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Dominic J. Pistorio

Dominic J. Pistorio, a Baltimore homebuilder and World War II veteran who lived to 104 and wore suits almost every day until the last week of his life, died of pneumonia at Howard County General Hospital on March 25.

He was born on Christmas in 1910 to Joseph and Mary Pistorio, who had immigrated to Baltimore from Sicily in the late 1800s. His father was a stone mason in the city and a coal miner in Virginia during the winter.

Mr. Pistorio began working in the construction business at age 15 with his father and brother Sam Pistorio. At the time, basements were dug by hand using picks and shovels and the foundations were made of hand-laid stonewalls, said his grandson Mark Pistorio.

Mr. Pistorio would build more than 200 homes in the Baltimore region, including homes on Denison Street in West Baltimore and several developments in Howard County, such as the Orchards and Beaverbrook.

His son, Don Pistorio, said it was his family and his passion for work that kept him sharp until the end. Long after retirement, he designed homes and other projects for family members for fun.

"He would often say to me, 'While I was sleeping, I came up with another idea for a house or townhome,'" Don Pistorio said. "In the morning, he would start a design on scrap paper, then go into the drawing room and put it down on plans."

Mr. Pistorio was known for his hard work ethic and living well below his means.

"He was very conservative with his money. He hardly went on any vacations. He stayed behind to work, and always treated people the way he wanted to be treated," his son explained. "He had a great rapport with everyone."

Mr. Pistorio was also a savvy investor, said his grandson Mark Pistorio, "He never owned an iPhone or an iPad, but did own Apple stock because he knew social media was big business." The last week in the hospital, he was talking about how much money he made on Twitter.

Mr. Pistorio was often described as "best dressed" by family and friends. "He never walked outside without a tie on," said his grand-nephew Brian Raymond, who once worked for Mr. Pistorio. Even when he moved into the retirement community Vantage House, he was known to wear a suit everyday.

Mr. Raymond described Mr. Pistorio as "the Gentle Giant" who helped relatives in need and never raised his voice at anyone. "That was the only thing that wasn't Italian about him," he said.

At family gatherings every holiday, Mr. Pistorio would say this was his best Christmas or Thanksgiving, said his son Don. "He always said this could be his last one and loved being with his family."

After high school in Baltimore, Mr. Pistorio attended night classes at the Maryland Institute College of Art, where he studied architecture. By the time he was 20, Mr. Pistorio had built his first house. He eventually opened his own business and built homes on Baltimore's Belvedere Avenue. He was starting a 123-lot rowhouse project on Edgewood Street when World War II interceded.

At age 32, he received orders to report to Fort Belvoir in Virginia to prepare for combat, but a serious case of pneumonia delayed his trip overseas. As the rest of his unit shipped out to Omaha Beach for D-Day, Mr. Pistorio sat in a local hospital. Once recovered, he left for India, where he erected pre-fabricated military barracks that were made by his brother Sam back in Baltimore. He also helped construct the Burma Road between Burma and China.

Mr. Pistorio served three years in the Army, leaving with the rank of sergeant and Good Conduct, American Campaign, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign and WWII Victory medals.

Mr. Pistorio was married to Mary Jane Vassallo for 60 years until her death in 2009. Besides Don, they had a daughter, Joanne, who died of a brain tumor at age 19.

He is survived by his son; daughter in-law, Chris Pistorio; three grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

The funeral will be at St. John's Catholic Church at the Wilde Lake Interfaith Center in Columbia on Monday, March 30 at 10 a.m.

catherine.rentz@baltsun.com

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