World War II vet caddied on same golf course where his father was killed by lightning
Mel Cirincione caddied at the 1935 U.S. Open, on the same Oakmont golf course where his father was killed by a lightning strike only a year earlier.
His father Frank was cutting grass on the seventh tee July 20, 1934, when he was struck and knocked 4 feet back from his lawnmower, according to press accounts of the incident.
It didn’t deter Mr. Cirincione.
“He caddied every weekend,” said his daughter Maria O’Brien of Murrysville.
Carmello “Mel” Cirincione, of North Braddock, died Friday, Aug. 9, 2019. He was 94.
Mr. Cirincione was born Oct. 8, 1924, in Oakmont, the third of seven sons of the late Christina and Frank Cirincione. He grew up in Oakmont and served in the Army Air Corps’ 7th Division from 1943-47.
“He would tell us that he was ‘D-Day plus one,’” O’Brien said.
Mr. Cirincione landed on the beach at Normandy on June 7, 1944, and began laying an airfield.
“He actually saved a little German boy’s life, a little 5-year-old who he rescued from a fire,” O’Brien said. “He received a commendation for that, and he also met his brothers over in Europe, one of whom was injured in the Battle of the Bulge.”
Mr. Cirincione started talking with a Belgian telephone operator during the war.
“She said he’d tell her how pretty she sounded,” O’Brien said. “She’d tell him no, she was fat and ugly, but he said he wanted to meet her.”
They met, and four months later, Mr. Cirincione married his wife of 58 years, Marianne, on July 15, 1947, in Belgium.
After returning home — which required Mr. Cirincione to spend all of his money at the time, $500, on a one-way plane ticket for Marianne — the Cirinciones settled in North Braddock and began raising a family.
Mr. Cirincione worked at the Continental Can Co., in West Mifflin, and was among the first workers to help manufacture cans with metal pull-tabs still in use today.
“My older brother and sister worked at Kennywood, so we’d go over there a lot,” said Mr. Cirincione’s daughter Laura Neiderhiser of Champion.
O’Brien said while her father’s caddying usually came first, Sundays were the time for lots of family trips.
“Every Sunday, after two rounds of caddying, he’d take us to Kennywood, to the zoo, to the airport to watch the airplanes, all over the place,” she said.
Serving as a caddy at the Oakmont and Longue Vue country clubs meant Mr. Cirincione was tagging along with politicians, CEOs and big-wigs on a regular basis.
“He said he a got a lot of stock tips,” O’Brien said. “On Monday nights he’d golf at Longue Vue, and because it was closed on Mondays, he’d take us and have us look for golf balls.”
Mr. Cirincione’s son Frank of Parkton, Md., said his father’s experience caddying helped him value the hard work of others.
“He was a very kind soul and a really good tipper,” Frank Cirincione said. “He appreciated tips when he caddied, and I think that carried over.”
Mr. Cirincione’s son Larry agreed.
“He was a hard-working guy,” Larry Cirincione said. “He always worked to provide for his family.”
Mr. Cirincione is survived by his four children, Frank and his wife, Cathy, of Parkton, Md., Maria O’Brien and her husband, Gregg, of Murrysville, Larry and his wife, Joanne, of Martinez, Ga., and Laura Neiderhiser and her husband, Barry, of Champion, Pa.; nine-grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.
A funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Good Shepherd Church in Braddock. Patrick T. Lanigan Funeral Home in Turtle Creek is in charge of arrangements.
Memorial contributions can be made to the Wounded Warrior Project, 600 River Ave., Ste. 900, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .