Galveston lost one of its most devoted citizens on November 22, 2015. John J. Saracco, born August 25, 1934, at John Sealy Hospital in Galveston, TX, passed away at Cornerstone Hospital in Webster, TX, due to respiratory complications.
John, a “BOI,” began working at a young age alongside his sisters and parents at Saracco’s Grocery on 53rd & Avenue R. When not stocking, he made bicycle deliveries in the neighborhood. He attended St. Patrick Catholic School, developing his lifelong foundation of Catholic beliefs. John was a 1952 graduate of Kirwin High School. He attended Texas A&M University, was a member of the Corps of Cadets, and supported the Aggies his whole life. He finished his college years at St. Edward’s University in Austin. John was also a U.S. Army veteran and received an honorable discharge after serving his country.
John partnered with his brother-in-law, Anthony C. Giamfortone, to successfully operate the Rose Garden in Dickinson, TX. During this time, he met and fell in love with Judy Marie Federighi. On April 20, 1958, John and Judy were wed at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Galveston, followed by a grand reception at the Buccaneer Hotel. Times were tough for this young couple, yet they persevered by doing extra work like selling event tickets at the Pleasure Pier during some of the best times in Galveston. John always had a story or two about the “good old days” on the island.
John’s career included jobs at Dickinson Nail, CIT Finance, and eventually he was hired at the age of 27 as a Senior Vice President at American Bank. He made loans to many Galvestonians, helping them to become successful businessmen. When the bank was sold, John went to work at the Homer Jobe Insurance Agency in Texas City. In 1972, John opened Saracco Insurance Agency at 2702 Broadway. Still open today, this agency is now owned and operated by his youngest son, Michael F. Saracco.
John was a businessman who developed franchises, restaurants, car washes, construction companies, bait camps, hotels, apartments, strip centers, and residential properties. He had vision and a knack for making things work. John and Judy bought properties along the Seawall and in downtown Galveston through the years, amassing a large portfolio of real estate. They laboriously restored the 1884 Galveston News Building, Walgreens, the Fish Building on Post Office, Ye Odde Shoppe on the Strand, and the Sons of Hermann on Broadway, to name just a few. John was the recipient of numerous awards for his efforts, including the 1995 George P. Mitchell Entrepreneur Award, the 1999 Galveston Chamber of Commerce Renaissance Award for Commercial Properties, and the 2004 Historic Downtown Strand Development Award.
John created and promoted Galveston’s First Wurst, Inc. in the mid-1970’s at the Moody Center, which many residents and tourists attended. One of John’s most rewarding acts was the donation of Rosewood Cemetery to the Galveston Historical Foundation. John, along with his wife, Judy, enjoyed antiques and collectibles, and they used this habit to launch Collector’s Gallery on Post Office Street and Rare Finds Gallery on Mechanic Street. John’s most recent project was turning an abandoned pool and surrounding property into a bayside showcase, featuring landscaping, fencing, and a palapa, where he briefly enjoyed fun times with his grandchildren and great grandchildren, hosting pool parties, shrimp boils, and, of course, barbeques. John was also a founding member and Head Cook of The Missing Lynx, an award-winning BBQ cook-off team.
John always supported Galveston’s youth through involvement and/or sponsorship with Little League baseball, Galveston Youth Football (Go War Eagles!), YMCA & AAU Basketball, swimming teams, and O’Connell booster clubs. He also participated in several fraternal or community organizations, such as Ducks Unlimited, the Knights of Columbus, the Lions Club, Our Lady of Guadalupe Men’s Club, and the O’Connell Booster Club.
John enjoyed hunting with his sons on several deer leases in the Hill Country and South Texas areas. He made the best breakfasts. Other favorite pastimes were casino trips with Judy, travel, dining out, his grandchildren’s ball games and school functions, collecting Galveston memorabilia, Aggie football, Houston Astros baseball, family gatherings, BBQ cook-offs, dancing, and riding around with Judy.
John is preceded in death by his parents, George J. Saracco and Nora Menotti Saracco, and mother- and father-in-law, Iacapo Federighi and Iside Federighi.
Surviving John is his wife of 57 years, Judy Marie Saracco; his four sons (and spouses): George Iacapo Saracco (Erma Del Carmen), John Joseph Saracco, Jr., Anthony Carl Saracco, and Michael Federighi Saracco (Heather); sisters (and spouses): Rosemary Giamfortone (Anthony, deceased), Dorothy Jane Nelson (William H. Nelson), and Georgia Meyer (Gary, deceased); grandchildren: Kelley Renee, Anthony C. Saracco, II, Christopher M. Saracco, Savannah Saracco, Michaela Saracco, Victoria M. Saracco, Dakota Saracco, and Michael Saracco, II; great grandchildren: Anthony C. Saracco, III, and Ean Becher; step grandchildren: Carolin Morales and Trey Grigsby; sister-in-law, Carla A.F. Eriksson (and husband, Al); and numerous nephews and nieces from the Nelson, Giamfortone, Eriksson, and Meyer families.
Pallbearers include George, John, Jr., Anthony, and Michael Saracco; Anthony, II, and Chris Saracco; Frank Cortese, William H. Nelson, Billy Nelson, Al Eriksson, Erika Eriksson, Victor Pierson, and Trey Grigsby.
John’s family will receive visitors beginning at 4:30 pm, Thursday, December 3rd, at St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica, 21st & Church Street in Galveston. A rosary will begin at 6:30 pm, led by Deacon Sam Dell’Olio.
Funeral Mass will be held at 10:00 am, Friday, December 4th, at St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica with Father EJ Stein, OFM, as Celebrant. Burial will follow the service at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Dickinson. Avere il coraggio!
There will be a reception for friends and family following the burial at Mario’s Seawall (upstairs), 628 Seawall Blvd., Galveston. Grazie, Joey, Johnny, and Danny!
The Saracco Family wants to express sincere gratitude for all who visited or called about John, beloved husband, father, and grandfather, during these challenging times. Our faith in God has been reinforced by your words and actions! Also, thanks to the medical staff at UTMB-Galveston, AMED, Cornerstone-Webster, and Clear Lake Regional Hospital & Cardiac Center for your efforts.
Memorials in John Joseph Saracco’s name and memory may be made to the American Heart Association (PO Box 841125, Dallas, TX, 75284-1125) and/or the Galveston Historical Foundation (PO Box 149, Galveston, TX, 77553). They will be greatly appreciated.