In Memoriam: Silvio Dante DiLoreto, 1925-2017

Silvio DiLoreto
Paul Wellman

Silvio Dante DiLoreto died peacefully in the company of family on March 17, 2017, at age 91. He had been an active member of the Santa Barbara community for 61 years.

Silvio was born September 17, 1925, in Rochester, New York, to Venanzio and Lucia DiLoreto. He was the oldest child of four, including brothers Aldo and Lucio and sister Nella. His mother died in 1935 during childbirth, and his sister died in 1942 of leukemia. Venanzio worked in construction, and the Depression years were challenging for the family. Their father instilled a strong work ethic in his children, and they began working at a young age. Silvio attributed his father’s influence and Depression struggles to his success later in life.

The U.S. entered World War II during Silvio’s teen years. After high school graduation, he was accepted into the U.S. Army Air Cadet Program, graduating as a Navigator in 1945. Sent to the South Pacific as a Second Lieutenant just before the war ended, Silvio never saw combat. He flew the Mosquito Network (Espirito Santo, Guadalcanal, Fiji, New Zealand) in a B-25 Mitchell bomber and a C-47, relying only on a radio compass or celestial navigation. He was proud of twice flying a “zero zero” mission using only celestial navigation: right on time and right on course. Silvio took up boxing in the Army and enjoyed a 13-0 record before a self-imposed retirement from the ring.

While stationed in Australia, Silvio married Josephine Finnemore. Upon his discharge in 1947, they returned to New York. Josephine had experience in the family photography business, and together they started a business in Rochester.

Silvio first tried his hand at selling real estate in 1955, using the State of New York’s no-license, one-month trial period. In the first 30 days, he sold four houses, with a total value of $40,000 and commission of $800. Eureka! Planning a full-time career, Silvio drove his young family to California the next year. He loved the ocean from his South Pacific days and wanted to live along the coast. In January 1956, the family Nash Rambler drove into Santa Barbara and pulled over at a turnout on Loma Alta Drive. Looking over the verdant town below, Silvio knew he was home. He spoke to a real estate broker the same day, expressing his ambitions and also how much money he had saved. The broker recommended that he move to Ventura.

Silvio ignored that advice. Instead, he walked into a Sunset Realtors office on De la Vina Street, was offered a sales position, and started work the same day. A year later, owner Ray Juneau decided to move to Texas. Silvio bought the business for $5,000 with a $2,000 down payment he scraped together and payments of $30 a month.

Silvio attributed his early acceptance into the Santa Barbara community to the good reputation of the family with a very similar name who owned Loreto Plaza. Thanks to the DiLoreto/DeLoreto coincidence, he always received a warm reception from Santa Barbara residents on sales calls.

“Si,” as he was affectionately called, soon adopted the phrase “People Helping People” for his growing company and immersed himself in the community. He joined the theatrical group Alhecama Players and had acting roles in Mister Roberts and Flower Drum Song.

Life also had its challenges. Silvio suffered a heartbreaking loss in 1961 when his young son Bradford was killed in a bicycle accident. He would later say, “When my son died it was horrible, but out of the terrible experience, I grew.”

Despite the family setback, Silvio moved forward. In 1965, he was president of the Santa Barbara Board of Realtors. He led the Multiple Listing Committee and originated the MLS book for the industry, a first at the time and now a standard real estate tool through the country.

In 1976, Silvio helped form the city’s Rental Housing Mediation Task Force. Passionate about resolving conflicts between tenants and landlords, he stayed active with them into his retirement years. Si presided over the Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce in 1977 and was active for many years. He formed the Chamber’s Neighbor Helping Neighbor project in response to the Sycamore Canyon Fire in 1977. The next year, he joined the Santa Barbara City College Foundation Board of Directors, serving as president from 1983-1987. He enjoyed his years working with SBCC Foundation and president Peter MacDougall. Si was chair and an ongoing mentor in SCORE (Senior Core of Retired Executives), a group that helped emerging small businesses map out their plans.

