Philip Vizzini, 95, builder of 42 schools


Philip Vizzini, an immigrant from Italy who owned a construction firm, died Tuesday of heart failure at his home in West Baltimore. He was 95.

Mr. Vizzini, who often said proudly that he came to this country with nothing more than a hammer, founded Philip Vizzini & Son Inc. in 1918.

He specialized in building schools and when he retired in 1972 and closed the firm, he had built 42 schools in Baltimore City and Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties.

His firm also built the temporary Lexington Market building after a 1949 fire destroyed the old market structure, the Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis and the Har Sinai Congregation complex.

The 50-year resident of Ten Hills was born in Cefalu, Sicily. In 1913, he, his father, several brothers and a sister arrived at Ellis Island, N.Y., aboard the steamer S.S. Belvedere.

"When we saw New York, we thought it was the most beautiful place that we had ever seen, and we were fascinated by a machine at Ellis Island that had sandwiches in it. We had never seen anything like it and my brother put some change into it and bought one," said his sister, Concetta Restivo of Towson.

After being allowed entry into the United States, the family moved to Baltimore, where Mr. Vizzini, who left school after the fourth grade, began working in shipyards during World War I. He attended the Maryland Institute night school, studying architecture, and earned a certificate in 1920. During World War II, his firm did work at Edgewood Arsenal, Camp Holabird and Fort Meade. In 1945, he expanded and incorporated as Philip Vizzini & Son Inc.

"My father was the patrona -- he was in charge of everything in the business -- and he was so proud when he got his first contract to build a school," said his son, Salvatore Vizzini of Arnold.

"He had a great amount of pride and his accomplishments meant more to him than money. He was proud of his roots, his name and his work."

The elder Mr. Vizzini was a fund raiser for a number of charitable organizations and churches and Boys' Town of Rome. He also was a founder of the Appian Society, an organization of Italian businessmen, and a member of the Knights of Columbus.

In 1980, the Associated Italian American Charities of Maryland honored him with its Dr. Frank Marino Award as the Outstanding Italian of the Year.

An avid gardener, Mr. Vizzini also enjoyed traveling and, on his 90th birthday, visited his hometown overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea for the last time.

A Mass of Christian burial was to be offered at 10 a.m. today at St. William of York Roman Catholic Church, Edmondson Avenue and Cooks Lane, Baltimore, where he was a communicant.

Other survivors include his wife of 72 years, the former Phyllis Damico; five grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

Memorial donations may be made to Boys' Town of Italy Inc., c/o Msgr. Carroll Abbing, 250 E. 63rd St., New York, N.Y. 10021.

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