Amanda Claire Curcio
August 12, 2015
It has been decades since the end of World War II, but 94-year-old Army veteran Rocco Giordano continues to serve.
For more than 12 years, 25 hours each week, Giordano – known as “Mr. G.” at Montford Middle and Gilchrist Elementary schools – has helped teachers prep classroom displays and lesson materials and performed other administrative tasks.
He also brings with him a smile and a few amiable wisecracks.
“I try to go wherever I am most needed,” he said. “I want to best support the people that are taking care of students.”
Giordano’s endeavors have not gone unnoticed. Last week during a Cabinet meeting, he received the Champion of Service and the Governor’s Veterans Service awards from Gov. Rick Scott.
In his nomination submitted to Volunteer Florida, Principal Lewis Blessing wrote, “Mr. G is one of those special volunteers who makes volunteering and giving back to the community a lifestyle.”
Giordano’s hard work was evidenced outside the classroom as well, said Volunteer Florida CEO Chester Spellman.
“He is a powerful influence in the lives of countless children,” said Spellman, “and is worthy of statewide recognition.”
Giordano began donating his time when a son’s friend, a Gilchrist teacher, remarked that the school could use extra hands. When Montford opened, some of the teachers who had worked with him encouraged him to steer his efforts there, too.
Helping others was not new for Giordano, who spent his time in the Army facilitating the opening of dozens of hospitals across the U.S. for seriously wounded World War II veterans.
“Whatever had to be done, I did it,” he said. “Whether it was cooking, driving, fixing things. The doctors and nurses had so much on their plates.”
After an honorable discharge, Giordano and his wife moved to Florida in the 1950s. They had two sons. With the tremendous influx of soldiers returning home after the Axis Powers surrendered, it was initially a challenge to land a traditional full-time job, Giordano said. He took on odd jobs here and there to get by until Florida’s economy boomed and he became a receiving clerk.
Decades later, volunteerism has become a way of life for Giordano, who found the ennui of retirement too much to take sitting down. The teachers, staff and students at both schools have become family.
“I think I would have gone crazy doing nothing,” he said. “I have good relationships with everyone here and I feel like I am doing something that makes a difference.”