Search in 1937 finds missing Johnston man


JOHNSTON – For five days, police officers and over 50 members of the Civilian Con-servation Corps had been searching the woods of Johnston for 68-year-old Michael Sacco.

Born in Italy on Aug. 12, 1869, Sacco had come to America in 1912 with his wife, Gabriela (Pinto) and their children; Peter, who was born in 1905 and Clara, who was born in 1909.

Sacco found work as a track man on the steam railroad and he and Gabriela went on to have three more children. Angelina was born in 1914, Lucia was born in 1915 and Salvatore was born in 1917. However, great joy dissolved into great heartache more than once. Lucia and Salvatore both died as infants in 1917. Gabriela died the following year on Oct. 11 at the age of 35.

Sacco raised his three remain-ing children alone there in his house on Simmonsville Avenue. But tragedy was not over. His son Peter died at the age of 17 on Sept. 9, 1922, leaving just 14-year-old Clara and 8-year-old Angelina as his only remaining family.

The girls obtained jobs in a worsted mill and continued liv-ing with their father until they married. Clara had wed Anthony Tomao. On March 1, 1937, she died at the age of 28. The emo-tional torture was more than Sacco could handle. His wife and all but one of his many children were now gone. On July 30, of that year, he left his home and never returned.

Those who knew Sacco and the depression he had been struggling with for months were extremely concerned for his well-being. Without success, dozens of men searched for him for days.

Finally, on Aug. 5, one of the searchers spotted him hiding under the bushes which grew at the back part of his property. Weak and physically exhausted, he had gone without food for six days. His mental condition was also concerning. When ap-proached by the searchers, he kept repeating, “They’re after me! Don’t let them get me!”

Sacco went to live with his remaining child, Angelina and her husband Michael Linni. The following year, Angelina would give birth to a daughter whom she named Claire. She later had another daughter, Maureen.

It is hoped that seeing his fam-ily grow once more allowed Sacco some peace. He died at the age of 88 on June 22, 1957 and was buried in Saint Ann Cemetery in Cranston.

Kelly Sullivan is a Rhode Island columnist, lecturer and author.


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