One of the first minority owners of the San Diego Chargers, a member of the team's Hall of Fame, George Pernicano, sadly has passed away at the age of 98, just shy of 99. He was an American businessman and San Diegan restaurateur. Along with Barron Hilton and other prominent San Diegans, Pernicano brought the Chargers to San Diego from Los Angeles in 1961. George loved being around the team and the players. He was always upbeat and fiercely proud of his team and his handlebar mustache was famous as his calling card around the NFL. He was enthusiastic and eccentric and had an appreciation for the players. He traveled with the team, and on the road, he would be up all hours of the night, either feeding the team or out in front of the hotel puffing away on a cigar. Hence his nickname, "Road Warrior." Pernicano was inducted into the Chargers Hall of Fame in 1996 as just the third non-player inducted behind Sid Gillman and Don Coryell.
George Pernicano was loved by those within the Chargers organization and was also a well-respected member of the San Diego community. Pernicano and his wife, Isabelle, opened Pernicano's restaurant in 1946 in Hillcrest, their first of what would soon become a San Diego institution. Pernicano introduced San Diego to pizza, handing out pizza by the slice for free for everyone to try. They opened Pernicano Pizza house and the Chargers' favorite Casa di Baffi (Home of the Handlebar) the famous steak and chophouse. Pernicano was famous for his veal cutlets and pork chops and being the first hand tossed pizza. In its heyday, the venues were hot spots for movie stars, famous athletes and special events.
Isabelle died in 2012 after 72 years of marriage that produced two sons, Garry and Larry, six grandchildren, Tony, Michelle, Tina, George, Aimee and Andrew and 14 great-grandchildren.
George Pernicano was born in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, into an Italian family of 11 boys and one girl. He served in the Army Air Corps during World War II long with his 10 brothers.
Pernicano was an icon and a San Diego legend that has left a tremendous legacy to those around him and his family and franchise. But, beyond that magical giant he so vivaciously lived up to he was also a loving husband, father, brother, cousin, uncle and a grandpa. George always had a kiss, handshake or hug for you. He taught by example and believed everyone should earn his or her own place in this world. He was bigger than life as we understand it. He was the Rock of the Pernicano family, the true heart and soul, the patriarch. He will be forever missed and loved.
Every Charger game he will be thought of puffing on his cigar enjoying the show as always with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye.
George passed away peacefully in his home with family Thursday morning.
The Prayer Vigil will be held on October 24th at 7:30pm at Our Lady of Grace.
Service will be held to celebrate George's life on Tuesday, October 25th, Mass will be at 11:00am at Our Lady of Grace at 2766 Navajo Road, El Cajon, CA 92020.
Burial rites will follow immediately after at Holy Cross at 4470 Hilltop Drive, San Diego, CA, 92102.
In lieu of flowers the family request that donations be made to the NFL Player Foundation.
Please include In Memory of George Pernicano on the notes line of each check.
NFL Player Care Foundation
PO Box 4746
New York, NY 10017