By Jack Mariano
A look back into the History of Parkesburg, you will find a man known as “Jerry” but his given name was Neno.
Neno Joseph DaPrato, the son of Italian immigrants, was an All American college football player who was born on January 14, 1893 in Iron Mountain, Michigan.
Jerry was a high school football star before his alma mater, Iron Mountain High School, even published a yearbook. Jerry was the only athlete from that school who went on to become an All American, even though many fine athletes have played for IMHS.
After high school, Jerry enrolled in Agricultural College Of The State Of Michigan which later became
Michigan State University. DaPrato excelled on the Spartans team and lead the nation in 1915 scoring fifteen touchdowns, twenty eight extra points and two field goals for a total of 124 points.
Jerry, listed at 5’10” and 180 lbs. accomplished this in only six games for that season. A dual sport participant, he also played basketball during this same year.
However, the star failed to be recognized for his excellence due to inaccurate records until forty years later when, in 1952, a former MSU sports editor spied DaPrato’s name while thumbing through a national sports record book. Until then, DaPrato had never been listed as an All-American in Spartan Record books.
Recalling the 1915 season to Ron Kohls, DaPrato said, “As a freshman, I did a lot of ball carrying, but in the two succeeding years, I was a blocking back. After Carp graduated, I again became a ball carrier. During my senior year, everything seemed to break pretty well and besides, someone had to carry the ball.”
Jerry was inducted into the U.P. Sports Hall Of Fame in 1986 and the MSU Athletics Hall Of Fame in 2001. DaPrato was listed on the roster of the Detroit Heralds in 1921 as a fullback.
Jerry DaPrato served his country in World War I and achieved the rank of Second Lieutenant in the Field Infantry. He received two, gold chevronsindicating two – six month tours overseas.
Jerry served with the 32nd Division and fought in the Meuse – Argonne offensive. According to Wikipedia, The Meuse-Argonne Offensive, or Maas-Argonne Offensive, also called the Battle of the Argonne Forest, was a part of the final Allied offensive of World War I that stretched along the entire western front. It was fought from September 26, 1918, until the Armistice (November 11).
During his time in the military, Jerry met his future wife, Elizabeth Parke who was serving with the American Red Cross. The couple married and moved back to Parkesburg, settling on the family estate at the east end of Main Street.
DaPrato operated a chicken farm on the property beginning in the 1920’s through the 1940’s and some of the chicken houses can still be seen standing behind the stately mansion today.
But raising chickens were not Jerry’s only passion, as he became involved with serving his community. DaPrato joined the Parkesburg Fire Company No. 1 in 1932 and he became one of the organization’s most active members. N. J. DaPrato is listed in many fire company records and he served on a committee which supervised the building of the new fire hall which was dedicated on June 27, 1935.
This building has also served the community as Borough Hall and is today used as headquarters of the fire company. He is also listed as chairman of the 1935 carnival committee and he succeeded Alfred C. Clarke as Fire Company President in 1936 and served as treasurer from 1946-1955.. Jerry was honored by the company at a testimonial dinner and he was deemed a Life Member of the organization on December 27, 1955.
DaPrato served on the organization committee of the Parkesburg American Legion Post and according to records he served as Chief Air-Raid Warden during World War II. As his health eventually began to decline, DaPrato became gradually less involved in community activities.
Neno Joseph “Jerry” DaPrato passed away on April 29, 1984.