2nd Lieutenant Robert Louis Pioli was born May 20, 1922 in Rochester, New York. He was the son of Italian immigrants, Giulio and Dina Ussi Pioli, and had one brother Louis Pioli (Jessie). As a child, he grew up in Niagara Falls and enjoyed playing football, eating all the ravioli his mom could cook, and causing mischief with his brother.
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Robert enlisted in the Army Air Corp to serve during WWII. He became an officer and served as a bombardier on a B-17 Flying Fortress. On April 13, 1944, his plane was shot down over Hungary, and he became a prisoner of war. Robert calls April 29, 1945 the most memorable day of his life, when General Patton led the liberation of his POW camp. In his own words, he described that day:
"It was a bright sunny day; a P-51 buzzed the camp at rooftop so close you could see the pilot wave to us and a barrage of gunfire sounded just outside the camp. Then came the rumbling of the tanks. The most beautiful people in the world, The 14th Armored Division, their tanks came crashing through the gate. Those poor GIs, we mobbed them, they were literally covered with humanity. We were overjoyed to see their friendly smiling faces. And then the most dramatic and emotional moment I have ever experienced occurred. Off in the distance we could see the Stars and Stripes slowly being raised over the nearby town of Moosburg. It was indescribable; there was not a dry eye in camp. I still get emotional when I think back to that moment. The flag may just be a symbol to many, but to me it's Moosburg and that day in April."
Robert was humble and did not like to be called a hero, but he was. He served courageously and proudly, and exemplified what was meant by the term The Greatest Generation. Bob was a Life Member of VFW Post #5108.
After returning from the war, Robert’s friend Angelo “Bruce” Brucato called and told him to come to Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana because there were tons of girls and he could play football. No more convincing was needed, and he enrolled right away. Robert was a proud Boilermaker, who loved supporting the old gold and black. While at Purdue, Robert met the woman who became the love of his life and, as he said, made him the luckiest man alive, Roberta Blandford. When it came time to propose, Robert chose his favorite place to do it – the Purdue football field. They married in 1949 and spent 69 years together. They led a life full of love and laughter.
Robert had a 34-year career with Union Carbide as a chemical engineer. He became the first Italian American executive at that company. However, his true passion was golf. He played storied courses, such as Firestone, Muirfield, Oakmont, and his home course of Oxbow. He shot two holes in one and golfed his age, starting at 70. When Robert told his brother, Lou, he shot his age, Lou said he had no idea Robert had turned 100 already. Robert then joked that, with every birthday, that feat became less impressive.
Robert and Roberta brought seven children into the world. Elizabeth Pioli (Dr. Daniel Norviel); William Pioli (Nancy); Barbara Schultz (Terry); Robert J. Pioli (Elvira); David Pioli (Mary Jane); and Mary Anne Hooper (Jeffery). His children were the light of his life. Robert loved to tell stories and challenge his children with riddles. His most legendary riddle was: Freezing it’s not; Paul Bunyan I am.
His children blessed him with 12 grandchildren, whom he adored: Lindsay Smith (Triston); David Schultz; James Pioli (Jennifer); Megan Schultz (Edward Szczypinski); Alissa Pioli; Captain Susan Pioli; Catherine Thurau (Michael); Lauren Pioli; Mallory Norviel; Airman First Class Matthew McCarthy; Sienna Pioli; and Isabella Pioli. He also had four great-grandchildren: Kayla Schultz; Miley Smith; Ryder Bertolette; and Giavanna Roberta Pioli.
At 10:21 p.m. on February 21, 2019, at the age of 96, Robert Pioli passed away in his home, surrounded by family and holding his love, Roberta’s hand. Robert Pioli had a full life, well lived, and worthy of celebration.
Abiding with his wishes, following cremation the family will have a memorial service at their convenience.
The family requests any memorial donations be made to the Ohio Patriot Guard Riders, c/o Robert Woods, 8631 Monticello Drive, West Chester, OH 45069.