He is a well-tanned man, exquisitely polite, who is often seen at the microphone during citizen comments at the Largo City Commission meeting.
Before he launches into whatever subject matter he wants to talk about, he elaborately introduces himself - "My name is John AT-ah-nat-zio."
The introduction is necessary only by operation of the commission's rules which demand that any citizen wishing to comment must give his name and address. There is an element of gilding the lily in this because the citizen must have already, perforce, filled out a card with the same information.
Why all of this, no one knows. Probably just a compulsion of officious government (with German overtones) that wants to act like bureaucrats. One learns from another in that league, doncha know?
Actually, no introduction is necessary for John Atanasio, who is as familiar figure in Largo as anyone could be. Better known, perhaps, than some of the individuals who sit up on the dais.
And with more life experience - absolutely, without question - than any of them.
It began for Atanasio many years ago in the land of the Romans and those who have come down to us from those people have inborn in them many of the characteristics that carried their ancestors to great success.
Romans were running the world when the folks of northern Europe and the British Isles were painting their bodies and running around the woods bare naked.
Atanasio came here as a very young and tender youth. He learned English the hard way - through immersion and struggling among school mates. There was no move on in those days to have Americans learn the language of those who came to join us. They just had to do it.
But he learned and learned more than the language. He learned how to live in this country and learned that hard work and good citizenship were the keys to a happy life.
That may sound corny to some who these days think that one gets on by getting over on people. Not John Atanasio. He became a good citizen.
When this country got into the nastiness that dominated the world from 1939 to 1945, Atanasio was one of those in uniform.
He wound up flying B-24s - those big four-engine behemoths that brought destruction to Nazi occupied Europe. The amazing part is that he flew 50 missions or so and survived. Keep in mind that the casualty rate - in round figures - for our bomber forces in Europe was about 50 percent.
What is wonderful is that those guys from WW2, who put it on the line, never behaved as though what they had done was any more unusual than just doing one's duty.
The "greatest generation" tag which was written about by this agent long before Tom Brokaw picked up the idea and ran with it (based on something I had written) was as accurate and applicable a characterization that has been put on any group in this country's history.
Atanasio came home, had his family, went into business, prospered and succeeded.
We're lucky he came to Pinellas County to add to all the other wonderful attributes of paradise.
Talk to John, who is always relaxed, always in good humor, sweating nothing, obviously knowing the value of life because he had seen death close up, and you get the picture - no big deal.
And it's the guys who exemplify "no big deal" who are a big deal.
The Bible talks about that, doesn't it?
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