Eugene R. Principato, surgeon

Eugene R. Principato
Eugene R. Principato
Posted: February 24, 2014

Dr. Eugene R. Principato reflected the legacy of doctoring Italian Americans in South Jersey that his immigrant father had established in the 1930s.

His father, a physician in a small town in Calabria, had come alone to the States in the early 1920s to be trained in the ways of American medicine at Harvard University.

Only in 1930, after completing his Harvard studies, was the elder Principato able to bring to America his wife and family, including the 9-year-old son who would follow in his footsteps.

Just as his father had been, Dr. Principato became "a household word in Southern New Jersey, particularly with the Italian community," son Eugene M. said.

On Wednesday, Feb. 19, Dr. Principato, 92, of Cherry Hill, a general surgeon in Camden since the 1950s, died at home.

Dr. Principato and his older brother, Luigi, also a physician, followed similar career paths.

The brothers were sent to the Hun School of Princeton, Dr. Principato's son said, "because they didn't speak English, and it was a strict environment, a boarding school."

After graduating, they went on to Georgetown University and its medical school, where Eugene studied to be a general surgeon and Luigi pursued a course to become a general practitioner.

As World War II wound down in 1945, Dr. Principato became an Army physician with military duties that kept him Stateside.

He joined a Camden surgical practice, and, at the end of the 1980s, left to become a surgical staffer at what is now Cooper University Hospital.

"What I was always told," Dr. Principato's son said, "was that my grandfather was the first Italian doctor in Camden to serve the Italian community," having moved from South Philadelphia with that in mind.

It had been years since Dr. Principato returned to Calabria to visit relatives, his son said, because many had been able to earn enough to move to better jobs in northern Italy.

"I went myself," his son said. The family town in Calabria "was very destitute."

A member of the Order Sons of Italy in America, Dr. Principato also belonged to the Metropolitan Philadelphia chapter of the American College of Surgeons.

He had been a member of the Tavistock Country Club since the early 1960s.

In addition to his son, Dr. Principato is survived by his wife, Letitia; daughters Letitia Allman, Josephine Ceccoli, Francesca McClay, and Elise Principato; two brothers and a sister; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Visitation was set for 9 to 10 a.m. Monday, Feb. 24, at Old St. Joseph's Church, 321 Willings Alley, Philadelphia, before a 10 a.m. Funeral Mass there, with interment in Harleigh Cemetery in Camden.

Donations may be sent to St. Ignatius Loyola Academy, 300 E. Gittings St., Baltimore, Md. 21230,

Condolences may be offered to the family at

610-313-8134 @WNaedele

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