Duke was born on December 25, 1919. His parents, Giocondo and Maria Vincenze, had recently emigrated to the United States from a village in Salerno, Italy. He’s done some interesting things. He was a sergeant in WWII and fought at Normandy in France, where he was badly injured. The foxholes were so tight, the men had to huddle in pairs with their arms around one another. There was no room even to pee. That’s how he survived. His buddy got up to use the bathroom and when he returned, they switched places. They were hit in an explosion and his buddy was killed instantly. Duke survived with bad burns and the loss of a finger.
Duke had a pretty interesting life back in the states, too. He ran a gambling operation in his basement, which made him a lot of friends, but required payments to certain prominent neighborhood “businessmen” in exchange for “protection” from the law. He married a pretty girl from the neighborhood, made a living as a house painter, and became an avid gardener as the years went by, famous in his family for his yearly crop of peerless tomatoes and the figs from a tree planted by his father, the first of his family to step foot on American soil. He celebrated his 95th birthday last Christmas, and his favorite food remains lasagna with homemade tomato gravy.
An interesting dinner of lasagna with homemade tomato gravy: