Pisenti is a well-known name in Sonoma County, but that wasn’t the case when future World War II aviator and milkman-to-many Al Pisenti was born in Santa Rosa in 1922.
His Swiss-Italian family had moved up from the East Bay earlier that same year. Little Al’s parents, James and Rose Pisenti, would give birth to one more child after him — for a total of 14.
From its start in Sonoma County nearly 96 years ago, the diligent, closely knit Pisenti clan multiplied and thrived:
A nephew of Al Pisenti, Ed Pisenti, co-founded the 53-year-old Pisenti & Brinker accounting firm. A brother of Al’s, Bill Pisenti, for decades appeared faithfully before the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors to plead for fiscal restraint. Al and Bill Pisenti’s eldest sister, Ann Beach Burow, became the county’s Registrar of Voters and was among the oldest Americans when she died in April of 2016 at the age of 110.
The youngest of Rose and James Pisenti’s 14 children, Gene Pisenti, a noted teacher and coach, died Dec. 14 at 89. His passing left Al Pisenti as the last of the siblings.
He died Jan. 25 at the age of 95.
“The torch has been passed,” said Al Pisenti’s son, Sam Pisenti of Santa Rosa. “But it’s a pretty bright torch.”
Pisenti’s daughter, Rose Wilkinson of Eugene, Oregon, said her father enjoyed every aspect of his life “and he tried to make the best of every moment.”
Dan Benedetti’s late father, Gene, coached Pisenti on the semi-professional Petaluma Leghorns football team and brought him into what was then Clover-Stornetta as a delivery truck driver, in the era of the ice box.
Pisenti “was an optimist, always had a smile on his face,” said Dan Benedetti, retired president and chairman of Clover Sonoma dairy.
Benedetti said Pisenti was the embodiment of America’s Greatest Generation: “Happy, positive, hardworking.”
When Allen Robert Pisenti was born in Santa Rosa on Oct. 26, 1922, all of the kids in his large family had nicknames. He was dubbed “Midge.”
The Great Depression arrived and he quickly learned what was expected to help put food on the table.
Pisenti graduated from Santa Rosa High in 1941, mere months before the U.S. entered World War II. He went to work helping build ships at Mare Island.
He was drafted in 1942 and assigned to the Army Air Corps, then trained as a gunner on the B-24 Liberator twin-tailed bomber. An extensive book on the Pisenti family quotes him as saying that of the 61 B-24s that left Virginia’s Langley Field for the Pacific Theater early in ’43, “23 were never heard from again.”
He flew 55 bombing missions against Japanese supply convoys and other targets, more than once fearing that his crew’s shot-up bomber would not make it back to base. Prior to his honorable discharge he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal and the Philippine Liberation Medal.
Pisenti returned to Santa Rosa after the war and enrolled at Santa Rosa Junior College, where he was a standout athlete.
His induction into the school’s sports Hall of Fame in 1998 noted that he was captain of the rugby team that beat Stanford 13-3 in 1947 and also shone on the football field and ran hurdles for track.