John Intravia, 101, French Line Executive

May 16, 1916 - Nov. 21, 2017
John Intravia, May 16, 1916 - Nov. 21, 2017

John Intravia, a 101-year-old resident of Clearwater Beach in Springs, died at St. Catherine of Siena in Smithtown on Nov. 21. A man who knew five languages, his knowledge of French led to his first job, on a French line passenger ship (Compagnie Générale Transatlantique), and a long career with the company. 

He was born on May 16, 1916, in Corona, one of two sons of Andrea Intravaia and the former Beatrice Radicelli. His parents were immigrants from Monreale in the province of Palermo, Sicily, and he grew up knowing Italian as well as English. His family said a French couple in Corona doted on him and taught him French and about French culture.

At the age of 21, he was hired as a temporary summer employee for the French line, but when September arrived and other workers left, “he summoned the nerve to show up, hoping that someone would just say, ‘Go work over there,’ ” and that is what happened, his family wrote. By that time, Mr. Intravia had added Spanish and some German to his lexicon.

His first job paid $18.50 a week, and that made him a family hero, his family said. He rose through the ranks with the French line, eventually becoming manager of passenger operations and sailings, which included lengthy postings in London and Paris. From time to time, he also sailed on the S.S. France and S.S. Normandy as an executive assigned to V.I.P. service. However, even when he retired after a 30-year career, he was still listed as “temporary.”

Mr. Intravia’s knowledge of five languages was of interest to the Army during World War II, in which he saw combat in the infantry. He had expected the Army would assign him to the European Theater in keeping with his knowledge of languages, but he was sent to the Pacific.

Mr. Intravia married his childhood neighbor, Louise Rossi. They built the house in Clearwater Beach in 1958, next door to his brother’s house and the houses of two brothers-in-law. The family enjoyed going to the popular local hangout, Jungle Pete’s, on Fort Pond Boulevard in Springs. He and his wife moved here year round in the 1970s. His wife and their son, Larry Intravia, died before him.

His survivors include his nieces, Laraine Intravia Aharoni of Manhattan and East Hampton and Jacqui Rossi Donlon of Milton, Mass., and East Hampton, and his nephews, Dr. John Intravia of Venice, Fla., and Bart Rossi of New Jersey. Eight great-nieces and great-nephews also survive.

Mr. Intravia loved listening to Edith Piaf, his family said, and they played “La Vie en Rose” for him during his final hours.

A funeral Mass will be said at Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church in East Hampton at noon on Saturday. He will be cremated and the urn with his ashes will be buried alongside those of his wife and his son at Most Holy Trinity Cemetery.