Obituary of Umberto Marganelli (1928 – 2021) – McMinnville, OR
Umberto (Al) Marganelli passed away peacefully in McMinnville Oregon on December 7, 2021.
He was born on June 8, 1928 in Saint Paul, Minnesota, to Maria Grazia and Pasquale Marganelli. His father, Pasquale, immigrated to the United States in 1917 and became a naturalized citizen after serving in World War I.
Umberto was the oldest of four children: younger twin brothers, Argante and Armando, and a younger sister, Elsa.
When Umberto was a child, his family returned to his family origins in Cocullo (AQ) in Italy. They remained in Cocullo during the Nazi occupation. As Americans in Italy at this time, life was not easy and often dangerous. As a young boy, Umberto heeded his mother’s instructions to be extremely careful and careful. The eldest of their family, Umberto felt a heavy responsibility to protect not only his parents, brothers and younger sister, but also his younger cousins and extended family who lived in their village. The war years marked young Umberto and shaped the kind of man he wanted to be: a man of character and integrity.
At the age of eighteen, Umberto returned to the United States to serve in the United States Army. He was sent to a training camp in Maryland and soon after he was sent to Korea to participate in the American conflict there. Umberto was smart, well-liked, and a quick learner. His superiors recognized him and pushed him up the ranks to serve as an army medic. He loved medicine and everything related to it. He would have made a great doctor, but life had other plans for him.
For his bravery in Korea, Umberto received the Purple Heart Medal. Like many, he spoke little of the war but was proud to have served.
After the war, he returned to Saint Paul where he joined his young brothers. He got a job with a large corporation that was the largest mattress manufacturer in the United States. He became so well loved by the owner that he considered him a son. While there, Umberto was instrumental in creating a patented invention that is now known as a box spring mattress. His boss recognized Umberto’s integrity and character and made a point of meeting Umberto’s parents on his next trip to Europe.
Soon after, Umberto met a young American woman of German descent named Donna. They fell in love and got married. They had happy times with Donna’s parents and Umberto’s family on beautiful car rides and boat trips in and around Minnesota.
Umberto loved his American cars and his boats. Minnesota was the perfect place to take the boat out on the lake. Car trips often included trips to North Bay, Canada, to visit Umberto’s aunt and cousins who had transferred there from Cocullo. There they also had a great time.
Sadly, the happy times soon came to an end when Donna died suddenly of an illness. They did not have children. Umberto was heartbroken but never forgot Donna and continued to talk about her often for the rest of her life.
Umberto continued to work for the mattress maker and by that time he had gotten a job with management. He bought a house and saved enough money to visit his family in Italy.
In the mid-1960s, he traveled to Sulmona, Italy, to visit his parents. There he met and married a young Italian woman named Cecilia.
They returned to the United States together but remained married for a short time and later divorced. They had a child, a son named Anthony.
Although Umberto is happy in his job, he began to develop a passion for cooking. Like his father, he had a taste for cooking and began to study as a chef. His skills quickly developed and he soon found himself recruited to work in good restaurants in town. When his longtime friend suggested he move to Las Vegas for a job in the culinary arts, he jumped at the chance to leave Minnesota and be closer to his sister who was in Southern California.
The Vegas years brought long hours and hard work, but it was also a chance for him to work under some of the great chefs around. He learned from them, honed his skills and quickly became the sought-after chef among all. While working in Vegas, he created his own menu, his own signature dishes (named after his nieces and grandfather) and quickly became the renowned chef of the rich and famous (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Don Rickles, Ann -Margaret, Dinah Shore, and a host of others.)
The years in Vegas brought him closer to his family. Her sister, Elsa, her husband, Cesidio and her two nieces, Marianne and Lucy, were only a few hours drive from Vegas. It was close enough to visit them often in Anaheim, and he did.
The years spent in Anaheim were golden. With his sister there was a large Italian community of his generation. When Umberto arrived in town, everyone knew it. Her red Oldsmobile parked in her sister’s driveway was a clue to everyone that the next few days would be filled with joy, laughs, great food (lots of wine) and good times. And there were many, many, many good times.
Umberto stayed in Vegas for a few years, but grew tired of the hectic pace and late nights. After considering his options, he accepted a job in Eugene, Oregon.
While living in Eugene, Al opened and ran the Green Frog and went on to open his own restaurant, La Cucina. He was talked about and “stoves were never cold” as they say in Italy. After several years making his mark in Eugene, he moved to the wine country of Oregon. The Willamette area reminded him a lot of Italy and he settled in McMinnville.
In McMinnville, he opened the restaurant that will bear his name, which has become the premier restaurant for fine Italian cuisine for 40 years. Umberto’s Italian cuisine is where he was happiest. There, he made sure to have an open window on the dining room where he could converse with the guests while preparing specialty after specialty. Her creativity in the kitchen was endless and people were thrilled to be a part of it. By his side for all these years was his trusted and devoted companion, Connie.
Umberto loved his customers and he loved to cook. They became his family and he would do whatever he could to make them happy. The time he spent in his restaurant was filled with many memories and once again good times.
Last month, Umberto started to embark on his most recent business as a volunteer at the local soup kitchen, bringing his culinary magic to the poor and underprivileged. His generosity continued.
Umberto adored his friends and family. His nieces were very special to him and they shared a special bond. They will be sadly missed by their Uncle Al. Umberto is survived by his dear Connie, his beloved sister Elsa, his brother-in-law Cesidio, his nieces Marianne and Lucy, his son Anthony and his grandson Anthony Jr.
Umberto comes from an honest, sincere and hardworking lineage. He was kind to everyone, generous beyond measure, full of charisma and good humor and always thought of others before him. He was a true gentleman, never complained about anything and treated everyone with kindness and compassion.
His legacy will live on in everyone who knew him or even had a brief encounter with him because of how he made people feel after an interaction. He made people feel warm, comfortable and loved. And he did it so well.
Umberto’s temporary resting place will be at Evergreen Memorial Park in McMinnville, Oregon. In accordance with his last wishes, he will be repatriated to Italy where he will have his last home in Sulmona next to his mother, father and brothers.
A celebration of the life event will be announced at a later date.
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Thank you for your thoughts and kind words.
He will be sorely missed.
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Posted by Macy and Son Funeral Directors on December 17, 2021.