Valentino “Val” Chickinelli loved restoring antiques of all kinds, but he especially loved working on old automobiles.
In fact, he loved old cars so much that by 1969 he had accumulated more than 100 and had no place to store them.
“He had to take a partner,” said son Mark Chickinelli, chuckling. “It got out of control.”
Val Chickinelli, 89, who had a serious stroke three years ago, died Friday from complications of the stroke.
After graduating from Omaha South High School, he went straight into military service and World War II. He served in the special weapons battalion of the Fourth Marine Division from 1942 to 1946. When the war ended, he went to work in the family business, Omaha Plating Co.
But it was his love of antiques that gave him the greatest pleasure, his son said, adding that he and his father “were some of the original pickers,” going out every Saturday in search of prizes.
Chickinelli's work at the plating company led naturally to his hobby of antique car restoration, his son said. The last project was a 1932 Chevy Cabriolet convertible.
Chickinelli's company, Omaha Plating, helped fabricate and did all the finishing work on Omaha sculptor John Lajba's Daytona 500 trophy, a miniature replica of the Harley J. Earl Trophy awarded to the annual winner of the stock car race.
“He was a real craftsman and artist, above all things,” Mark Chickinelli said.
Val Chickinelli learned to fly and owned a World War II-era plane, which he kept at the North Omaha Airport. He would ride his Harley-Davidson to the airport whenever he wanted to fly.
“He lived life pretty large,” his son said.
His dad also loved golf, fishing, Italy and being with family.
In addition to son Mark and Mark's wife, Connie, Val Chickinelli is survived by his wife, Mary, and their children and spouses Nick and Kim Chickinelli, Annette and Michael Bigley, and Joseph and Lani Chickinelli; and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
A funeral service is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. today at the John A. Gentleman 72nd Street Chapel.