a home birth, as was the norm for that time. Coincidentally, the house he was born in, across from the Colonia, was rented from my grandparents on my father’s side, Filippo and Maria Balistreri.
He lived many years in that house until my father-in-law built their house, just a few doors down from where he was born. While growing up, getting an education was a priority for his parents, As at that time many in his town didn’t have the capabilities or possibilities for an extended education.
He went to school and graduated as a Master Mariner, which is the U.S. equivalent of a Masters in Nautical Science to Captain large shipping vessels(like oil tankers). Unfortunately, he was never able to use that degree as intended. Upon further medical testing necessary, to use his degree, he was found to be color blind. This was not known when he enrolled in this curriculum. He saw colors, but not as we do. I think that is why he liked the color red so much. It was the only true color that he could distinguish!

I first went to Italy at the age of 15, which was the summer of 1973 and that is when I met Piero as I called him, for the first time. He was also known as Pietro, Piero, and finally Pete (when he became a US citizen).He lived just a few doors down from my aunt’s house, where I was visiting with my mother and grandmother. If anyone has been to the small town of Aspra, they knew that in the town everyone kinda knew each other, as either they were related somehow, or friends of relatives. It seemed that Piero was a cousin to one of the other relatives that we had journeyed with, who was also visiting from San Diego.
Piero used to give me rides on his vespa when I was walking from one end of the town back to my aunt’s house , after visiting other relatives. During the day all of the kids, after lunch, would gather down by the center of the town and pile into the boats there and go out to another area to go swimming. Come evening, it was customary to gather and walk up and down the town center, lungo mare, and talk with friends and relatives. It also happened that Piero was in that group of friends that I had made. So, our lives revolved around each other that summer for the
45 days that I was visiting.
If anyone has been to Aspra, they know that this little town takes a hold of you. Why? Could be the people, the summer’s festivities, it’s hard to say, but I knew that I wanted to go back to Aspra one day, which I did, the summer of 1979, six years later.
Soon after arriving, I was walking with a friend of mine during the day, and I heard a band playing and we sat on the wall across from where we heard the music. I asked her who was playing and she told me. I said that I should go over there and relay some messages from family members from San Diego.
When I approached Piero, and told him that his relatives from San Diego sent their regards, he looked me up and down and said, ”And?’. I thought what a jerk! Well, I thought, I did my duty of giving their regards and left, thinking I didn’t have to see him any more. But like years before, the town being what it is, is small. I tried to avoid seeing him. It was hard to avoid each other, being in the same group of like 20 to 25 friends that hung out together. Especially when everyone would gather to go out for pizza late at night. It seems that that summer our worlds collided
more and more. We seemed to have the same opinions and interests. Soon we became inseparable! Much to the dismay of certain relatives, because Piero was not the normal Sicilian boy. He had long hair, was in a band and dressed differently, like a rocker. What the locals didn’t realize was that he was ahead of his time for that town. But as my time to return back to the U.S. was approaching, we had to decide if we wanted to go our separate ways. We knew that we didn’t want to be separated, so as crazy as it was, we decided to get married. It was a whirlwind romance. When you know, you know!
Getting married in Italy was not an easy thing, like it is in the States. I had to get documents from the U.S., but luckily my aunt and uncle were coming to Sicily on vacation and brought them to me from my mother. Once they arrived and gave me the documents, we started the journey to get married. We had to get all our documents needed, about 4 each, and then present them to the municipality office and wait for the clearance. Finally the marriage banns, a notice read out on three successive Sundays, announcing an intended marriage and giving the opportunity for objections, were posted in the municipality office. And we waited! We received a call at the end
of the third Sunday, that we were to be married at 10am, that Tuesday Oct. 22, 1979, by the mayor. As luck would have it, the mayor was late, calls were made and we were told he would be coming. Numerous calls were made over a few hours, trying to locate the mayor and we were told that he would be coming, So we waited and waited. It seemed to us that the mayor had forgotten to come to the office to perform the civil ceremony, and when he was finally located, he was told to hurry. My aunt from America was the only one that had a camera, as mine had
broken, to be able to take pictures but it was fast approaching the time that she had to leave us, as she had a prior appointment in another town. So, we did what we crazies would do to commemorate the day and took pictures; pretending to sign the legal matrimonial book, toasting to our marriage, and a few other pictures, without being married yet! Once the mayor finally showed up around 1pm, he entered quickly and hurriedly performed the ceremony, about 5 minutes, and married us. The whole thing was so fast that I don’t even remember the mayor’s
Civil ceremonies are not the norm in Sicily. People wait years to get married, especially when they want to get married in church. Even some of our friends were upset with us, because we were able to get married after a short amount of time. Next came, my initiating the paperwork at the U.S. Consulate, to call him over to the U.S., as my husband.
We had to get more paperwork from different offices, and of course, they were not easily obtained. We had to then get them officially stamped from different agencies in Palermo. The first and third agencies were located in the same building but the second agency was located in a totally different building across town. And of course, as is the idiotic way in Italy, they have to be gotten in order. So we spent the whole day getting these official stamps and going back and forth and then going back and forth again between the two agencies. Finally we were done, but
it was too late to take them to the US consulate office. So, back to Palermo we went the following day. It was exhausting!
After waiting a couple of hours for our turn at the consulate office, we presented them with papers and were just about to leave, when we were told that the U.S. Consulate wanted to speak to us. We couldn’t imagine what he wanted to speak to us about and we were so tired and just wanted to leave. We entered his office and sat down. He started to ask us a lot of questions, which we truthfully answered. It seemed like an interrogation….. All of a sudden the consulate stands up and says, “By the power vested in me by the United States of America, I now pronounce you husband and wife.” Piero and I looked at each other, confused. We were then dismissed and before leaving the office, Piero looked at me and asked if we had just been married again. I said, “’I guess so, I am not sure” How many people can say that they have been married twice to the same person? But we were married 3 times, Because when I came back to San Diego, I then planned a church wedding.

