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Resident Spotlight: John Dragoni

Originally from Boston, Mr. John Dragoni has called a lot of places “home” in his life—most recently, The Chateau Girardeau.

His travels have taken him to the highest skies and under the depths of the seas. He’s tasted bear, alligator, and every kind of lobster—but contests that New England lobster takes the cake over all of them. The only thing he hasn’t tried is reindeer. “I couldn’t eat Rudolph!” he said.

His favorite places to travel were Norway and Finland. They were sweet and wonderful people, and blonde! He explained that as an Italian American, he and his jet black hair stuck out like a sore thumb in this time there. Which didn’t stop him from making himself at home in the foreign countries he visited.

He served the country in WWII. He was sent through various types of training before finally being assigned to the B29. During his time in the service, he saw many parts of the world, like India, Burma, and Guam. His time serving inspired him to stay involved in organizations like The Marine Corps League, the Disabled American Veterans, and the VFW throughout his life.

After his time in the service, his life led him to Cape Girardeau. Coming from the northeast, it was a bit of a culture shock. “I thought everything was broken,” he said, “because everyone was always fixin to do something!”

A self-named “newcomer,” however, John was not deterred from getting involved. He quickly became invested in the Cape Girardeau community and began to put roots here and take on projects he felt close to, like the American Legion, the VFW, and even working to repaint the miniature Statue of Liberty on the corner of Broadway and West End downtown. When he arrived to town, the statue was a dull red, not at all like the real Lady Liberty. He saw to it that the color was changed to the more familiar shade of aged copper.

One of his greatest accomplishments in the Cape Girardeau community was the VFW wall. To raise funds for the organization, he started the Legacy Wall. For a donation, contributors could get their names engraved on a regular 8x8 brick that became a part of the wall. “You can see the evolution now,” he said, noting that people began to request bigger bricks. The 8x8 bricks soon became 12x12 bricks and eventually people requested large red bricks with white crosses.

During his early years in Cape Girardeau, he lived in what he affectionately referred to as a “fine and beautiful home.” When his wife took ill, they sought attention for her at various facilities but they were drawn to the hospitality of The Chateau. “Here,” he says, gesturing to The Chateau around him, “they were very nice.” Now, 12 years later, Mr. Dragoni has happily permanently relocated to The Chateau and has called it home sweet home for 2 years.

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