Civil Engineer, Inventor
Written by: Vince DiMaggio, Son of Vince and Patricia
November 1941 was both a glorious and uncertain time in Monterey, as illustrated by articles from this period in The Monterey Peninsula Herald. On the plus side it was a banner year for Monterey’s sardine industry. Profits were at a record high, and the little silvery fish was a key element in the nation’s Lend-Lease program, providing food and assisting the European democracies in resisting the Nazi aggression. But in late November the Herald carried a series of articles on the growing drumbeats of war in the Pacific, including an ominous and prescient article tucked away on the back page entitled, “Don’t Ignore Air Power of Japanese.”
It was into this contrasting environment that on November 30, 1941, Vincent and Stella (Russo) DiMaggio welcomed their first born, a son. As was customary, the baby was named after his father, Vincent, and his grandfather Orazio – anglicized to Horace--Vincent Horace DiMaggio.
While Stella stayed home caring for their child, Vince, Sr. worked throughout the war as a sardine fisherman. Years later he would entertain his children and grandchildren with stories of seeing the torpedoing of a tanker by a Japan
ese submarine in south Monterey Bay and sightings of the mysterious “Bobo” (most likely a deformed elephant seal that took on the unfortunate appearance of a sea hag, frequently spotted by Monterey fisherman during this time).
Young Vince, or “Vincie” as he became known inside his family, spent his early childhood living on Seeno Street. In 1946 Vince and his parents moved to Spencer Street in New Monterey. Over time, Vince was joined by three siblings-- Salvatore, Horace (Jim), and Marianne.
In the mid-1950s Vince attended Junipero Memorial High School (now the location of San Carlos School). And, although he spent his summers working on Fisherman’s Wharf in the fish markets, he knew he would not follow his father and his grandfather Salvatore Russo into the fishing business. Two factors played a large part in determining this car
eer choice--the decline of the sardine industry and the unfortunate reality that anytime Vince went out on the open ocean, he got seasick.
In 1961 Vince joine
d the United States Air Force. He spent part of his enlistment stationed in Okinawa, Japan, working in a medical lab drawing blood from servicemen. He recalled in later years how one of his patients was Mercury Seven astronaut Alan Shepherd. After Okinawa he was transferred to Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio, Texas, before eventually finishing his enlistment at March Air Force Base in Riverside, California, in 1964.
In early 1965 he decided to look up a girl he met while on a double date back in 1961. The girl, Patricia Dickey, was not his date at that time, but she nevertheless made a lasting impression on him. On his first day back in Monterey he found Patricia. After an eight-month courtship Vince and Patricia married in late 1965, and they remained partners in life for the next 30 years.
Using the G.I. Bill, Vince enrolled in Cal Poly Pomona in 1966, and it was here during his studies that he found his calling--civil engineering. Vince graduated in 1970, just after he and Patricia welcomed their first son, Vince. Longing to return to Monterey, he was successful in landing a job as an entry-level draftsman with the City of Salinas; and the young family relocated back to the Peninsula from Southern California.
The City of Salinas was a good fit for Vince, and he received regular promotions to higher-level positions. In 1972 he began thinking about how to improve maintenance and operation of traffic signals. He noticed that routine maintenance or rewiring of traffic signal controls often required digging up portions of the road and sidewalks to get to the control panels underground. He felt that was an unnecessarily expensive method and began to look at ways to design a cost- efficient solution.
In 1974 Vince worked with his engineering colleague John Wong to design and patent the DiMaggio-Wong or DW Pedestal (U.S. Patent #3,800,063), a service pedestal that, for the first time, housed all of the electrical traffic-signal controls and conduits above ground.
This utility pedestal allowed technicians to work on critical components of traffic-signal control infrastructure without tearing out portions of the street and sidewalks. The pedestal could also be adapted for other utility-control and conduit-maintenance systems as well. While the design of the pedestal has changed over the last 45 years, some version of the DW Pedestal can be seen at almost every signalized intersection in the country.
Just a week before the U.S. Paten
t Office finalized the patent on the DW Pedestal, Vince and Patricia welcomed a second son, Christopher.
In 1975 the county enclave of Marina incorporated to become Monterey County’s newest city and by 1977 was seeking to fill key government positions in order to become a full-service city. One of the major positions the city sought to fill was a public works director, an ideal position for a skilled civil engineer. Vince, having steadily advanced through the engineering ranks in Salinas and now inventor of a key piece of engineering equipment, was the ideal candidate selected as Marina’s first public works director. It would be a position he held for the rest of his life.
Over the course of the next 18 years Vince was responsible for the engineering of countless projects throughout Marina as the city established its own identity among Peninsula cities. Whether it was new commercial, residential or industrial development, Vince would be the engineer of record for the design of the roads, infrastructure, utilities, traffic signals and parks among other things.
Aside from his substantial professional accomplishments, Vince was also a dedicated family man. He never missed a football or baseball game his son Vince played in, nor did he miss a piano recital when his son Christopher performed. And, perhaps most importantly, he always celebrated his wedding anniversary with a dozen red roses for Patricia.
Unfortunately, both Vince’s career and enjoyment of his family was cut short in the prime of his life. In 1996 Vince passed away from ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) at the age of 54.
In recognition of his many significant contributions to the City of Marina, the large park in the center of town on Del Monte Avenue was renamed “Vince DiMaggio Park.” In another tribute to his legacy both of his sons pursued professions directly related to his own. His son Vince is a local-government city manager in the San Diego area, and his son Christopher is a civil engineer in Arizona. In addition to the love of his life, Patricia, and his two sons, Vince is survived by three grandchildren, Vince, Matteo, and Stella.
DiMaggio Family 2005 photo was taken in front of a framed photo of Vince DiMaggio hanging in the Vince DiMaggio Park multi-purpose room in Marina, CA. Back row, from L-R: sons Christopher and Vince, wife Patricia. Front row, from L-R: son Vince’s children Matteo and Vince.