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Psychologist Aldo Santorum devoted career to fellow veterans

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Friday, Jan. 21, 2011

Aldo Santorum called the GI Bill the greatest gift he received. He gave back by building a career and family around veterans hospitals.

"We always lived on the campus of the veterans hospitals. It was called the domiciliary," said his son, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Penn Hills. "I always joked that I spent my childhood living in public housing."

Aldo Santorum of Crescent Beach, Fla., a clinical psychologist for the VA, died Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011, in the home where he and his wife, Catherine Dughi, lived the past 20 years. He was 88.

Mr. Santorum was born in the Trento province of Italy to Maria and Pietro Santorum. Aldo, his mother, older brother Bruno and younger sister Carla moved to the Johnstown area when he was 7 to join his father, who came to the United States five years earlier.

"My grandfather was working in the auto industry but lost his job during the Depression," Rick Santorum said. "He finally found a job in the coal mines of Western Pennsylvania in 1929 and the family joined him."

The family lived in a company town called Carpenters Park. "After several years in the mines, the family moved upscale to nearby Tyler Hill," Santorum said.

Mr. Santorum joined the Army Air Corps in 1942 after high school, serving most of World War II in the South Pacific where his main job was repairing airplanes.

After returning from the war, he earned a psychology degree from St. Francis College in Loretto, a graduate degree from Catholic University in Washington and a doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Ottawa.

"He then went to work for the Veterans Administration and that is where he met my mom," Rick Santorum said.

Catherine Dughi worked for the VA as an administrative nurse, and both were assigned to the VA hospital in Martinsburg, W.Va. After having three children -- Barbara, Rick and Dan -- the family moved to the Butler VA Hospital in the early 1960s, where they stayed for more than a decade.

They were transferred one more time, in 1974, to North Chicago. When Mr. Santorum retired in 1990, he and his wife moved to Crescent Beach.

"My father had a muscle disorder that was never fully diagnosed. When he retired he was already using a cane; in the last years he was in a wheelchair," Rick Santorum said.

"He was always the cook of the family. On Sundays we would always have pasta and sauce. When I was a kid, I didn't like his sauce -- it was too heavy -- but now I find myself making the same thing for my kids," he said. The favorite meal for the Santorum children was Dad's black bean soup.

"Dad was a talker. He was always on the phone telling me what I was doing right, but more often what I was doing wrong," Santorum said.

Both parents were active in Santorum's early congressional career, working phones and polls and moving temporarily to Mt. Lebanon in 1994 for his successful run for U.S. Senate.

In addition to his wife and children, Mr. Santorum is survived by 10 grandchildren. A memorial service will be held Saturday in Corpus Christi Church in Crescent Beach.

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