Francis J. “Jeep” Sanza, who had lasting fame as Gen. George Patton’s driver in World War II, died early Tuesday morning at his Napa home. He had celebrated his 99th birthday in October.
Sanza, who acquired his nickname in 1941 while in the U.S. Army. He signed his checks “Jeep Sanza.” He had a second moniker, Napa’s “milkman,” his daughter, Lavon Sanza Fagan, said Tuesday.
Sanza worked for Clover Stornetta Farms for 38 years, at first driving commercial and home delivery routes, and later as the dairy’s representative at the Napa Town & Country Fair where he would hand out free ice cream cones.
Sanza, who died at the family’s Victorian home on Third Street, gave many newspaper interviews over the years about driving a Jeep for General Patton during the closing months of World War II in France and Belgium.
Patton was one of the war’s legendary figures, inspiring fear and respect among his troops as he led the U.S. Third Army’s march across Nazi-occupied western Europe.
Even in old age, Sanza would regularly get letters from World War II buffs who wanted him to autograph photos and newspaper clippings of Patton. He was a rare living link to one of the war’s major personalities.
Sanza had a trove of Patton stories from the final months of the war. He drove a Jeep with three stars on the sides, with Patton always riding up front next to him.
The general was a paradoxical mix of orneriness and a more reflective side, Sanza told a Register reporter in 2012.
The general usually knelt in silent prayer before entering the vehicle, only to let loose with swearing during the conversations on the road, he said. When Patton was agitated, he would hit the windshield with his riding crop.
Patton, who nearly derailed his career in 1943 by twice slapping soldiers diagnosed with battle fatigue whom he accused of malingering, devoted many hours to visiting wounded American soldiers in field hospitals and handing out Purple Hearts, Sanza would recall.
After the war, Sanza returned to Napa and took a job in the ammunition department at Mare Island Naval Shipyard. Then, after a stint as a beer distributor, he joined Clover Stornetta.
He was born in Forestville, Pennsylvania in 1918. During World War II, he was stationed briefly in the Browns Valley area of Napa, where he met Evelyn Kramer and they were married.
Oliver North published a series on Sanza during the Patton section of “War Stories” and he had been to Washington, D.C. several times to speak at the Veterans National Convention.
Sanza helped out with school lunches at Justin-Siena High School and was active with the Italian Catholic Federation. He supported scholarships for the Catholic Schools in the Napa Valley.
He was the last surviving child of Nicola and Lucia Sanza (Sansonetti) who came to the U.S. from the Abruzzo Region of Italy.
He is survived by his wife Evelyn and their four children: Lavon Sanza Fagan and Nick Sanza of Napa, Christine Sanza McCall of Grass Valley and Frank Sanza of Sherman, Texas.
Funeral arrangements are pending at Claffey and Rota Funeral Home in Napa.
The scene on a Napa theater stage was as spare as could be – just a teenage girl on a bare stage, illuminating verses and stanzas as a spotlight cast light on her face.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole …
The lines of William Ernest Hensley’s “Invictus” flowed from the lips of Kristie Chau, gaining punch and momentum seemingly beyond the bounds of the high school freshman’s slim frame. The verbal drama surged in and back out again in little more than a minute, before the 14-year-old American Canyon student serenely sounded out the final words:
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
Chau and five other local teens were the stars of Napa’s Poetry Out Loud recital competition, an annual event organized by Arts Council Napa Valley. For two fortunate performers – those favored by a panel of five judges in the front row – the Monday night contest at the Lucky Penny Productions theater would be a springboard to a statewide contest and, perhaps, to a national final in Washington, D.C.
Poetry Out Loud is a joint effort of the California Arts Council, Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts to promote verse and recitation among high school students. In Napa County, local high schools sent the winners of classroom contests to the Monday event, according to organizers.
“The point is to, while bringing the poem to life, also respect the intention of the author,” said Bethany Crown, an Arts Council program coordinator and the organizer of Poetry Out Loud.
Each reciter selected two pieces from the Poetry Foundation’s online registry of hundreds of works, both classic and modern. The contrasts between one poem and the other were often jarring – and for Olivia Boles, the first to take the stage, that was entirely intentional.
While Boles chose George Herbert’s “Love (III)” “because I felt I should have something that’s lovey-dovey,” the 16-year-old Justin-Siena junior also added the acid-tongued “Abecedarian Requiring Further Examination of Anglikan Seraphym Subjugation of a Wild Indian Rezervation,” with which she opened the contest.
