Philip A. Rapisarda, a retired insurance executive and author who was active in Italian-American cultural affairs and various charitable organizations, died June 28 of congestive heart failure at St. Joseph Medical Center. He was 89.
Mr. Rapisarda, the son of an Italian immigrant brick mason and a homemaker, was born in Baltimore and raised in Govans. He was one of six children, two of whom died at an early age because of the influenza epidemic.
"He was a Depression kid and reminisced about working in a food market for 17 hours on Saturdays for $2 per day," said his daughter, Joanne M. Seward of Homeland. "That money went toward groceries for the family. Each child held the responsibility of contributing to the survival of the family, and all worked at odd jobs."
Mr. Rapisarda graduated from City College in 1939 and began working in insurance.
During World War II, he served in the merchant marine aboard cargo and troop ships in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters of operation, as a medic and staff officer.
After the end of World War II, Mr. Rapisarda returned to Baltimore, where he worked during the day as an insurance man while studying law at night at the University of Baltimore. "It took him five years of night school," said Mrs. Seward, who said her father was elected to the Heisler Honor Society because he attained the highest grade-point average for his class.
Despite passing the Maryland bar examination in 1950, Mr. Rapisarda never practiced law, and instead continued working in the insurance industry. In the early 1950s, he established Maryland Insurance Agency Inc., which he merged in 1971 with Kroh, Miller & Knight Insurance Agency.
Mr. Rapisarda, who was a guest lecturer at Towson University and at local companies and high schools, retired from Kroh, Miller & Knight in the mid-1980s.
Because of his interest in charitable matters ethnic, social and educational, Mr. Rapisarda established two nondenominational and nonsectarian perpetual scholarships, one at the Peabody Conservatory of Music and the other at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland.
He was a longtime and active member of Associated Italian American Charities, where he was the recipient of the organization's Frank C. Marino Award for his work and philanthropy.
"Phil was a man of integrity who was well-liked by everyone," said the Rev. Gregory A. Rapisarda, a nephew and a recently ordained Roman Catholic priest. "He had a strong work ethic and intellectual curiosity."
Because of his memories from the Great Depression, Mr. Rapisarda was known for "assisting the downtrodden and homeless," his daughter said. "He would befriend the homeless of the city, offering financial assistance, food and money for shelter at night," she said.
Father Rapisarda, who is assistant pastor at St. Louis Roman Catholic Church in Clarksville, said his uncle was "always willing to help the less fortunate."
"He had a great heart for those who did not have advantages," he said.
For many years, Mr. Rapisarda lived in the 600 block of Lake Drive in Towson, near the Country Club of Maryland, before he moved in 1998 to the Ridgely Condominium in Towson.
"Our yard backed up onto the seventh fairway," Mrs. Seward said. "He befriended two caddies who would often scour for golf balls on his property. Through the years, he provided jobs for them, purchased their homes, and took care of their children in various ways."
Mr. Rapisarda enjoyed writing and collecting books.
He also wrote and self-published a paperback book that included two sections: "The Italian Influence on Western Law" and "The Italian Influence on the Spread of Christianity." He also had written and published "Building America From 13 Colonies to 50 States."
He also liked painting landscapes in oil and collecting antiques and art.
"You couldn't leave his presence without learning something," Father Rapisarda said.
For more than 30 years, Mr. Rapisarda suffered from profound hearing loss as a result of a medical error and a benign brain tumor in 1976. "He never let that handicap deter him in any way. He was a man of fortitude, grit, determination and untold generosity," his daughter said.
His wife of 44 years, the former Blanche DeVincentis, died in 1990.
He was a communicant of St. Leo Roman Catholic Church in Little Italy, where a Mass of Christian burial was offered Friday.
Also surviving are four grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.