John Panelli Family

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Giovanni (John Sr.) Panelli (1890-1962) son of Benedito Panelli and Archangela Salonne was from latiano Brindisi in southwestern Italy. He emigrated to the US when he was sixteen. He was working in a glass factor when he met Michelina Mercogliano (1901 – 1967). Michelina had emigrated from Aveleno (west of Naples). She was 17, traveling with a friend, and started working in a stocking factory. They married in Wharton, New Jersey and lived on Canal Street. After their first two children were born, Ben and Angelina, they took their children back to Italy to show Giovanni’s parents. They intended to stay in Italy, but little Benny developed a rash that wouldn’t go away. The Italian doctors stated he would receive better treatment back in the US, so they returned and resettled in Morristown. Michelina had two more children, John and Anna. Michelina was a loving mother who was functionally orphaned by her own mother’s death as an infant. She was raised by her grandmother. John Sr. was known to have a temper and could be “tough” when you did something wrong, but he was “good as gold” the rest of the time. He had a lot of common sense, and carried himself as a more educated man though he had little formal schooling. When he spoke, he spoke the truth. He was a good provider as well as an avid hunter, fisherman and a good gardener. There was always plenty of food on the table, even during the depression, when soup lines and handouts were commonplace. John Sr. also raised hunting dogs. Some of the upper class families would invite him hunting because he had the best dogs. He worked at Manhattan Rubber (later Flintcote) nearly all his life, making the trip to Cedar Knolls where he was licensed fireman working fire suppression at the rubber vats.

Young John’s eldest brother was Ben Panelli (1920 – 1994). He looked up to his brother Ben who was a great football player at Morristown High School. He watched as his brother enlisted and went off to war. Ben was with a crew flying cargo over New Guinea. The island was occupied by the Japanese. His plane was shot down and only he and one other survived. The family did not hear from him for eight months. They were trapped in the jungle, avoiding cannibals, stealing food from Japanese camps and trying to survive. These were worrisome times for the family. He returned to the states after he was rescued, but had acquired a severe form of malaria. His hopes of playing professional football were dashed by his poor health and weakened condition upon returning from war. He married Marian Dawson and had four children: Sharon, Linda, Benny and Lisa. His first wife died early in the marriage and he latter married Rosalie Mistkowski. He died of a heart attack in 1994 at the age of 73.

Angelina (Panelli) Lombardo is John’s older sister (born 1923). While she was working at Picatinny Arsenal in Dover, NJ a young soldier named John Lombardo spotted Angelina through a window in secure room # 321 where she worked assembling bomb powders. They began dating. He went off to fight in WWII and she to beauty school. After he got back from Okinawa they married in 1946. They had two daughters, Michaelina (Micki) and Delia. Angelina and her younger sister Anna cared for their parents until their parent’s death. In 1969, Angelina returned to school and became a nurse. John Lombardo was a driver for a pharmaceutical company.

Anna (Panelli) Brockman was John’s younger sister. She was very athletic as a youth, a terrific rollerskater and was sought after by the roller derby. Michelina discouraged her from pursuing that path. She married Joe Brockman and had three children—Julie, Marie and JoAnn. She worked for the phone company for many years and later managed the local hospital switchboard. She cared for Michelina in her senior years when diabetes caused her mother to go blind. She continues to work in hospital administration and actively cares for her young grandchildren.