So, I originally went to Sicily for 45 days and stayed 5 months. I returned at the beginning of December of 1979 back to San Diego, as Piero had to go to Germany to finish his paperwork needed to immigrate, because he had worked there on and off for some time. He thought it best I came back home, while he went to get all the immigration documents that were needed, as a friend could offer him a place to stay and work in Germany, while we waited for the immigration process. It was very difficult to be separated, but after a few months Piero came to the U.S. in March of 1980. I don’t think anyone has ever planned a bridal shower and church wedding so
fast. But my mother and I did! We were married at Our Lady of the Rosary Church on May 24,
1980. And that was marriage number 3. We always said that we should have gotten married in
Vegas, too! Just for kicks!
Piero didn’t want to have children right away like is the custom in Italy. He wanted to be financially stable. So we waited. Two years later, unfortunately, we lost our first child, early during my pregnancy. Four years later we had our first son, Frank. He was overjoyed. One night he remarked, “ Why did we wait so long to have a baby?” We are never going to have enough money. You just have to go with the flow and so we did. Less than 2 years later we had our second son, Philip and 4 years after that our daughter, Sabrina. His children were his life and would do everything for them. He was so happy that all 3 of his children graduated college.

Life with Piero was always always interesting and sometimes eventful. He was known for his jovial ? character and was the “toy” of his kids. He played with them all the time when they were little. I came home one day from work, as Piero and I had had different shifts, and found my daughter putting curlers in his hair. She was very young and remarked that she was doing daddy’s hair. He just sat there on the floor with a big grin on his face, while she tugged the hair on his head and he quietly whispered to me that she was pulling all his hair out. Then he laughed. He even built a treehouse in the backyard for the boys, with a zipline coming out of it. When he could, he always took the family on outings to the beach, to the mountains, and on family road trips. Over the years, we had the opportunity to travel, together as just a couple and at times as a family, to Sicily, Mexico, Jamaica, Canada, and Japan, just to name a few places.

