Astoria craftsman killed in Iraq bombingHe was a quiet man who didn't socialize much, but it seems just about everybody in Astoria knew Tony Stramiello Jr., who was killed Tuesday when a suicide-bomber attacked a U.S. military base in Mosul, Iraq.
Stramiello, 61, was working as a carpenter foreman for Kellogg Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton Co., helping to rebuild war-torn Iraq. He was one of four Halliburton workers killed.
The U.S. military is reassessing security measures at bases across Iraq after it was determined that a suicide bomber carried out the attack after infiltrating the base.
"All of a sudden the war comes close to home," said John Lansing, a close friend for 15 years. "I went through this drill with Vietnam and now it's happening again," said Lansing, manager of the Astoria branch of Wells Fargo Bank.
"He and I were trying to put together some loans last March," Lansing said. "The next time I called was in May." Stramiello's wife, Roberta, answered the phone, he remembers." 'He's in Iraq,' she said. 'Well get him out of bed,'" I said. 'No, not in the rack, in Iraq!'"
Lansing said his friend was looking for a little adventure and planned to stay in Iraq for just six to eight months.
"He was doing what he wanted to do and hadn't been able to do before," said Polk Riley, who lives across the street from the 121-year-old mansion on 12th Street that Stramiello 'Tony was just a pleasant, genuine, decent human being.'- John Raichl
retiring county sheriff about his fellow pilot, Tony Stramiello Jr.and his wife were restoring. "He knew it was the right thing to do," said Riley. "He was a good man and I'll miss him."
Stramiello also leaves two sons, Anthony and Michael, both of Bend. He is survived by two sisters and his father, Anthony Sr., who lives in Arizona. No details of funeral arrangements have been announced.
Restoration fameTony and Roberta Stramiello's considerable efforts to renovate the 1883 Ferdinand Fisher House have been highlighted in articles in Northwest papers and newsletters. The 10,4000-square foot building is listed on the National Register of Historical Places and has a colorful history which included a stint as a brothel, as well as a judge's home in the 1930s and a boarding house for World War II soldiers. It was neglected and vandalized for many years before Roberta Stramiello bought it for $50,000 in 1986 and they began working to restore it.
The Italianate-style house has 20 rooms, and was a 20-year project, Tony Stramiello told one interviewer. The project has attracted a $10,000 "Preserving Oregon" matching grant from the State Historic Preservation Office and statewide and local applause for its authenticity and scope.
In March 2002, the Historic Preservation League of Oregon hosted a program at Portland's Hollywood Theater devoted to celebrating four restoration projects in Astoria, including the Stramiellos' house.
"He was having a great time," said Linda Oldenkamp, also a member of the Lower Columbia Preservation Society. "He hadn't been able to serve when he was young and he really wanted to do this."
Like the Stramiellos, Astoria City Planner Rosemary Johnson and her husband, Curt, have been renovating their historic home. "They were fixing their house just like we were - living in a house that was always under construction." Tony Stramiello would get wood and plane it down himself by hand. His work was meticulous, Johnson said.
'Very caring'Teri Latham, whose husband, Roy Latham, purchased Astoria Business Equipment Company from Stramiello 14 years ago, said she was shocked when Tony Stramiello announced last year he would be going to Iraq. "We were all surprised when he went off, but we all felt that it was something he had to do. He's a real good man and very caring," Terry Latham said.
Teri Latham said he was very patriotic to offer his skills in remodeling and restoration to work on buildings in Iraq.
"It's really sad, especially when these guys are back there trying to rebuild. He was just a really nice man," Latham said.
When Tony Stramiello succeeded his father, Tony Sr., as owner of Abeco, customers would wonder why it was sometimes so dark inside the store. The answer is that Tony Jr. was allergic to fluorescent lighting. Johnson said the allergy kept him from serving on city committees, but not from giving his input at Astoria City Council meetings when necessary.
