Peter Michael Scolaro
August 2, 1924 – April 8, 2020 (age 95, 8 months and 6 days)
By the light of the silvery Super Moon on April 8, 2020, at Wauconda Care in Lake County, Illinois, Peter Michael Scolaro was reunited with the love of his life, his recently departed wife of seventy years, Frances. His family surrounded him in thoughts and prayers as the COVID-19 pandemic kept everyone physically separated.
Born on August 2, 1924, in the Bronx, New York, to Maria Teresa Maugeri Scolaro and Vincenzo Pietro Scolaro, Peter [Pietro Michele] flourished in the warmth and loving care provided by his extended Italian immigrant family that included maternal grandparents Antonetta Maria Maugeri and Michele Maugeri.
Peter grew up as the protective big brother to his three younger siblings, sister Agostina, brother Michael and sister Antoinette. As a young child he was intensely aware of the importance of language. Initially fluent in Italian, he quickly mastered English with a spirit that he carried through a lifetime enjoyment of the magic of words.
Wholeheartedly encouraged by his parents, Pete developed his artistic interests and talents early in life. His mother would give him old window shades to use as canvas on which he would paint scenes from his imagination. His younger brother, Michael, recalls sitting quietly and proudly nearby at the New York Museum of Science and Industry while Pete sketched the exotic animals in the exhibits. As a student at PS 44, Farragut Junior High School in the Bronx, his painting of tenement buildings titled “My Street” was praised by his teachers, awarded a prize, and later published in an anthology of student art featured in the October 2, 1941 edition of the New York Sun newspaper.
Pete began his studies at Pratt Institute in September, 1942. But these plans were disrupted when in 1943 at age 18 he was drafted into the Army. In spite of promising his anxious mother that he would apply for a desk job as a typist, ultimately Pete’s “desk job” materialized as part of the second wave in the 1944 Normandy invasion. He landed on Utah Beach, June 14, 1944, eight days after D-Day:
CPL Peter M. Scolaro
HQ CO 819th Engr. Aviation Battalion
924th Engineer Aviation Regiment
May 1943 - December 1945
Upon his return from Europe, Pete joined the summer art colony in Kennebunkport Maine to study watercolor painting under the famous artist Elliot O'Hara. Shortly thereafter he resumed his studies at Pratt where he had the good fortune to meet his pretty and talented classmate Frances Irene Bagge, affectionately known as “Baggy Pants” by her friends. In June, 1948 Pete embraced his diploma and his soon-to-be bride Frances, and they were off to Chicago, IL. They were married at her parents’ home on June 18, 1949, and Pete would refer to Frances as “My Bride” for the rest of his life.
Pete began his commercial art career in Bloomington, IL and later retired from decades of work as a commercial art director in Chicago. He put in countless additional hours working freelance jobs to better the opportunities of his ever-growing family.
He was always interested in the world around him, and was an enthusiastic teacher of everything he discovered. Although excelling at commercial art and fine art watercolors, he had an enduring interest in the sciences, especially astronomy, geology and engineering. Later in life he would offer the quip to his grown-up little brother, Dr. Michael Scolaro, that he wished that his parents had given Michael the paint brush, and himself the stethoscope.
Pete was happiest when surrounded by family and friends, and believed that there was so much to be learned together. As a father he shared knowledge at every opportunity. He would diagram his concepts on dinner napkins, and used a globe, a ball and a flashlight to explain the phases of the moon or the seasons of the year. He encouraged his kids to lie on blankets at night in the backyard and, with naked eyes and through his telescope, gaze at the immensity of the distant skies. He used his microscope to reveal the intriguing world of things very close and small. He built a radio receiver and a reel to reel tape player from Heath kits. He subscribed to Things of Science so his family could learn more about the world. He took his family on fossil hunting expeditions in Braidwood, IL, and demonstrated the workings of gyroscopes, magnets and mercury. Pete loved photography and taught his children how to develop film and make prints in the makeshift darkroom where Frances would do the laundry.
He was an extremely thoughtful person with an amazing long term memory who wanted to share with everyone the power of words when used with precision. He read history, science and politics voluminously. Although he didn’t care much for fiction, his serious side was more than rounded out by his infectious smile, and his wonderful sense of humor. This was evident in his love of puns, limericks, bawdy jokes, and the great pleasure he took in sharing the magical sounds of words, as when he recited Lewis Carroll”s mystifying poem ‘Jabberwocky’ to his children and grandchildren, and his endearing use of whimsical pet names for all members of his family - Dinky Bird, Dianeski, Lulubell, Gingy-Bell, Bristle-Bean, Mike-a-Doodle, Gooch, Dolly, Jeannie-Weenie, Cupcake, Pumpkin, Reniosity, Francesca, Fossis and Petunia.
Upon retirement, Pete and Frances moved up to Bloomer, Wisconsin, winterized their lakeside cabin and made it their year-round home. There he enjoyed life with Frances, fishing, painting, and visits from their children, grandchildren and friends. Later, as the limitations of aging began to affect their daily lives, they returned to Cary, IL, and eventually moved in with daughter Laura and her husband Steve Gerard, where he was cared for with great love.
Pete is preceded in death by his wife Frances (Bagge); his parents; his sister Augustine and spouse Sal Capozzi; grandson Lucas Binford; and son-in-law Mark Nyman.
Pete is survived by: his children: daughter and son-in-law Diane and Mark Binford of Chatsworth, CA; daughter Jeanne Nyman of Cottage Grove, MN; son and daughter-in-law Mike and Peggy Scolaro of Bradenton, FL; daughter and son-in-law Virginia and Sam Waterstreet of Big Rock, IL; daughter and son-in-law Laura and Steve Gerard of Trout Valley, IL; and his loving grandchildren Sasha Binford, Charles Binford, Julie and husband Brian Papenhausen, Joni Thompson, Alison Brown, Vince Scolaro, Sheila Scolaro, Capt. Liz Stevens, Brittany Stevens, Patina and husband Patrick Hill, Eric Waterstreet, Peter and wife Kanako Gerard, Tessie and husband Chris Nagorny; and great grandchildren Sierra de Goldsmith and husband David Liljeros, Tom Binford, Finn Binford-Dinow, Ignatius, Aurelia, and Ophelia Hill, Toshiro Gerard, David, Henry and Della Nagorny; and great great grandson Winston Lucas Marlon de Goldsmith Liljeros; brother Michael Scolaro, M.D. of Myrtle Beach, SC; sister Antoinette Scolaro of Surprise, AZ; and innumerable loving nieces, nephews, cousins, friends and neighbors. Pete loved them all deeply.
Peter Michael Scolaro was a quietly sensitive and deeply caring man. He grew up with an awareness of the deprivations of the Great Depression, and like so many of his generation, carried on with life, blending his innate optimism and creativity with the wrenching memories of life-changing wartime experiences. Pete believed that the size of the man in the fight didn’t matter. It was the size of the fight in the man that made the difference. He was a justifiably proud man, fervently dedicated to the loves of his life - his family, his country, the acquisition of knowledge, and the enduring freedom of the human spirit. He profoundly influenced the lives of his family members, and took great pride in their accomplishments. His presence is missed by all who knew him. Though they passed from this earthly realm only weeks apart, the spiritual connection that bound Pete and Frances together remains for eternity. He may never have had the pleasure of becoming an astronomer, but he and Frances are now on a journey together sailing alongside the stars of our immense universe. With the telescopes of our souls we can see them twinkling together in the night sky.
A memorial celebrating the exemplary lives that Pete and Frances have enjoyed will be held at a later date.
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