August 17, 2006 ~ August 15, 2006
Merl R. Tognetti, 1915 - 2006
Merl Richard "MR" Tognetti came into this world on August 17, 1915 in Lompoc, California and passed away on August 15, 2006 at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrance.
During those 91 years, his early life and outlook was shaped by hard work on the family farm, fellowship amongst the Swiss-American community along California's Central coast, high school sports (Lompoc High, Class of 1933). The great Depression may have greeted Merl and his classmates after graduation but he found a way to work through this in dairies, packing plants and marinas in small towns with names like Guadalupe and Lodi.
Merl often mentioned that the Depression was going so strong that the start of World War II was "the only thing" the pulled the country out and gave some like him, opportunities. It seemed more like a higher sense of duty that Merl acted on when he enlisted with the Army Air Corps.
Between 1942 and 1944, Merl found himself supporting the 444th Fighter Group as a Technical and Staff Sergeant. As a whole, the 444th supported the Allied effort in North Africa and Italy. By mid 1944 it was scheduled to move to the Pacific Theater, where the Group's P-38 Lightning's could be highly effective in helping to end the war.
Before that deployment could happen, the Group was de-commissioned and Merl re-entered civilian life back in California. Lompoc became home for awhile, but more moves and changes were in the works. The most important was his May 1950 marriage to Irene Inez Pata, another Lompoc product who had grown up on her family's ranch along Jalama Road.
As Merl began a career with Convair and American Airlines in the booming post-war economy, the newlyweds moved to San Diego and Inglewood, California before settling in Manhattan Beach. There they bought a house and started a family: Arlene was first to arrive, followed by her brothers Gil and Ron in 1954 and 1955.
During the next two decades, Merl's determination to work consistently at enhancing his skills and providing a safe and simple life was not lost on his children. Throughout the many disruptions of city and suburban life, illness and disagreements, his house and home would always be the center of the steady effort that he put into raising a family.
Merl acknowledged his origins, but it always was most important to impress on his children that their education - and their progress in the world - needed to be pursued consistently. By the time he retired from American Airlines, Merl had about 30 years of memories to go along with a fierce interest in gold, which he played with many of his fellow AAer's. Merl enjoyed cycling on the Strand as well, but the car trunk only had room for golf spikes and clubs - no bike rack here!
His grandchildren were also the focus of his concerns, and Merl was comforted to hear how busy and engaged they had become as the matured. Every conversation, in person or over the phone, seemed to center on the health and activity of the grandkids. Merl's last few years saw him confined largely to home, but as visitors and his homecare team will attest, he continued to amuse and inform with recollections of youth, war and work.
Merl Tognetti is survived by sisters Senta and Shirley, brother Paul, daughter Arlene and son Ron, as well as grandchildren Peter, Christina and Lauren.
Sign the Guestbook, Light a Candle