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Jeannette veteran, business owner was ‘man of service’

October 13, 2018

In the early 1940s, Jim Carasella was an usher at the Manos Theater in Jeannette.

One day, he spotted the glamorous Royal Hawaiian Hotel in the background of a film. He dreamed of making it there in person. On a 2005 trip to Hawaii with his family for an American Legion Convention, that dream came true.

“It took him 60 years to get there,” said his daughter, Georgia Martin.

James Anthony Carasella Sr. of Jeannette died Thursday, Oct. 4. He was 94.

Born March 28, 1924, in Rillton, he was a son of Giovanni Battista Carasella and Giacinta Dibenedetto Carasella.

“Some of his favorite words were ‘banquet, picnic, celebration,’” Martin said of her father, who always made it his mission to take care of others and to bring people together.

Mr. Carasella served during World War II as an Army staff sergeant with the 258th Combat Engineers in Europe. He served in three major campaigns and was awarded two battle stars.

“It was always family, legion, fire hall,” John Carasella said of his father. “He was a man of service.”

Mr. Carasella worked for the City of Jeannette for 29 years as a zoning officer, rodent control officer and code enforcement officer.

He was a Jeannette firefighter, serving as a captain from 1962-80 and as fire chief from 1980-85.

In 1966, he was awarded the McCormick Memorial Award for valor by the McCormick Fire Equipment Company for crawling 25 feet on his stomach to save a resident caught in a burning building.

Mr. Carasella was commander of the Jeannette American Legion Post No. 344 from 1962 to 1963, as well as a president and director of the American Legion Home Association. He was the 31st district deputy vice-commander of Westmoreland County and vice-chairman of the Foreign Relations Council and the National Security Council. He was also vice-chairman of the Legion College of Westmoreland County.

He was a member of Sacred Heart Church in Jeannette, serving on the Parish Financial Council and a member of the Sacred Heart Holy Name Society. He worked the church fish fry into his 90s, making and serving pizzas. He donated gnocci from his business, Maria’s Spaghetti Sauce and Gnocchi, to local fundraisers.

He was deeply connected to his faith, his son, Rich Carasella, said. Mr. Carasella loved to travel and would always seek out a Catholic Mass on Sunday -- even if it wasn’t available in English.

“He would not miss Mass for anything,” his son said. Together, they attended services in German, Italian, Spanish and French.

He was a member of the Knights of Columbus Council 1222, the St. Vincent Assembly Fourth Degree, Sons of Italy, the Fraternal Order of the Aerie 844 F.O.E., the M&S Club and the Kiwanis Club, where he was a past president. Mr. Carasella was awarded Jeannette Man of the Year and recognized for outstanding service and commitment to the Pennsylvania American Legion.

“He was just an all-around outgoing, caring person,” daughter-in-law Marcy Carasella said. “He was just a person that, when you met him, you felt you knew him. If you met him once or twice, you had that connection with him.”

Mr. Carasella was predeceased by his wife of 71 years, Rose “Ollie” Douds Carasella.

He is survived by five children, Georgia Martin and husband, Robert, of Reading; James A. Carasella Jr. and wife, Marcy, of Greensburg; John R. Carasella and wife, Barbara, of Virginia Beach; Richard M. Carasella and wife, Denise, of Jeannette; Mary Carasella Trowbridge of Indiana, Pa.; nine grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.

Friends will be received from 2 to 4 and 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at John V. Graziano Funeral Home, 228 N. Second St., Jeannette. The American Legion Post No. 344 will hold services at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the funeral home, followed by services led by the Jeannette City Fire Department at 8:30 p.m. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Wednesday in Sacred Heart Church.

Interment with military honors accorded by the Jeannette Combined Veterans will follow in Sacred Heart Cemetery in Hempfield.

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