He worked at SDG&E for over 30 years. He retired as a Project Manager designing electrical systems for small and large housing projects and subdivisions. At work, he was the jokester. Always doing things to make people laugh, whether intentional or not. At a yearly company training, which was boring for him and all that attended, employees had to stand up and say their name and which department they worked in. This was very redundant to him as the coworkers all knew each other in this training. Of course, Pete being Pete, had to livin 'the mood.
He stood up and said, “Hello, my name is Pete Balistreri and I am an alcoholic. Oh sorry, wrong
meeting.” Then he laughed, which made everyone else laugh. His boss just looked at him, shook
his head and said, “only Pete.” Most of his antics at work were not intentional, it was just Pete
that did things different. He had nicknames for all, because he was bad at remembering names
and it was just easier for him. I was told that he was good at his job, but I think that sometimes
they kept him around to bring humor to stressful situations.

His parents came from Italy to San Diego a few times and he always wanted to show them a good time. He always wanted to show them new things or get them food, that was a delicacy. If anyone knew Piero, they knew that food for him was the way of life. In that respect he took after his father, but who would know that Piero almost went to jail for his love of food! His crime, getting too many sea urchins (ricci) at one time. Yes, it happened and he paid a big fine!

His love of music was always foremost. He went to jam sessions in local pubs,to play guitar, but couldn’t find a band to play in, in the states. He loved going to Guitar Center on his lunch break and just jamming there, while he pretended he was just trying out the instruments. He should have gotten commission for all the guitars that he helped sell to their customers. He was a musician in Italy and Germany. His band was called Stranevisione. They played in many weddings and festas in towns in Sicily and clubs in Germany. Whenever he went back to Aspra, he mobilized his old band mates to play in the town square. Even those that hadn’t played for a while. These friends were lifelong to him and continue to be to me . I was told by his best friend Mimmo, that when word got out that Piero had passed, the whole town of Aspra was in mourning. He immobilized the town in life and through his passing. The Thursday after he passed, a mass was said in his honor and transmitted via facebook. I was told that the band will, in the future, play a concert in his honor along with his friend, famous guitarist Vincenzo Mancuso. Pete was well respected and moved people near and far.

Pete was a softie at heart. He cared for all his family and friends, even when he was wronged. It is very difficult to put into words, 44 years of life and memories in a short summary. Yes, we made it that long! We were married for 43 years, but had been together for 44 years. I think some people lost some bets about this!
Of course, we had our ups and downs, but what married couple doesn’t, but we worked through them. He once told our kids that the marriage paper doesn’t mean much of anything. We stayed together because we wanted to, not because we had to! These of course were just a few of the highlights of the adventures of being together with Piero.
There are too many to tell here today.

Piero was a very strong person and battled kidney cancer from the day he found out, which was for 2 and a half years. He was always courageous and optimistic through numerous surgeries, along with numerous bouts of radiation and immunotherapy. Unfortunately, when it was discovered, it was already to the bone. He persevered like a champion though it all, till his last breath.

Piero was the love of my life and I am honored to have found him. But first and foremost he was my best friend. He was a man who respected my mother, who was already a widow when he met her, as if she was his mother. He respected me and my children and did everything he could for us. His love of life was great.
He has not been gone long, but I miss him daily and will miss him forever. I will be forever grateful to have known him and created a family, my children Frank, Phil, and Sabrina. I thank God and them, that they have been here to help and do what they could for their father. My children Frank, Phil, and Sabrina, are my rocks, during this time, but my heart is broken. They say time will heal the painful wound and memories will mend the heart. I can only hope that time comes soon.

Ciao couro! Until we meet again. Ti Amo . Amore mio!
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  • Interment

    Holy Cross Cemetery
    4470 Hilltop Drive
    SAN DIEGO, CA 92102
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