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Peter Della-Luna, Sr.

Peter Della-Luna is a graduate of the Class of 1936 and credits St. Mary’s High School with getting him into college and sparking his career. Now a resident of Florida, Peter remains a loyal Saint!

Age

102

Year Graduated

1936

Current Home Town

Fort Myers, Florida

Tell us about your post STMHS life (school, service, family, career)

After graduating from STMHS, I attended the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester where I received my BS in Chemistry in 1940 and Masters in Chemistry in 1941.

I worked summers in the tobacco fields to help pay my college education. I met my future wife, Ruth Syriac, there. Ruth was attending Westfield Teachers College (now Westfield State University) and working in the tobacco fields to pay for her tuition. We were married in 1944. We have two children, a son, Peter Jr., and a daughter Mary. My wife died in January 2013 at the age of 95. I have one grandson, Peter III and two great-grandchildren, Charlie and Kaelie.

When I graduated with my Masters Degree, I fully expected to be going into the military to fight in WWII. I took what I thought was a temporary job at Stevens Paper Company in Westfield as director of their laboratory. I soon found out that the paper made there was vital to the war effort and I received a deferment from the military to continue the improvements in their capacitor papers.

In later years, I worked at Millers Falls Paper Company as general manager and vice president. I ended my career as president of Rising Paper Company in Housatonic, MA. I have participated in many paper trade association events both as moderator and key note speaker. I have also testified at Congressional hearing representing the paper industry.

What are you most proud of?

My family. My wife and I have been fortunate to see our family grow and thrive well beyond my parents’ dreams. My parents were both immigrants from Italy. They came to the United States to give their children the opportunities that were not available in Italy. They certainly succeeded. All of my children, grandchild and great-grandchildren are the beneficiaries of my parents’ decision to leave all that they knew and go to a country that would offer difficult times but great opportunities.

Most importantly, I am most proud that all of my family remain faithful communicants of the Catholic church.

Do you have hobbies?

Until my mid 80’s I enjoyed playing golf. Presently, I enjoy reading, keeping up with the stock market and trying to keep up with all the virtual reality games my great-grandchildren play.

Do you have a favorite teacher?

While all the teachers at STMHS were instrumental in my education, it is Sr. Thomasine [Moriarty] that shaped my future. Sr. Thomasine had arrived at STMHS my senior year as the new principal.

A benefactor to the parish had left a large sum of money to be used by a STMHS student as scholarship money to the College of the Holy Cross. This scholarship was given once every four years. My graduating class was not to receive this money and I had no intentions of going to college.

The boy that had received the scholarship had left Holy Cross after his junior year, leaving one year of scholarship money unused. It was Sr. Thomasine, along with the Pastor, Rev. James Curran, who insisted that the college must award the remaining year’s money to the top graduating boy of the class of 1939.

They went to Worcester — a long trip in 1939 – and successfully argued their case. I was given the one-year scholarship with an agreement that if I maintained a high academic standard, the college would grant me a partial academic scholarship for the remaining four years. In addition to the scholarship, I worked summers in the tobacco fields and at the college during the academic year to pay for my tuition.

I graduated Summa Cum Laude in 1940. Sr. Thomasine’s intercession on my behalf literally changed my life. She had taken a student that arrived in first grade in St. Mary’s elementary school unable to speak English (I spoke only Italian) and given him the opportunity to have a college education.

I remember Sr. Thomasine as being very smart and very formidable. You did not want to stand in front of her for disciplinary reasons…I would know!!!! I will always remember her as the principal that went out of her way to give me a life changing opportunity.

 

How did STMHS influence your life?

STMHS taught me how to analyze problems and to reason to a correct solution. Most importantly, STMHS gave me a great appreciation and understanding of Catholic theology.

 

What advice would you give present STMHS students

Use your time at STMHS to learn to think critically. Learn to express your ideas clearly while respecting opposing thought. Make up your own mind. Do not let others dictate your beliefs.

Remember that life is full of opportunities. Do not fear the changes that these opportunities will bring. When faced with adversity, you alone will dictate the outcome. Do not be afraid to fail. You can learn and move forward or become disillusioned and discouraged. Always choose to learn from your mistakes and move forward.  You will grow as a person and open up new possibilities.

Finally, enjoy your time at STMHS.