TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — Salvatore DiMarco, a fixture in the medical community at Travis Air Force Base, California, died Dec. 10, 2020, at age 85 of heart failure after a battle with cancer.
Between active-duty service and volunteering, DiMarco was a part of Travis AFB for more than 40 years.
DiMarco was the child of Italian immigrants, born Dec. 2, 1935, in Atlas, Pennsylvania. He joined the Air Force in 1958 serving as a medic at multiple bases in Germany, as well as Scott AFB, Illinois and the former Plattsburgh AFB, New York. He arrived at Travis AFB base in 1979. He retired as a chief master sergeant in 1988 after 30 years of service.
From then until 2020, DiMarco spent 20 hours a week volunteering at the Air Force’s largest hospital, David Grant USAF Medical Center. He volunteered in the medical center’s dental clinic, pharmacy and optometry departments, doing tasks such as dispensing medications, shredding papers, greeting patients and more.
Those who knew “Chief,” as so many called him, describe DiMarco in glowing terms.
“Chief was like a ray of sunshine,” said Darlene Causito, 60th Medical Diagnostics and Therapeutics Squadron pharmacy volunteer coordinator. “He really brought positive energy to the pharmacy. He was always greeting people, always smiling, always asking how you're doing, concerned about your well-being, actually genuinely interested in you.”
That’s exactly how he was according to his daughter, Maria Brana, an account executive for Alpha Media’s Vacaville, California-based KUIC 95.3 FM radio station. He was proud of his Italian heritage, she said.
“If you had a hint of anything Mediterranean in your body, he called you ‘paisan,’” she said, an Italian term of affection meaning “friend.”
He used the term over the years for many who passed through Travis. After retiring in 1988, he volunteered at DGMC to stay connected to his military life.
“I wanted to work because I wanted to stay active and I had a lot of friends in the military,” he said in a 2011 story in the Daily Republic newspaper based in Fairfield, California.
Causito said volunteering was important to DiMarco.
“It seemed like he was pretty passionate about his volunteering,” she said. “Even after retiring, he just had that energy and drive in him. It seemed to really make him happy, being here.”
In March 2020, the coronavirus pandemic prevented DiMarco from volunteering at DGMC. However, he found time to visit with Airmen when he came to the base for his medical appointments. That was how he saw Senior Airman Xavier Laws, 60th Operations Medical Readiness Squadron optometry technician, for the last time, receiving the news that the Laws family was expecting a child.
“He was teasing me about it. ‘Wow, Laws, you’re having a kid and you’re still a kid,’” Laws said. “He was super excited. … He told me has was proud of me and I would do great.”
Brana, who was with DiMarco during the visit, said he was happy for Laws.
“Dad just lit up when he found out that news,” she said. “I never saw him light up like he did when he was with his military family. They made a big difference in his life. I'm not sure he would've lived the last 30 years of his life if he hadn't been out there volunteering.”
Lori Diaz, 60th MDTS pharmacy secretary, said DiMarco served as a mentor to many.
“He was a role model for the younger Airmen,” she said. “To see a person of his age be as vital as he was and as productive as he was. He was a very caring person and to be that dedicated that he would come here said a lot for his character.”
Brana said her father’s character made a lasting impression.
“I remember when I was a little girl, my dad used to take me to the clinic where he worked,” she said. “People just respected him. I remember asking him about that one time. He said something I thought was really good to learn. He said, ‘You don't always want to respect the man in the uniform, but you have to respect the uniform. When you do respect the uniform, you respect the man a little bit more than you thought you might.’ I take that advice seriously as an adult.
“I’ve been in marketing for 30 years. I feel like the integrity that I got from my dad and his ability to teach me about respect taught me to respect my clients. … It has a lot to do with watching my dad respect others.”
DiMarco’s family will host a memorial for him via Zoom from 11 a.m. to noon Jan. 30. The meeting ID is 890-249-37723 and the passcode is “family”.
DiMarco was interred Jan. 5 at the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery in Dixon, California.