Silvio found such personal fulfillment in his community involvement. “Santa Barbara has provided so much to my personal quality of life,” he would say. “There is no way I can repay the community for what it has done for me. The more you do for Santa Barbara, the more it gives back to you.” In 1991 he received the Santa Barbara News-Press Lifetime Achievement Award. He was recognized by the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission’s Léni Fé Bland Award for his role in securing the site for the present Yanonali Street facility. He was a Hillside House emeritus boardmember for a decade of service. The Alpha Resource Center of Santa Barbara named its DiLoreto Theatre in his honor. He was named Realtor for Life by the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors and Lifetime Director of the California Association of Realtors and received the Anti-Defamation League’s Distinguished Community Service Award. The Culinary Institute at Santa Barbara City College recently announced a scholarship in Silvio’s name.

Si had many passions in life. He took up scuba diving not long after moving to Santa Barbara. He flew his Bonanza V-tail south to Mexico and north to Canada with many stops along the way. He looked forward to flying Aeromedicos doctors to remote parts of Baja Mexico to reach small towns without medical care. Once he donned a World War I–era leather aviator helmet and toilet-paper scarf to fly his son’s friends to Santa Ynez for dinner before prom.

Silvio was an accomplished chef with signature dishes, such as sourdough pancakes and Korean short ribs. He was part of the cooking show In Cucina with Beverly and Silvio and once cooked with Julia Child. He flipped pancakes at Fiesta’s Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast for over 40 years. One year he personally prepared and sold more than 400 Italian sausage sandwiches at I Madonnari to raise funds for UNICO. Silvio was also an amateur, and careful, mushroom aficionado. His car was commonly seen parked on the side of the road after a rain as he searched for chanterelles or morels.

A skilled snow skier, he always packed a lunch for everyone — sandwiches were often served off Chair 14 on Mammoth’s backside — to get in a few extra runs before the lifts closed. He broke a leg on Dave’s Run in his early ski years and toboganned down the hill with the Ski Patrol. He recovered well, showing his ski posse in later years where he wiped out. He succeeded in his goal to ski until age 80.

Silvio and his family attended Calvary Baptist Church for many years. He said many years ago, “I never became successful — I’m talking about being fulfilled — until I developed a relationship with God. My definition of success is not getting what you want, but enjoying what you have.”

Later in life, Silvio learned to play the clarinet. In grade school, he’d tried for a clarinet, but they handed him a trombone. He was a little guy, and it was hard to handle on the crowded school bus, so he quit the band. He joined Santa Barbara’s Prime Time Band in his seventies to try again. He never became an accomplished musician, but, single at the time, he met band member Mary MacDonald. They enjoyed many happy years together, sharing a passion for cooking and traveling. A favorite destination was the mountain town of Pratola Peligna, in the Italian region of Abruzzo, the birthplace of Silvio’s parents.

Retirement gave Silvio a chance to refine his card tricks. For several years he was invited to the annual Arthritis Foundation Celebrity Waiters Luncheon to entertain. He received the Greatest Generation Award at Santa Barbara Veterans’ 2011 Annual Military Ball and appointed Honorary Presidente for Old Spanish Days Fiesta in 2016.

Silvio is survived by sons Dante of Los Angeles, Todd of San Diego, and Antonio of Santa Barbara; daughter Camilla of Santa Barbara; and brother Lucio of Bellevue, Washington. Silvio loved his nine grandchildren dearly. He was preceded in death by his partner of 15 years, Mary MacDonald, son Bradford, father Venanzio, and brother Aldo. He was married twice, to Josephine DiLoreto (Dante) and Nancy DiLoreto (Todd, Antonio, and Camilla).

He served on many boards, including Valle Verde Retirement Community, S.B. Symphony, Hillside House, Italian Cultural Heritage Club, UNICO, the Boot Club, the Italian Film Festival, and Life Chronicles. He also worked with the March of Dimes, Project Concern, and Direct Relief International. He supported the Community Prayer Breakfast, SBCC Culinary Arts, S.B. Scholarship Foundation, Westmont College, Museum of Natural History, S.B. Maritime Museum (where he was a docent), Cottage Hospital, Sansum, Prime Time Band, American Institute of Food and Wine, and Alpha Resource Center.

Per his wishes, no public services are planned. One may visit the DiLoreto-MacDougall Overlook at SBCC West Campus, near the site of his quinquennial birthday parties, to honor his memory. Donations can be made to the SBCC Culinary Institute’s Silvio DiLoreto Scholarship fund or any of the charities mentioned.


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