Manuel Luis Campanella, 90, of Fairfield, died Feb. 6, 2010, at St. Vincent's Medical Center.

He was born to a Spanish family living in Lisbon, Portugal, as his father was an engineer working on the port of Lisbon.

Campanella was predeceased two months ago by his wife of 66 years, Vera G. Campanella. He was also predeceased by his brothers, John Campanella of Monroe and Joseph Campanella of Alicante, Spain.

He is survived by his two daughters, Vera Campanella DeStefano of Westport and Aurora Campanella Musicant of Wilton; as well as his nieces and nephews in the U.S. and Spain.

Campanella was brought up in the Mediterranean coastal town of Alicante, Spain, and was a veteran of the Spanish Civil War. He served in the Republican Air Force and fought alongside American volunteers from the Abraham Lincoln Brigade against fascist forces. During the war, he not only maintained airplanes but also flew reconnaissance missions. He became a prisoner of war in a camp controlled by the Germans and later by Italian fascist forces assisting Gen. Franco. Franco ultimately became the dictator in Spain for almost four decades. Campanella was released at the conclusion of the war in 1939.

He became a professional soccer player for the Hercules and Alicante teams, and eventually played for Real Zaragoza's First Division Soccer Team. He played professionally for a number of years until a knee injury concluded his athletic career.

Campanella had a natural proficiency for anything mechanical. He opened his first business, a bicycle shop in Valencia, Spain. He also spent two years in Spanish Guinea (Africa) installing and maintaining machinery to support a plant for the extraction of oils for export. He emigrated to the U.S. in 1951. Fairfield became his and his family's permanent home.

As a master mechanic he worked for various companies before opening his own repair shops and gas stations. He owned his own businesses from the 1960s throughout the 1980s. He had a magnificent work ethic, rarely taking a vacation.

His greatest joy was supporting his wife, daughters and watching them thrive. During his retirement, one of his hobbies became repairing bicycles, making them serviceable, and donating them to charitable organizations such as The Children's Connection in Norwalk.

Campanella truly enjoyed helping others. He was the salt of the earth, honest, courageous and generous to neighbors, friends, loved ones and even strangers. Words cannot express how deeply he was loved and how profoundly he will be missed.

Services will be private and at the convenience of the family. Arrangements have been entrusted to the Spear-Miller Funeral Home, 39 South Benson Road, Fairfield.

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