102-year-old WWII vet celebrates 75 years of marriage

From love at first sight to seven decades together: A generation that really knew how to live …

Nicola Mainelli, along with thousands of other young Americans, flocked to enlist in the United States Army following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Serving the country proudly in the African and European theatres, Mainelli was a sergeant in the Army Air Corps. Mainelli was deployed to Palestine in January 1942. 

He was able to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre before embarking on his unit’s African campaign. He always believed it was his prayers at the site of the crucifixion that kept him safe during the war. But Mainelli was led by Divine Providence in other, even more incredible ways.

In November 1944 Mainelli received permission to return to the United States on a 30-day furlough. The combat leave was a raffle prize, which Mainelli won. While at home, he was able to marry the love of his life, Santa. The two had met in the jewelry factory where they were employed in 1939. As soon as he saw her, Mainelli proposed. The happy couple organized in just 30 days an engagement shower, bachelor party, wedding and honeymoon! Following their Nuptial Mass at St. Ann Church in Providence, Rhode Island, they spent one week together in New York City.

Nicola and Santa were married for almost 75 years. He passed away this week, just days shy of his birthday, his wedding anniversary, and Veterans’ Day, at the age of (almost) 102. The couple spent 70 years together in a home they owned on Badger Road in Providence. When asked about the secret to a happy marriage, Mainelli would gently suggest, “It is the Lord.”

Mainelli belongs to a generation of men and women who really knew how to live. He and his wife were avid socialites. They enjoyed music and dancing, cards and the golf course, bowling and neighborhood parties. In the army, Mainelli had been a band leader. He kept his love for singing and performing his whole life. All of this and more was theirs, without missing Sunday Mass. When they became homebound, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion visited every Sunday. Their Catholic faith was a central and key part of their married life.

In his last days, Mainelli prayed, over and over, “Lord, cleanse me of my sins.” For many years, his family attests, he had been afraid to die. However, his daughter Barbara recalls, he was not afraid that day. On the day he died, she said peace came over him, as if he suddenly knew what to expect.

Mainelli also used to write and sing songs to his wife. One of his originals goes: “Say that our love will never stray, dear, just like a dream you came to me. Ours is a love just meant to be. I love you more and more every day, dear.”

For Christians, our loves are bound up in our love for Christ. Strengthened and confirmed by the graces of the cross, our every aim is to be numbered one day among the saints.

Someday, may our voices join the exultant hymn of praise of the angels, for there, gazing upon the face of God, our love will grow more and more without end.