Leo Croce will serve as grand marshal of the Livermore Rodeo Parade. He was a hero during WWII and a hero to children through his lifelong career in education.
Joe Turnage, former Principal of Marylin Avenue School, remarks on Croce’s contributions, “As with so many members of America’s greatest generation, Leo Croce never sought to be a hero. He fought in the biggest conflict in human history, because America’s freedom was being attacked and it was the right thing to do. His bravery, courage, and dedication are something that my generation has always admired. His story should be remembered – not only at the school that bears his name, but for future Americans who might wonder what this great worldwide cataclysm was all about. We owe a huge debt of thanks for the fly boys of the Eighth Army Air Force and the others who served in World War II.”
Leo wrote his memoir, “Mission Completed,” in 2018. In it, he describes serving as a combat co-pilot, flying a B–17 Flying Fortress with the 8th Army Air Force to targets over Europe. He was awarded the Air Medal with a silver and bronze cluster, the European Theater of Operations with two bronze stars, and the French Jubilee Liberty Medal. He also received the American World War II Victory Medal and the American Campaign Medal with Bronze Star.
After the war, he attended U.C. Berkeley, thanks to the G.I. Bill. He then took a year of graduate studies, earning his teaching credential. He started teaching in Oakland and spent the next 25 years as a teacher, coach, counselor, vice principal, junior high and high school principal before becoming a superintendent. In 1973, he became superintendent of the Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District, a position he held for 16 years. Two years after he retired, Leo R. Croce Elementary School was named in his honor.
Leo was born May 14, 1923 in Oakland, California. He was the fourth of four children born to Italian immigrants who came to the US through Ellis Island. They were preceded by many relatives, who also settled in the San Francisco Bay area. In 1906, Leo’s father Felice Croce, followed other brothers and sisters on the trail to America from Soglio in the Italian province of Asti. His mother, Francesca, arrived in 1912 from the nearby city of Turin in northern Italy. They married in 1914.
Young Leo grew up in the San Francisco Bay area during the vibrant time of the of the 1920s. In those pre-depression years, his family and relatives worked in the food industry. Some of them started restaurants, a butcher shop, as well as a delicatessen. Leo’s mom continued to pursue a career as a talented seamstress for the exclusive ladies department store, I Magnin.