Gaetano A. Viola, 92: Veteran, fished for more than 50 years

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Gaetano “Kita” Anthony Viola died July 15 at his home in South Portland, with his family by his side.

Born Dec. 3, 1921, in Portland, Gaetano was the son of Saverio and Filomena (Rossini) Viola. He grew up in Portland’s “Little Italy” neighborhood on Newbury Sreet, and attended North School. He was a communicant of St. Peter’s Church, and later Holy Cross Church in South Portland.

As a young child of immigrants during the Great Depression, Viola learned the values of family, friends and hard work. He sold newspapers in downtown Portland, and was was befriended by employees of the J.R. Libby Department Store, who enabled him to attend summer camp. Even in his later years, he spoke fondly of their generosity and his time at camp.

Viola followed his older brother to work on the Portland waterfront, unloading fish. But at age 14, he shipped out on a commercial fishing boat. After a good catch, he returned home with a fist-full of cash, which he gave to his mother to help provide for his nine siblings. Thus began a fishing career that lasted more than 50 years.

He fished from the Grand Banks to the Gulf of Mexico. Even after retiring from fishing in the 1980s, he continued working on the waterfront with his son, Fred, contracting with boats at the Portland Fish Exchange. In 1998, he was profiled on local television for his longstanding work on the waterfront.

Drafted during World War II, Viola served as a U.S. Army sergeant under Gen. George Patton. Among other efforts, Viola  participated in the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium and the liberation of the Mauthausen-Gusen camp in Austria. After the war, he worked on a tug boat in Boston until he was able to secure a berth on a fishing boat out of Portland.

Viola and his wife, Mary, were married in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in May 1949. The couple had seven children, eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Two of their children died shortly after birth.

Viola was devoted to his family, and loved being part of family gatherings – the larger, the better. He also had a passion for music, especially opera and big band. He enjoyed “playing the ponies” and owned two race horses.

Viola was predeceased by his wife, Mary (Robinson), in December 2013; brothers, Santino, Benjamin, Constantino and Pasquale; and his sisters, Tomasina Reynolds and Mary Mayberry.

He is survived by his brothers, Anthony, of Portland, and Saverio and Phillip, both of South Portland; children, Frederick and his wife, Margaret, of South Portland, David and his wife, Lisa, of South Portland, Robin Graffam and her husband, Eric, of Scarborough, Paul, of Marietta, Georgia, and Helen Smith and her husband, Richard, of Manchester, New Hampshire; grandchildren, Christopher, Jennifer, Benjamin and Joshua Viola, all of South Portland, Jeffrey Graffam, of Boston, Erica (Graffam) Hamilton, of Austin, Texas, and Mary Graffam and Jacob Viola of Washington, D.C.; great-grandchildren, Joseph Urbano, of Gray, Mykala Montecalvo, of South Portland, Anna and Brody Viola, of Portland, and Abbey and Kennedy Hamilton, of Austin, Texas; and many nieces and nephews.

The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Viola’s memory to the South Portland Food Cupboard, P.O Box 2892, South Portland, ME 04116.

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