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 Angelo Alessio

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Angelo Alessio

  • Birth 22 Jan 1917 USA
  • Death 1 May 2008 San Diego County, California, USA
  • Burial Unknown
  • Memorial ID 40409201

Angelo Alessio; humble youth, later great business success

By Blanca Gonzalez

May 11, 2008

After the tomato fields in Mission Valley had been picked over, Angelo Alessio's father would take him and his brothers to go through the culls. The rejects would be used in Alessio family meals for the week.

It was the 1920s and the family with seven sons – scraping by on money made shining shoes and cleaning a pool hall and barbershop – was just starting its ascent from poverty to an era of wealth, power and success.

Angelo Alessio, the last of the Alessio brothers, died of natural causes May 1 at his La Jolla home. He was 91.

Mr. Alessio could be gruff and tough in both business and personal life but was also known for being generous and caring.

At the height of their success, the Alessio brothers owned or were involved with several local landmarks, including Caliente Racetrack in Tijuana, the Hotel del Coronado, the Kona Kai Club and Kona Inn, the Westgate Plaza Hotel, Mr. A's restaurant and the Fifth Avenue Financial Center.

The Alessios owned some businesses individually or together, but the Caliente Racetrack, which they never actually owned, was where six of the seven brothers worked together after brother John was hired to run the racetrack in the late 1940s.

Angelo Alessio was in charge of facilities management at Caliente. In his 1999 memoir "Only in America: The Story of the Seven Alessio Brothers," he wrote that he sometimes had the task of hosting important guests such as movie stars Elizabeth Taylor, Victor Mature or Ben Gazzara.

Among Mr. Alessio's early jobs were running errands for older brother John, who then worked for a bank in Tijuana. He later worked for Pepsi-Cola when brother Frank owned the Southern California franchise.

Mr. Alessio went to work as a salesman at International Harvester and eventually owned a distributorship in San Diego. In his memoir, he wrote, "We all had our own little businesses, and we stuck together. When one of us got into a good deal, we brought in our brothers, which made our forces pretty strong."

Mr. Alessio started his business Alessio Motor Sales on El Cajon Boulevard in 1945 and eventually relocated to Federal Boulevard on Highway 94, a move that many saw as risky, his son Lawrence said. "It was a bold move. There was nobody out there then," he said.

He also formed Alessio Leasing, which holds and operates commercial real estate properties.

Friend and former employee Bill Tollefson said Mr. Alessio was a true salesman. "He was outgoing, friendly and engaging. He could be tough, but he was always fair," Tollefson said.

Mr. Alessio worked hard for his success.

"He was a crusty guy who didn't put up with any baloney. He liked things done and done right now," Tollefson said. "He was also there for people in their time of need, whether it was to listen or to lend a few bucks on the QT."

Angelo Alessio was born Jan. 22, 1917, in Clarksburg, W.Va. He was the sixth of seven sons born to Domenic and Rosa Alessio, Italian immigrants who moved to San Diego about 1920.

He graduated from Hoover High School and wrote about hitching rides to school because he couldn't afford bus fare. The family of nine lived in a three-bedroom, one-bath house and also took in a boarder to help with expenses.

Mr. Alessio met his wife, Mardell, in 1935, and they married May 1, 1940, in San Diego. Through the years, the couple had three children and went from a tiny cottage to a 5,500-square-foot home on Mount Helix.

Mr. Alessio's life wasn't without its rocky times. In 1960, brother Tony was kidnapped and held for ransom. The FBI was called in, Tony Alessio was released, and the kidnappers were caught.

In 1971, Mr. Alessio and his brother John were convicted of income-tax evasion. Mr. Alessio paid a fine and served less than half of a one-year sentence.

Although he routinely worked six days a week, Mr. Alessio enjoyed fishing, hunting and traveling. He was a member of the Safari International Club and traveled throughout the world.

Longtime friend and fishing buddy Harry Stadille said any fishing trip with him was bound to be "100 percent fun."

"He was a great guy and people just really liked him," said Stadille, who credited Mr. Alessio for his own career success.

"I was a janitor at Cottonwood Golf, and by the time Angelo was done with me, I was part owner," he said. "To get a recommendation from Angelo was like getting a recommendation from God."

Stadille said he started as a janitor while working his way through college and met Mr. Alessio through mutual friends. It wasn't until later that Stadille learned Mr. Alessio had recommended him for a higher position at Cottonwood.

Mr. Alessio is survived by his wife, Mardell; daughter, Rosalie O'Brien of La Jolla; sons, Lawrence of Solana Beach and Steven of La Mesa; eight grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

Private services have been held. Donations are suggested to the San Diego Alzheimer's Foundation or to the American Diabetes Association.

Family Members


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  • Created by: Geraldine "Gerry" Humes
  • Added: 7 Aug 2009
  • Find A Grave Memorial 40409201
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Angelo Alessio (22 Jan 1917–1 May 2008), Find A Grave Memorial no. 40409201, ; Maintained by Geraldine "Gerry" Humes (contributor 46795684) Unknown.