- About Us
Albert E. RifinoApril 12, 1925 ~ June 10, 2017 (age 92)
Albert E. Rifino, a fighter pilot, flight instructor, computer engineer, inventor, multi-instrument musician, organ enthusiast, high school pugilist, husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather, and who preferred being called Mr. Wonderful, The Venetian Prince, #1, Primo, or just plain Al, made his final landing (a/k/a Gone West in the pilot fraternity) on June 10, 2017. He was 92.
A lifelong resident of Dunellen, he was the son of Carl (born Rionero in Vulture, Italy) and Rose (nee Rebuth of Brooklyn) Rifino. He attended St. John the Evangelist Parochial School and Dunellen High School. He was a member of the high school boxing team, and earned the nickname Primo in honor of his favorite fighter Primo Carnera. He played alto saxophone and clarinet in the high school orchestra and marching band. He continued to perform for the rest of his life with bands and for family and friends on sax, clarinet, organ, accordion and guitar.
In 1942 Mr. Wonderful enlisted in the Army Air Corps as a cadet pilot pending his high school graduation. He attended the Casey Jones School of Aeronautics prior to induction and assignment to OCS at the University of West Virginia. He received his wings and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in August 1944. Upon completion of advanced flight training, he was assigned as a co-pilot in B-29s until the war ended, and then became a flight instructor in T-6 Texans at Randolph Army Airfield in San Antonio, Texas.
After his discharge, #1 attended Rutgers University and became engaged to Joy Danker. He was hired by IBM in 1948 and he and Joy were married several months later. He had a successful 37-year career with IBM, including twice winning the prestigious “IBM Means Service Award.”
Primo was recalled to active duty shortly after the Korean Conflict started. He was assigned to the 133rd Fighter Squadron flying P-47 Thunderbolt and F-84 Thunderjet fighters, and served as base photo officer. He retired as a Captain in the USAF after 20 years of active, reserve and National Guard service.
While at IBM, the Venetian Prince started Organ-tronics. A devotee of Hammond organs, he invented two sound effects that soon became popular with professional and amateur musicians, including Blood Sweat and Tears, Santana, and Meatloaf; Yankee Stadium organist Eddie Layton; and Tonight Show bandleader Paul Shaeffer. He was the “go to” organ tech in Metro NJ/NY for more than three decades. He was a member and office of the Hammond Organ and the NY Theater Organ Societies for many years.
He was a member of the Dunellen Rescue Squad for 20+ years and served as its Secretary and Treasurer. He was on the committee to build a new WWII memorial on Washington Park.
Al piloted well into his eighties and was checked out in more than 50 single and multi-engine piston and jet aircraft. He served as Treasurer of the national P-47 Fighter Pilots Association, as Beam Man for the Somerville Hanger of the Quiet Birdmen, and President of P-47 Thunderbolt Advocates. He was a member of the Milville Army Air Field Museum.
Al and his beloved wife Joy, who passed in 2003, were the proud parents of Joy of Mount Pleasant SC, wife of Joseph Demarest; Janet of Long Beach CA, partner of David Herman, Carl of Astoria NY, partner of Francesca Favretto; Christopher, late of Corpus Christi TX; Julie of Green Brook NJ; Jerome of Piscataway, NJ, husband of Elizabeth; and Jennifer of Mandeville LA. Their children gave them thirteen grandchildren and six great grandchildren.
Services will be at Sheenan’s Funeral Home, 233 Dunellen Ave in Dunellen. Viewings will be from 2-4 and 7-9PM on Wednesday, June 14, 2017 A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at St. John the Evangelist Church, where Al was a lifelong communicant, on Thursday June 15 at 10:00AM. Burial will follow at Holy Redeemer Cemetery in South Plainfield.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Mr. Wonderful's name to Millville Army Air Field Museum (www.p47millville.org) or Dunellen Rescue Squad.