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Francesco A. Tomasulo, crash-landed plane in WWII

BY THE TIME he got to Philadelphia in 1947, Francesco A. Tomasulo had had enough excitement to last most people's lifetimes.

BY THE TIME he got to Philadelphia in 1947, Francesco A. Tomasulo had had enough excitement to last most people's lifetimes.

As a pilot in the Italian Air Force, he crash-landed a plane full of generals and saved them all, then was chased across Greece by German agents and saved by Greek partisans.

Working as a tour coordinator for an Italian shipping company in Philly must have seemed a bit dull by contrast, but he got more excitement rooting for the Phillies through good seasons and bad.

Francesco "Franco" Tomasulo, who also found excitement in travel and visited India at age 83, died Dec. 20. He was 97 and lived in Middletown, Pa. He formerly lived in Brookhaven, Delaware County, and in West Philadelphia.

Francesco was born in New York City, the second of seven children of Antonio Tomasulo and the former Felicia Ercolani. His parents came from San Fele, in the Italian province of Potenza.

His father wanted his children educated in Italy, so the family returned to San Fele in 1929, a time when Benito Mussolini was prime minister but 11 years before Il Duce led Italy into World War II.

Francesco attended Victor Emmanuel Academy, a boarding school in Naples. He applied to and was accepted at a medical school, but the impending war intervened.

He was forced to join the Italian military and wound up a pilot in the air force, his family said. He crash-landed a plane that carried not only the generals, but wounded soldiers as well. He was credited with saving everybody.

While based in Greece, then occupied by the Germans, he was pursued by German forces, his family said. He managed to escape, but became critically ill. The partisans nursed him back to health and protected him from the Germans.

On Aug. 15, 1947, he married Bianca "Blanche" Tomasulo, a Philadelphian. They honeymooned in Italy for a month, then came to the U.S.

He went to work for the Philadelphia office of the Italian Lines, a passenger shipping company that operated regular luxury transatlantic service between Italy and the U.S., as well as Italy and South America.

He retired in 1976. He was dedicated to the care of his late wife, Bianca, who had Alzheimer's disease.

"He believed in education, hard work and 'doing what was right,' " his family said. "He passed down these beliefs to his family."

Francesco was a devoted gym rat who stayed in shape by working out every day, well into his 90s.

"Franco was one of the good guys and a true gentleman," a friend, John Leboffe, of Silver Spring, Md., wrote in a tribute. "He always got his point across by reasoning and setting the example.

"I don't think he ever raised his voice even once in his life."

Francesco rooted for the Phillies and the Eagles, even during their off years. "I can just see him now suggesting patience and they would be contenders again," Leboffe said.

He is survived by his daughter, Flora F. Cauley; three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Services: Were yesterday. Burial was in Ss. Peter and Paul Cemetery, Marple.

Contributions in his name may be made to Judi Marvel Charities Inc., 555 Deer Pointe Road, West Chester, Pa. 19382.