Dante A. Battistini, 90, of Jamison, a Girard College graduate, Korean War veteran, and later, a car sales manager, died Saturday, Sept. 21, of lung cancer at Doylestown Hospital.
Born in Philadelphia four months before the stock market crash of October 1929, he was the youngest son of Antonio and Eva Saponaro Battistini.
After his father’s early death in 1937, Mr. Battistini was enrolled by his mother in Girard College because she felt she could not work full time and supervise her four children. He graduated in 1947 with distinction in art and drafting, and intended to pursue art studies with the help of a scholarship.
“He designed the cover of his yearbook,” said daughter Glenda B. Daulerio. “He really was quite the artist.”
At age 18, though, his life took a different turn. Mr. Battistini enlisted in the Army for two years, but his tour of duty was extended a year due to the start of the Korean War. He was honorably discharged in 1951 with the rank of corporal.
While stationed at Fort Lee, Va., he met Delma D. Moore, a Women’s Army Corps member. They were married in 1951 and had three children.
Mr. Battistini and his wife settled in Philadelphia. Initially, he was hired as a car salesman at Ogontz Ford but was promoted to used-car manager within a year.
After leaving Ogontz, he worked for Reedman’s Auto in Langhorne, and the family moved to Montgomery and then Bucks County. The dealership claimed to be the world’s largest at that time.
He was the top sales manager at Reedman’s for nine out of the 10 years he held that post. He retired and did motivational speaking.
Mr. Battistini and his wife owned and ran the Breakers Motel in Wildwood, where the family and guests would mingle.
“The same people would come every year,” his daughter said. “My father was very funny. Everybody who met him was drawn to him.”
The motel, which had its heyday in the 1960s and ’70s, was sold in 1977.
Mr. Battistini recognized the positive influence that Girard College had had on his life and was determined to give back to the school and honor the memory of founder Stephen Girard, who lived from 1750 to 1831. “He called Stephen Girard his second father,” his daughter said. “He didn’t know what he would have done without him.”
A member of the Girard board of governors, Mr. Battistini was president of the alumni association, and founder of the annual alumni golf outing and the annual Mass for Stephen Girard. “He ran every golf outing until his health failed,” his daughter said.
Mr. Battistini and his wife also chaperoned Girard College children on trips to the Philadelphia Zoo.
He received the prestigious Stephen Girard Award, which is the highest award granted by the alumni association, and the Award of Merit from Girard alumni for his achievements in business and service to the college.
A member of the Sons of Italy’s Eugene V. Alessandroni Lodge, Mr. Battistini was a head trustee and member of the National Italian-American Foundation in Washington. He also served as a member of the Stephen Girard American Legion Post for 45 years.
Mr. Battistini was a member of Our Lady Help of Christians in Abington and St. Robert Bellarmine in Warrington. He served as a Eucharistic minister at both.
His wife died in 2008. Besides his daughter, Mr. Battistini is survived by children Anthony and Joanne Battistini; eight grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.
Services were Sept. 28.
Memorial donations may be made to St. Robert Bellarmine, 856 Euclid Ave., Warrington, Pa. 18976, or the Girard College Alumni Association Scholarship Fund, 2101 S. College Ave. # 605, Philadelphia, Pa. 19121.