John Kanelos, a Florin native who flew 57 bombing missions during World War II, died at the age of 93 on Sept. 3.

This Elk Grove High School graduate enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force on Sept. 24, 1943. He trained at a gunnery school in Yuma, Arizona, and received radio and radar training in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Taking an overseas assignment, John became a member of the 15th Air Force, 450th Bombardment Group, which flew out of southern Italy.

He served as the lead radio operator for his squadron, aboard a Consolidated B-24J Liberator warplane, which he personally named “Molto Buono” – Italian for “good luck.”

John was the last survivor of the crew, which participated in missions in Romania, Greece, Italy, Germany, Yugoslavia, and North Africa.

Among John’s various service medals was the Certificate of Valor for his unfaltering courage, and the Merit of Honor, which he received from the commanding general of the 15th Air Force. He completed his tour of duty at McClellan Field in 1945.

Marla Kanelos, one of John’s nieces, said that the Kanelos family is very proud of John’s military service.

“His service to the country was always something that meant a lot to him and meant a lot to our family,” she said. “He remained very patriotic the rest of his life.”

Back in civilian life, John established Kanelos Truck Sales in south Sacramento. He ran that business until his retirement about 40 years later.

John experienced two marriages in his life, but he had no children.

With his wife, Ruth, he was heavily involved in the St. Katherine Greek Orthodox Church in Elk Grove.The couple also enjoyed traveling throughout the state in their motor home.

Ruth, who was married to John for 46 years, died at the age of 78 in 2010.

Although his last residence was in Rancho Cordova, John spent the majority of his retirement years living in Elk Grove.

A private burial for John will take place at Sacramento Valley National Cemetery in Dixon.  

Kanelos family’s deep Florin roots

Born on Feb. 23, 1925, John grew up in Florin as the eldest son of Andrew and Zina Kanelos.

His brother, George, died in 1989, and his brother, Gus, died in March. The surviving brother, Sam, a former Sacramento Solons baseball player, lives in Sacramento with his wife, Billee Jean. All four sons attended Elk Grove High, and grammar school in Florin.

John’s family history in Florin predated his own life.

His father was born in Greece in 1885, and was living in New Orleans by 1907. Continuing his journey, Andrew traveled first to San Francisco, and then to Sacramento.

Andrew began living in Florin in about 1910, and he married Zina in Sacramento on April 27, 1924.

While living with his family in Florin, Andrew owned a ranch and was co-owner of a small slaughterhouse – Kanelos Bros. Wholesale Butchers – on Florin Road.

Andrew purchased the family homestead – the estate of James Rutter – at Florin and Power Inn roads, in 1938.

The first generation of Florin’s Kanelos family has since passed away, with Andrew dying in 1953 and Zina following him in death 23 years later.