One of a kind

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Mario DiPaolo just keeps on dancing.

DiPaolo, a Johnston resident who recently turned 98 years old, has loved to get moving his whole life. His daughter, Deb Santagata, told the Sun Rise last week that right up until the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, her father could be found at the VFW in East Greenwich dancing on the weekends.

“My mom always loved to go out dancing,” Santagata said of her mother, who passed away in 1999. “He found the VFW post in East Greenwich and on Sunday he would go and they would have dancing for his age group.”

Mario and his wife moved to Johnston in 1962, where they raised Santagata and her siblings, Richard and Diane. He worked for 48 years as a transmission specialist at DiPaolo’s Gulf Service Station in Providence before retiring at more than two decades ago.

“He’s really one of a kind,” Santagata said. “I always say he’s one of a kind. He’s a very laid back person, always has been. He’s lived by the philosophy of, everything changes, nothing stays the same, don’t worry about it. Tomorrow will be different. Don’t get upset. He has that kind of attitude about everything.”

DiPaolo enjoyed a pleasant surprise for his 98th birthday, as a parade including a Johnston fire truck, a dozen cars filled with family and friends and two Johnston Police Department vehicles drove by his home to wish him well on Super Bowl Sunday. JPD Sgt. Joseph Scichlione Jr. stopped by the festivities to issue DiPaolo a special commendation from Mayor Joseph Polisena.

“He loves to tell old stories. He’s just one of a kind,” Santagata said. “You can go to him, he can fix anything. If he can’t find a part for something, he will make the part for whatever is needed. He can do it. He’s a very smart man. He loves the family, loves having everybody around him.” (Text by Jacob Marrocco, photos courtesy Deb Santagata)

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