Philip Prestianni

The Baltimore Sun

Philip M. Prestianni, a retired optical lens crafter who designed a prescription face-mask shield worn during games by Baltimore Colts receiver Raymond Berry, died Wednesday at his home in Gardenville. He was 90.

Mr. Prestianni was the third of eight children born to Signorino and Basilia Prestianni in their Camden Street home. He graduated in 1937 from City College, where, family members said, his interest in the vision industry began.

A year later, Mr. Prestianni started working at New City Optical.

During World War II, he attempted to join the Navy as a tail gunner, but at 4 feet 6 inches, he did not meet the height requirement for enlistment.

"He wanted so bad to fight overseas," said his nephew, Tony Battaglia of Perry Hall. "He spent much of his adult life affiliated with the American Legion because of that."

Mr. Prestianni remained at New City Optical until 1958, when he took a job at Hilpert Optical. He worked there until he retired in 1979.

Clients would often come to Mr. Prestianni's home for frame and lens adjustments; his attention to detail and his skill drew praise, family members said.

A die-hard Colts fan, his proudest professional accomplishment was designing Raymond Berry's shield, his family said.

"That was revolutionary," said a niece, Nancy Lawrence of Fallston. "Football players weren't allowed to wear glasses. Did he get anything out of it? I don't know if he ever got a ticket to the game. But that was his most proud moment."

Mr. Prestianni loved to cook and hosted dinners during Christmastime, when he would make his stuffed shells and pasta fagioli.

"He was quite gregarious," Mrs. Lawrence said. "In order to overcome that height disability, he was very outgoing, very pleasant. He loved to dance."

He lived with his younger brother, Bartolo "Bart" Prestianni, in the Northeast Baltimore neighborhood for 63 years. Bartolo Prestianni, a retired autoworker, died in November. Both men were bachelors, and they lived apart for only three years when Bartolo Prestianni served in the military.

"I think the reason he died was just because he was alone," Mrs. Lawrence said of Philip Prestianni.

Mr. Prestianni was a member of the Holy Name Society, Sons of Italy, the Alhambra and the Knights of Columbus. He also was a life member of Hamilton American Legion Post 20.

A funeral Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. today at St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church, 4414 Frankford Ave., where Mr. Prestianni had been a parishioner for six decades.

He is survived by a sister, Nancy Grimmel of Gardenville; and 16 other nieces and nephews.

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