James R. Grasso passed with peace and grace at his home in Sonoma, surrounded by his loving family, on May 3, 2014, at the age of 88. He was a happy person whose life was guided by his purpose, “La Familia.”
Jim was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, to Antonietta Palermo Grasso and Philip Stasi, the fifth of six children. The family moved to Southern California when he was very young, and there he sang opera, winning a national contest declaring him, “The Young Caruso.” As a young man, Jim served his country as a Marine and enjoyed interesting jobs such as cleaning swimming pools for famous Hollywood stars, steeple-jack and store manager for A&P Grocery stores.
In 1949, Jim was called to San Francisco to help his beloved brother in-law, Victor Tomera, run It’s Tops Coffee Shop on Market Street, which still exists. He met the love of his life, Jutta. They enjoyed a 50-plus-year marriage, raising four children, and opening their loving home to many others who became extended family. Jim had a long career in the grocery industry and was a proud member of the Retail Clerks Union, Local 648.
In 1980, Jim moved his family to Sonoma Valley where he earned his state general contractor’s license and started his contracting firm, Grasso Construction, he was happy with the creative work and proud to have followed in the footsteps of his father. He could fix most anything. A beloved dog often accompanied him. A gentle, kind and confident man, he was an avid sports fan, coach, fisherman, pool player, bowler, competitive card player, motorcycle rider and a terrifically smooth dancer. People from all walks of life enjoyed his natural sense of humor and will miss the treats he baked with contractor precision and delivered personally with a captivating, genuine smile. Jim was curious to learn what he would find on the next step of his journey as a human being.
Jim is survived by Jutta; his elder sister, Alda Tomera; and brother, Bindo Grasso; his baby sister, Betty Vizzini; and his children, James R. Grasso II, Tina Grasso Shone, Sean Anthony Grasso, Antoinette (Nettie) Grasso Herrick; seven grandchildren; a great-granddaughter and many nieces and nephews.