Extraordinary people live in our midst. On any given night at Prosecco Trattoria, you may be lucky enough to run into one of them: 96-year-old Jack Rogo, one of the few remaining survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor, has been frequenting the restaurant nearly every night for about seven years.
Rogo was born in Boston but grew up in Los Angeles, attending Belmont High School downtown. He joined the Navy at 18 and trained in San Diego, recalling, “On my 19th birthday, May 22, 1940, I remember sailing underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. Little did I know at the time that I would not make it back to the United States until over three and a half years later.”
Stationed on Ford Island in the middle of Pearl Harbor, Storekeeper Third Class Rogo was having breakfast in the mess hall on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked. At first, he and his fellow servicemen were told that the attack was just maneuvers. As the horror of the situation became clear, he ran to the boat landing, helping pull survivors out of the water, half carrying, half dragging one to the dispensary. Later, armed with a .45 automatic, he joined others on the roof of the supply department building to keep watch.
After assignments in the Pacific fleet, Rogo was stationed at the aviation supply depot in Philadelphia, where he “took a liking” to Marine Corporal Winifred Jacobs. The two were married for 61 years, and Jack still lives in the North Hollywood house they purchased in 1947, where they raised their two sons.
An accountant by trade, Rogo only fully retired a few years ago, calling work his salvation after Winnie passed away in 2006. He worked out of the Valley National Bank Building at 10221 Riverside Drive (currently Wells Fargo) from 1964 to 1994. “That’s where my office was, that’s why I like this area,” he says. He remembers a lot of bygone businesses in the area, including Chapman’s Ice Cream shop and Alfonse’s restaurant.
Rogo stays physically and mentally active, participating in school programs for Veterans Day, WWII commemorative events and travel with his favorite companion, granddaughter Meredith (a third-generation accountant, he notes proudly). He has even learned a little bit of Zulu from “honorary” granddaughter South African actress and director Xolile Tshabalala. He also gets up at 5 a.m. every day to row his 1,000 meters. “Then I go back to sleep,” he says.
Of course, his favorite daily ritual is seeing his Prosecco family. “I like the atmosphere and how they treat me here,” he says. The feeling is mutual. “Jack is a kind, giving soul, with amazing knowledge and humor — and sharp as a knife,” says Prosecco’s general manager, Eric Avallone. “When he has alternate plans and is missing from his normal dining, we all feel a slight void in our routine here. Other regular customers inquire when he’s out, too!”