Ahwatukee Foothills residents Anthony Serra and Philomena Rossi have been through a life that a Hollywood writer could turn into a script and call it his or her masterpiece.
Serra and Rossi celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary in September 2011. All those years ago, Rossi was living in Italy, and Serra had just come out of the U.S. Army and was living in New York City. As it was, their meeting almost didn’t happen. Rossi was living in Naples when bombing began during World War II and continued for weeks while she, her brother, and about 200 people lived underground to avoid the blasts. Somehow, she said, she and her brother were the only two to survive.
Back in the United States, Serra was visiting a family he had befriended in New York City and saw a picture of his wife to be. He had never met her in person but that wasn’t about to stop him from going after her.
“I saw her pictures and I was taken by her,” Serra said.
As it turned out, his instinct and drive turned fruitful. He traveled to Italy to meet her. They married on Sept. 22, 1946 in Naples, and soon after she returned to New York City with him.
She came away from the bombing with a strong opinion on war and the politics behind it.
“War is a terrible thing,” she said. “Why do I have to hate you and bomb you, when I don’t even know you?”
As for Serra, his brother was also in the war, but was on the opposite side. He eventually went AWOL and fled before the Italian government could get to him.
“They wanted to arrest him,” Serra, 89, said. “Later, after the war, we had him over to our house in the United States a few times. But we never talked about the war. Only a couple times would he want to talk about it.”
After working as a butcher and meat manager in New York for 40 years, Serra retired and the two eventually moved to Ahwatukee Foothills in 2002. However, in 1997, he had a quadruple bypass, performed by none other than TV’s Dr. Mehmet Oz. For about 15 years, he experienced little to no problems. But last year that changed.
“I would only walk a couple feet before my heart started to hurt,” he said.
Serra returned to New York’s Presbyterian Hospital where doctors told him he would benefit from what is called the Edwards Sapien valve insertion, but the problem was there was a waiting list about eight to 10 months long.
“He really didn’t want to wait,” his son, Louis Serra, said. “He was ready then and wanted to do it.”
Serra came back to Phoenix and spoke again with his cardiologist and was informed that a transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) could be done at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center.
A noninvasive procedure, TAVI was performed on Serra by Dr. Michael Caskey and Dr. Timothy Byrne on Aug. 23, 2011.
“They are the most beautiful people,” Serra said of the doctors. “They didn’t act like doctors. They would give me a hug every time I saw them after.”
He turned 90 years old on Feb. 9 and Rossi will be turning 87 in August of this year.
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