American Veteran 01

Joseph M. Zappia

September 11, 1921 ~ September 18, 2019 (age 98)

Mr. Joseph M. Zappia passed away Wednesday, September 18, 2019 at his home in South Palm Beach, Florida at the age of 98. A South Bend businessman, he originated the Villa Capri Restaurant from 1951 to 1974, and food services for the University of Notre Dame JACC from 1968 to 1987. The Zappias, through their friendship with then President Father Hesburgh, had the wonderful opportunity of meeting several of our American presidents, as well as some of the world’s great leaders. As an Italian immigrant, this was unbelievable to Joseph.

Joseph was born September 11, 1921 in the Province of Reggio Calabria, Italy. At the age of six, he departed with his mother to the US aboard the Italian liner, Conte Grande, and after being temporarily detained at Ellis Island in New York, he arrived in Mishawaka, Indiana in July of 1928.

Following Pearl Harbor and encouraged by his father, Mr. Zappia enlisted in the United States Navy on December 8, 1941. If not the first, he was one of the first of Italian descent to do so in the United States. Joseph served aboard the ships USS Wharton, USS Biscayne and USS Savannah, and took part in the invasion of Salerno, Italy on September 9, 1943. At the Battle of Anzio, Italy on January 22, 1944 with the 8th Amphibious Forces and the flagship, USS Biscayne, he sustained shrapnel injuries to his shoulder, in which he received a military pension. H was honorably discharged in late 1945.

Prior to his Navy service, Joseph joined the government sponsored CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to help all Americans during the depression of the 1930’s. The camps taught discipline and fairness, what work is and how to work, as well as how to live, eat and sleep with people of various origins. According to Joseph, “We were taught the lessons of life.” They were paid $1 per day with $25 monthly going to our families and $5 for us to keep. This was a great help to our family.

Joseph was married on June 9, 1946 in Naples, Italy to the former Tina Leone, who preceded him in death on August 26, 1999. He was also preceded in death by a sister, Margaret Caruso; and a brother, Patrick Zappia. Joseph is survived by two sons, Anthony M. (Barbara) Zappia of Granger and Mario J. Zappia of Granger; seven grandchildren, Ashley, Kyle, Mario Jr., John, Anna, Ryan, and Heather; five great-grandchildren; as well as one sister, Mary Stanton of Buffalo, NY.

Funeral services for Mr. Zappia will be held at 10:00am on Thursday, September 26, 2019 at Palmer Funeral Home – Hickey Chapel, 17131 Cleveland Road, South Bend. Entombment will follow at St. Joseph Valley Memorial Park, Granger, where Joseph will be laid to rest next to his dear wife, Tina. Friends may visit with the family from 4:00-7:00pm on Wednesday, September 25th at the funeral home, as well as from 9:00-10:00am on Thursday at the funeral home prior to the service.

Expressions of sympathy in memory of Joseph may be donated to Christ the King Catholic Church Building Fund, 52473 IN 933, South Bend, IN 46637.

Online condolences may be left for the Zappia family at

Donations may be made to:

Christ the King Catholic Church Building Fund
52473 IN 933, South Bend IN 46637

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