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Prominent ear, nose and throat doctor

Dr. Mario Mansuewas first his family go college.

Dr. Mario Mansueto was the first in his family to go to college.

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Updated: August 19, 2013 4:03PM

His parents came from a rocky hilltop Italian town where times were so hard — and food often so scarce — that people referred to them as “la miseria” — The Misery.

Dr. Mario Mansueto, who was born near Naples in Montefalcone (“Mountain of the Falcons”) to parents with a rudimentary education, went on to become a respected ear, nose and throat doctor who practiced for nearly half a century in Northwest Indiana.

He died Saturday in his sleep at his home in Munster at age 87.

Around 1917, his father, Donato, began coming to America for stays that extended for years, as he made his way in his new country. Though he went home three times, it amounted to a decade-long separation from his wife, Carmela. Donato Mansueto worked on railroads in Duluth, and eventually made his way to Calumet City, Ind., where he toiled in a chemical facility.

In 1928, he was able to afford to bring his family to the United States. Mario was 3 years old.

Despite a limited education, Donato Mansueto saved his money and eventually owned seven homes in Northwest Indiana that he rented out, said Mario Mansueto’s son, Daniel Mansueto.

The young Mario experienced the immigrant sense of otherness. “He would take his lunch to school, and he would be the only kid whose lunch was in folded newspapers, and everybody else had wax paper,” said another son, Joe Mansueto. “I think he aspired to the wax paper.”

He went to Thornton Fractional High School in Calumet City, where he golfed and competed on the wrestling team. His teachers recognized his math talent and work ethic, and they encouraged his studies, relatives said. He became the first person in his family to attend college when he went to Purdue University.

Being college-bound was somewhat unusual in that place and era, “because there were so many jobs in the steel mills,” said his son, Joe.

Still, he remained a child of the Depression. “He would send his laundry home from Purdue to have it done in Hammond, Indiana, because his mother would do it, to save a few pennies,” Joe Mansueto said.

He went on to the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago, completed an internship at Cook County Hospital, and did a fellowship in surgical oncology.

In 1950, as the Korean War warmed up, Dr. Manseuto served at Scott Air Force Base, where he was a captain and ear, nose and throat doctor.

He met his future wife, Sara, a nurse, in the hallways of the University of Illinois Hospital. They raised their family of four children in Calumet City and Munster.

“He was well-liked by patients, as well as very well-respected by colleagues and junior physicians,” said Dr. Malek Massad, head of cardiothoracic surgery at the University of Illinois Medical Center. Dr. Mansueto was one of the first to use lasers in otolaryngology surgery, he said.

He taught at the University Of Illinois Medical Center, and was a fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the American College of Chest Physicians and a diplomate of the American Board of Otolaryngology and the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

In the 1960s, he brought his wife and children to visit his Italian hometown, where they were greeted with joy and warmth. The Mansuetos were feted with multi-course dinners at the home of relative after relative, with second and third cousins — all named Mansueto — coming to meet them.

Back in the 1970s, Dr. Mansueto was a proponent of running before it really caught on. “When we were running on the [Munster] streets, it was kind of exotic,” Joe Mansueto said. “People would look at you.’’

He was proud of his children and their accomplishments. Three survive him: Connie, an osteopath; Daniel, an attorney, and Joe, who is the founder of Morningstar investment research and an investor in Wrapports LLC, the parent company of the Sun-Times

One of Dr. Mansueto’s biggest challenges came when his 42-year-old son, John, a financial adviser, died 10 years ago from complications from West Nile virus. “That was the hardest thing my dad ever dealt with in his life,” Joe Mansueto said.

Dr. Mansueto’s wife, Sara, died five years ago after 54 years of marriage. In addition to his children, he is also survived by his brother, Raymond; his sister, Filomena Wagner, and seven grandchildren.

Visitation is 2 to 6 p.m. Thursday at Burns Kish Funeral Home, 8415 Calumet Ave., Munster, Ind. A funeral mass is planned at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Maria Goretti Church, 500 Northgate Dr., Dyer, Ind. Burial is to follow at Assumption Cemetery in Glenwood.

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