Julio August Sandino
September 29, 1933 to November 17, 2020
Julio Sandino was born in 1933 in Merced to Italian immigrant parents, Guido Sr. and Carola. After serving in the Italian army and landing in the United States at Ellis Island, Guido Sr. arrived in Merced in the 1920’s to seek a better life. He was single and worked with a marriage service to find a beautiful bride from Italy. And he did! Carola arrived from Lucca, Italy and they started a family together working as farmers as part of a vibrant Italian-American community in Merced.
As the youngest of three brothers, Julio lived his entire life in Merced, the valley farming community that he loved and where he thrived. Julio grew up on his parents’ farm located on 13th and V Streets where he learned from his parents the value of hard work, how to appreciate life with an Italian-American flavor, and the art of growing tomatoes and onions and making wine. He graduated from Merced High School in 1953, where he was a four-year basketball varsity letterman setting several school scoring records as a 6’3’’ forward, including most points in one game, thirty-six. This record made a lasting impact on the small community where everyone knew each other, as even decades later friends and fans would remind him that “Sandy (his nickname) broke the record!” In his senior year, he was named to the All Yosemite League, All Northern California, and All Central California basketball teams. He received the best student award in woodshop at graduation.
After graduating from high school, he trained at Fort Ord and served honorably in the United States Army, 18th Infantry, from 1953 to 1955 as a rifleman and corporal. He was stationed in Germany during the Cold War, where he made the regimental basketball team. He met Rita Albiani, the daughter of Italian immigrants from Pieve a Elici who settled in Livingston, one summer at the Merced Packing Shed on 15th street, just a few blocks from his home, and, upon his return from military service, courted her. As Dean Martin would sing, “That’s Amore!” They were married at Sacred Heart Church in Merced in 1956, started to raise a family, and began their married lives and careers. Rita worked for doctors as a medical office manager, where she was known for her professionalism and helpful attitude with patients. Julio started his own business, Sandino’s Custom Cabinet Shop, which he owned and operated for forty years until he retired, designing and building each cabinet by hand. He converted animal and storage sheds on the original family farm on 13th Street into his first cabinet shop.
His wood work was not just his career, but his art and passion. The nature of walnut, birch, ash, and oak where his favorite topics of conversation. As he was a skilled craftsman and perfectionist, the quality and beauty of his cabinet work was legendary and still graces hundreds of homes and commercial buildings in Merced County, as well as in Tahoe, San Francisco, and Yosemite. When building cabinets, his moto was, which he reminded his employees frequently, “Do it right . . . or don’t do it all!” He later became a general contractor and built many beautiful homes in Merced, including his own family’s custom homes that he lavishly filled with his oak cabinets.
Julio enjoyed spending every Sunday with the entire extended family eating a delicious Italian lunch expertly prepared by Carola and Rita, mushroom hunting in the winter with his brother Guido, and fishing in the summer with his good friends from high school, among them Raymond “Slug” Hayes, Dick Macias, and Bill Spielman, at Lake McClure or some secret fishing hole that only a lifelong Merced resident would know about. He especially enjoyed sharing his passion for basketball by teaching his children how to play. He taught both his daughter, Julie, and son, David, the one-handed set shot that he was famous for in high school . . . even though that shot had become obsolete! As a life member of the Italo-American Lodge and the Elks, he thoroughly relished socializing and competing with his lodge brothers and especially enjoyed playing and winning the Italo bocce tournament several times and the Elks’ wrist-wrestling and dice competitions. His entire adult life Julio grew in his large, backyard garden prize-winning tomatoes, onions, and garlic—the secrets of which he learned from his parents--which at harvest time Carola and Rita would turn into a homemade Bolognese sauce. Delizioso!
After a slow decline, Julio passed away recently at eighty-seven years old in the presence of his family. His custom cabinets and the affection and lasting memories he shared with his family and friends will live on.
Julio was preceded in death by his father, Guido Sr. and his mother, Carola, both of whom had the courage to immigrate from Italy, cross the Atlantic Ocean in overcrowded ships and the continental U.S. by unfamiliar railroads, and arrive in Merced, a city of few thousand then, in search of a better life; his oldest brother August, who was killed in combat during World War II while serving in Europe; and his older brother Guido Jr., with whom he had a lifelong special brotherhood and friendship. Julio is survived by his beloved wife of sixty-four years, Rita, who cared for him patiently and dearly as he became less capable toward the end of his life; his daughter Julie Sandino, son-in-law Rusty Areias, and grandchildren Alexis and Austin of Walnut Grove; and son David Sandino and daughter-in-law Georgina Valencia of Davis.
Remembrances and prayers will be held at Ivers & Alcorn Funeral Home at 901 W. Main St, from 4pm to 7pm on Monday, December 7, 2020. A rosary for family members will be held at 7 pm. Please wear your mask per public health rules. Interment with military honors will be held outdoors at the Calvary Cemetery at 260 W Childs Ave, Merced, CA at 10 am on Tuesday, December 8, 2020 With Sandino family regrets there will not be a reception due to the virus.
In lieu of flowers donations can be made to the charity of your choice.