“It had a striking name, and some lines that mean a lot to me. I really like the challenge it makes to society; it’s hard-hitting,” she said of the Natalie Diaz composition, an attack on the conquest of indigenous North American peoples that includes lines like “Everyone knows angels are white.”
While the judges – four poets and an actor – scored performances for phrasing, physical presence and understanding, a sixth judge sat at the same table keeping track of any dropped or extraneous words; all poems are required to be recited from memory.
Sabrina Leipziger had set an especially high bar for her memory; her second piece, Mina Loy’s “Lunar Baedeker,” opens with the kaleidoscopic lines:
A silver Lucifer
cocaine in cornucopia
To some somnambulists
of adolescent thighs
in satirical draperies …
During her rehearsals, said the 15-year-old New Technology High School sophomore, “I would write it out, three or four times from memory, and then I’d compare it to the poem and ask myself, ‘Did I miss anything?’”
An hour later, the judges’ results came in; Boles was named the winner and would be entered into California’s Poetry Out Loud event March 18-19 in Sacramento. Joining her would be her Justin-Siena schoolmate Mary Cate Hyde, whose reading of Dorothy Parker’s “Love Song” had drawn the audience’s laughs with the over-the-top outbursts of the poem’s jilted lover: “My own dear love, he is all my heart— and I wish somebody’d shoot him!”
Chau, meanwhile, appeared gratified simply to have reached the finish line of a path that led her from the stoicism of “Invictus” to the warm-hearted spirit of Jimmy Santiago Baca’s “I Am Offering This Poem,” in which she wrapped her arms around herself to punctuate the narrator’s hopes for a beloved to keep the verses “like a warm coat when winter comes to cover you.”
“Relieved,” she answered afterward with a nervous exhale and laugh. “Very relieved.”
New state maps of Napa’s seismic fault zones have led the city to push back an expected vote on a controversial, long-planned housing development by at least several weeks and possibly not until spring.
A City Council decision on the Napa Oaks II project anticipated for Feb. 6 will not take place on that date, planning officials confirmed Monday night. The vote, which had not yet been formally announced, would have been the latest skirmish in a two-decade struggle over a development that would place 51 million-dollar-plus homes on a hill overlooking Old Sonoma Road – and which many nearby homeowners have fiercely opposed in its various forms over the years.
The publication Jan. 11 of updated maps charting the Napa area’s fault lines and earthquake-vulnerable areas – drawing on information gathered following the 2014 South Napa quake – requires planning officials to reassess ground safety on the 80-acre Napa Oaks property in light of enlarged fault zones there, according to Michael Allen, an associate planner for the city.
The time needed to study the results has made a February vote impractical, he said Tuesday, adding that a reassessment may be possible sometime in the spring.
Based on the latest state maps, Davidon Homes, the Walnut Creek-based developer of Napa Oaks, plans to cut additional trenches to capture the full extent of the fault zone, and a city contractor will then review the results of that survey, said Allen.
State law requires builders working in quake-prone areas to have geological studies done to keep new homes and structures away from faults or areas where faults can rupture the surface. The practice stems from the Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zoning Act, which California lawmakers passed a year after the 1971 Sylmar earthquake killed more than 60 people and caused extensive damage in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles.
Early reviews of the revised Napa seismic charts, which show the West Napa Fault in greater detail than before, have not revealed any new ruptures on the Napa Oaks property or any immediate need to reduce the number of homes, according to Allen. An existing fault zone runs from north to south through the western portion of the site, and homes are to be kept at least 25 feet away from that corridor.
A call Tuesday morning to Steve Abbs, Davidon’s vice president for land acquisition and development, was not returned.
The postponed City Council vote would mark Davidon’s latest attempt to finally break ground on Napa Oaks, which has been scaled down over the years from earlier plans to build 83 houses on the heights facing existing neighborhoods on the east and Congress Valley to the west. In December, the city Planning Commission narrowly voted against endorsing the plan, two weeks after opponents packed City Hall for nearly six hours to speak out against a project they decried as a risk to fire safety, erosion control and traffic.
The roots of the conflict stretch back to 1998, when Napa passed a new general plan that effectively barred large-scale home construction at the site by zoning it as a “resource area” with a 20-acre minimum for residential lots. After council members in 2002 denied an effort to change the zoning and allow the homes to be built, Davidon sued Napa in 2005, only to lose in Napa County Superior Court two years later.