"If he was going to speak at City Council, we would put him in the lunch room so he could hear what was going on," Johnson explained. Stramiello would enter the fluorescent-lit council chambers to speak, and exit as soon as he was finished, she said.
Stramiello went to Iraq in April and had been scheduled to come home in February for his second leave and to return home for good in May, said his sister, Rochelle Stramiello-Johnson, 60, of Astoria. Ironically, he had been working on a new cafeteria.
"He was a very fine carpenter. That's what he went to Iraq to do," she said, noting that a desire to serve his country led him to Iraq: "He always felt that he had wanted to go into the service, but the timing was always wrong for him. It was a wonderful opportunity for him," she said. "He was very happy."
She said Roberta spoke to him every day. "We were always in contact with him," said Stramiello-Johnson who wrote to her brother every month. She received e-mails in return, the last one early this month.
Stramiello assured his relatives that he was safe, his sister said, but they grew concerned after hearing about the blast near Mosul. "We had been watching the news all day, and knew he was in Mosul. So we were very uncomfortable," the sister said.
'A good thing'John Twiss, owner of Twiss Air Service in Astoria, said Stramiello volunteered for the job "because he thought he was doing a good thing."
Twiss said Stramiello's cousin, Gary Mauro, has been in Iraq helping to rebuild the U.S. Embassy and he had encouraged Stramiello to join him.
"He was at the age, he couldn't be military, but he was over doing what he could," Twiss said. "The wages were good, too, but as much as for the money, he went because he felt he was doing a good service."
Twiss described Stramiello as an accomplished instrument pilot, who had been flying for at least 30 years, and recently inherited his father's Piper Comanche. Twiss learned of Stramiello's death Wednesday afternoon from Clatsop County Sheriff John Raichl, a fellow pilot.
"It was a pleasure to know him and a heartbreak to hear what happened," Twiss said.
Raichl recalled teasing Stramiello about his ponytail, but said Stramiello was always good-natured about his jokes. The two visited each other while working on their planes at the hangar, and occasionally met for lunch, Raichl said.
"He was someone who didn't have to impress anyone," Raichl said. "He was competent at business, competent at flying. Tony was just a pleasant, genuine, decent human being."
Stramiello also had started a business, Securacom Tracking Systems, designed to allow business owners to track the location of company vehicles.
Gary Ryan, owner of Securacom, worked with Stramiello in that venture. "He gave 110 percent in our business prospects and made a serious effort to make a go of everything he ever put his hands on."
"He liked it. He said it was hotter than hell," said Ryan, who got calls and e-mails from Stramiello. "He was a free-spirited kind of guy. It fit his lifestyle."
'Fine athlete'In addition to his carpentry and aviation skills, Stramiello was an athlete, "probably the finest athlete Astoria has ever produced," said longtime friend Hal Snow, an Astoria attorney. "To watch him play handball at the YMCA, which he did for years, was poetry in motion. He was truly ambidextrous," Snow said.
Lansing, the bank manager, said Stramiello also had a great sense of humor and enjoyed sport fishing. But his great passion was handball. Lansing and Stramiello and other members of what Lansing called "the tight-knit fraternity of handball players," played at Portland's Multnomah Athletic Club.
Wally Palmberg Jr., who now practices law in the Portland area, used to do a lot of salmon and sturgeon fishing with Stramiello in Astoria, and had played handball with him since high school. He said Stramiello played in state and regional tournaments and once took second place in a national tournament.
"Tony was a fierce competitor on the handball courts," said Palmberg, "but when he walked off the court, he would do anything for you."
Palmberg was surprised that Stramiello decided to go to Iraq. "Myself and quite a few other people thought he was crazy," he said.
A few days ago, an e-mail arrived from his friend. "Then I saw what happened on the news and realized that's where Tony was. So I sent an e-mail and of course there was no reply," Palmberg said. Another handball player contacted him with the news that Stramiello had been killed.
The Associated Press and The Oregonian contributed to this story