Vincent Francis Yannone
Vincent Francis Yannone, 85, a well-known stained-glass artist and owner of ViJon Studios-Stained Glass and Repairs, passed away peacefully at his home in Old Saybrook Jan. 27 after a long illness. Born in Hartford May 22, 1936, to Vincent and Anne (Bertucci) Yannone, he lived an artistic, inventive life devoted to helping others.
He is survived by his loving wife of 59 years, Carol B. Yannone; two daughters, Sandra L. Yannone of Washington State, Elizabeth A. Yannone of Pennsylvania; a son and daughter-in-law, John and Corinne Yannone of New Hampshire; Cousin Ruth Staum; and several other cousins. Vinnie was predeceased by his parents; his beloved aunt, Frances B. Reid and her husband; grandparents; and many aunts, uncles, cousins and several good friends.
Vinnie’s early life experiences influenced many of his choices to work/volunteer to save lives. During the Hurricane of ‘38, Vinnie, age two, narrowly escaped injury when his mother scooped him out of his crib seconds before a tree came crashing through his bedroom window, crushing the crib and other items in his room. At age eight, he survived one of the deadliest fires in U.S. history, the Hartford Circus Fire of 1944 (Read his account in the June 1999 issue of Yankee magazine, http://www.circusfire1944.com/yankee-mag-jun-99.html).
Growing up in the north end of Hartford, Vinnie was always busy. He loved inventing and playing games, his Lionel train set, building race car models, and hanging out with his friends. In his teens, he loved playing his drum set and other instruments, riding his Indian Chief motorcycle, ice hockey, swimming. Vinnie graduated from Suffield Academy in 1955, where he played varsity ice hockey. During high school, he also took classes with the U.S. Power Squadron, and joined the Springfield Squadron in May 1954. In late 1954, he joined the Air National Guard’s 103rd Material Squadron to learn firefighting at its Bradley Field Crash and Rescue unit. After Suffield, he continued with the Guard, attended an electrical technician school, and in 1958 worked for the State of Connecticut as a State Highway Construction Inspector for a year.
In 1959 he founded the V. F. Yannone Construction and Engineering Co., Inc, which specialized in driveways and storm and sanitary sewers. His father, a civil engineer, taught him how to bid jobs for municipalities, and Vinnie became a highly respected A-1 Contractor working for the MDC, the City of Hartford, West Hartford, Wethersfield and surrounding towns.
During the summer of 1962, a friend introduced him to Carol and on their first date he took her to Old Saybrook’s iconic Castle Inn on Cornfield Point. After dinner, complete with a violinist, he showed her his grandmother’s cottage, a long-cherished summer meeting place with his friends from the Hartford area and surrounding shoreline. He and Carol fell in love and were married in April 1963 in her hometown of Gloucester, Mass. Since his construction business was slow, he took a job with the State of Connecticut Crash Station at Bradley Field for one year. Their first child was born in the spring of 1964; and they moved to their first home in Bloomfield in 1965. The couple had two more children in 1967 and 1970. The construction business was busy, and in his spare time he invented the Multi-P Pipe Plug, a product, that used a laser to lay sewer pipes and became an important tool for sewer contractors. Vinnie also joined the Bloomfield Volunteer Fire Department, and trained their first Scuba-Dive Team after the tragic drowning of a young boy in a local swimming pool rocked Bloomfield.
He connected his knowledge of construction, passion for ice hockey, and neighborhood hospitality to build an outdoor ice rink on the side of the family’s home. Complete with outdoor lighting and sound system, the rink drew neighborhood kids and adults alike daily each winter. In a feature article in the early 1970s, the Hartford Courant named Vinnie the “Pied Piper of Bloomfield”.
When the mid-70s’ oil crisis slowed his construction business, he transformed a stained-glass hobby into a new business venture in 1975. He sold off the construction business equipment, named the business ViJon Studios Inc. and eventually had two salesmen peddling his Tiffany-style lamps throughout New England, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania; the business operated as a home studio in Bloomfield until the family moved to Old Saybrook and he renovated his grandmother’s house for their home.
Vinnie joined the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary in 1973 and became a member of Flotilla 21-7 until recently. He also signed up as a U.S. Coast Guard Reservist in late 1973 and served as a DC1 (Damage Controlperson Petty Officer first Class) and later qualified as a small boat Coxswain and Engineer in Search and Rescue. Along with the regular “Coasties,” he saved many lives on Long Island Sound and in the Connecticut River. All his training prepared him well for a cold, April day in 1994 when a four-year-old boy fell into the pond on the edge of ViJon’s property. Vinnie dove into the brisk water, pulled the boy up from the bottom, and performed CPR with the mother helping. Police arrived just as he took his first breath. They administered oxygen and called for LifeStar to transfer him to Hartford Hospital. The boy was in a hyperbolic chamber with an induced coma for three days but survived. Vinnie was awarded the U.S. Coast Guard’s Silver Lifesaving Medal, one of only 2,000 since Congress established the award in 1874. He was awarded other decorations and awards during his service until his mandatory retirement in 1996. He and a friend established Saybrook Towing and Salvage in 1994 to help boaters in peril. He left the towing business 2 years later because of time constraints.
Throughout his remarkable life, he was always on the move—-racing cars in rallies around New England in his 1962 hardtop/convertible Corvette; downhill skiing across New England with his best friend Mel Katz; camping on Block Island with his son’s Boy Scout Troop 51; ice and roller skating; kayaking; treasure hunting; serving as a stage manager for Dance With Gina recitals; running his 1936 wooden boat, Whoopla #6, up and down the Connecticut River, Jazz festivals, riding his Raleigh bike along Rte. 154 to Saybrook Point — always connecting with people he met along the way. In his later years, he enjoyed playing his keyboard, building boat and airplane models for his adult children, riding his Kawasaki Vulcan 750 motorcycle with his dear friend Joell and the New London Motorcycle Club, and enjoying a Dairy Queen for a treat with his family. How much we miss him is equaled only by how much we love him — his boyish grin, warm eyes, quick wit, and cherished laugh.
A Memorial Service to celebrate his life will be held at 11 a.m. on July 9 at Grace Episcopal Church, 338 Main Street in Old Saybrook. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to Mind Matters, Forgotten Felines, the Acton Public Library, or a life-saving charity of your choice. A special thank you to Companions & Homemakers and Hartford Health Care Home Hospice who helped ease the way for us to say our goodbyes.