Homeland Resident Pino Filardo: From Italy to Pennsylvania


World War II came directly to Pino Filardo’s childhood hometown of Catanzaro, Italy.

The beautiful capital of Calabria, known as “the City of the Two Seas,” was under siege from bombings. Even his school was bombed, but young Pino wasn’t there that day because he was home sick. Most of his family was able to escape to a nearby mountain village.

“A lot of people died, and we were very, very fortunate to get out of the city,” Pino said. “My father and oldest brother stayed in the city, and one bomb got close to where my brother was, but thank God, nothing happened.”

Pino is one of Homeland Center’s newer residents, bringing a sense of humor and stories of perseverance. He and his wife, Janet, are happy with their attentive care and his bright personal-care room overlooking the Fifth Street garden.

His journey to Homeland began with a move from his native Italy to the United States. With his artistic skills, he forged a career with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and you can even see his artwork on some iconic Pennsylvania license plates.

Pino was the third of eight children in his Mediterranean town, near the “toe” of Italy. His parents met during a pre-Lenten carnival.

His father, who owned a large stationery store, hated dictator Benito Mussolini, but he had to keep quiet to protect his family.

Pino’s birth name was Giuseppe, after St. Joseph, but that was a mouthful for a small child to pronounce, so his mother called him Giuseppino, diminutive for “Little Joe.” Soon, his family shortened it to the manageable nickname of Pino.

As a young man, he studied art in Naples for one year and then went to Rome, where an uncle lived. He emigrated from Italy at age 28 after meeting his first wife and coming to her hometown of Mt. Carmel. The adjustment to life in a quiet, coal-region town was difficult.

“I didn’t know any English at all,” he said. “The only thing I knew was ‘yes’ and ‘no.’”

But he persisted, learning English by watching TV shows.

“I learned words and how they’re pronounced day after day,” he said. I started with the numbers: one, two, three, four, five. As soon as I got to 12, I said no more.”

His first job in the U.S. was with an engineering firm, drawing warehouse designs. Someone told him that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, now the Department of Environmental Resources, had an opening for someone with artistic skills. He took his portfolio to a supervisor, who looked it over and asked, “When can you start?”

His title was “cartographic supervisor,” but his duties varied. He drew maps and designed book covers. When the state wanted to produce a “Conserve Wild Resources” license plate, Pino designed the familiar plate depicting an owl – in Italian, it’s “gufo” – sitting on an evergreen branch.

After 30 years of marriage, Pino’s wife died of cancer. In time, he enlisted with a dating service and met Janet, whom he married in 1986. For her 50th birthday, he drew adorable pictures of Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Together, they visited Pino’s childhood hometown and where his father had his business.

When they first visited Homeland, Pino and Janet toured the room that is now his home. Large windows overlook the Chet Henry Memorial Pavilion and adjoining garden, with its fountain, seating, and winding path.

“I was mesmerized,” Pino said. “I said I would like to go here. The sunshine is fantastic.”

Janet agrees that the view helped convince her that Homeland was the place for Pino. Plus, she was impressed with Homeland’s excellence in medical care.

“Our doctor said this is the best place in the whole area for total care,” she said. “We like this little cozy room.”

Pino added: “They are so nice. They treat me like I was here 10 years.”