Telecom Pioneer Dies at 80

Rocco L. Flaminio, a founder of Tollgrade, dies from complications of a chronic illness

January 12, 2005

4 Min Read

PITTSBURGH -- Rocco L. Flaminio, 80, Vice Chairman and Chief Technology Officer of Tollgrade Communications, Inc., died today from complications due to a chronic illness.

For more than five decades, Flaminio worked tirelessly to repair, improve and invent telecommunications devices that would protect and enhance network integrity for telephone systems in the U.S. and around the world. His tenacity and technical ability led him to become one of the country's leading experts on telecommunications systems.

In addition to a stellar 38-year career with Bell of Pennsylvania, he wrote technical manuals for the Defense Department, he briefed high-ranking officials including Generals Ridgeway and Westmoreland, as well as Department of Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, and he was a co-inventor with Fred Kiko of the patented Metallic Channel Unit (MCU) technology that helped lead to the 1988 growth of Tollgrade Communications, Inc., that he co-founded with businessman, the late R. Craig Allison of Erie, Pennsylvania. Today, Tollgrade is a leading broadband network assurance equipment and service supplier to major telephone and cable providers.

A generous and humble man, his family and friends call him "Rocky." He served in World War II, the Korean conflict and the Vietnam War over the course of three decades -- the first two as a Marine, the latter as a Civilian engineer on loan to assist the Defense Department with telecommunications technology. He rose to the rank of Master Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps Reserves. For his service and valor, including coming to the aid of injured fellow countrymen overseas, he is the recipient of the Purple Heart, Silver Star and Korean Service Medals of Honor.

"I always think of Rocky as the toughest nice guy I've ever met. He was so selfless and dedicated to his work that, even until recently, he kept regular office hours and continued to contribute his expertise and wisdom," said Chris Allison, Tollgrade's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

"He has also distinguished himself for his country in three theaters of war, lived his life above and beyond the call of duty and created a family, with his wife Liz of 57 years, of which they are very proud. He never saw his work as complete, but instead looked for the next problem to solve. In fact, Rocky never really retired from his work. The entire Tollgrade family will miss his presence, but will always remember his contributions to our business and to society," added Allison.

Born the son of Italian immigrants, Rocky came from modest means and worked hard to earn a piece of the American dream for his family and for others. He entered the first grade only able to speak Italian. His zest for learning and science ultimately led him to graduate valedictorian of his class at Saltsburg High School near Vandergrift, Pennsylvania where he raised his family. After serving in World War II, in 1946, Rocky took a job with Bell of Pennsylvania as a PBX repairman. A few years later, his technical aptitude, interest in radio transmissions and stellar academic performance earned him an assignment in the South Pacific.

In 1953, AT&T and the Defense Department asked Rocky to help engineer and install the Distant Early Warning Line, also known as the "DEW Line," along the coast of northern Alaska and Canada. The DEW Line was designed to provide Strategic Air Command with a six-hour warning in the event of an enemy missile or air attack.

During the Vietnam War, AT&T and the U.S. Department of Defense, once again, called on Rocky for his expertise -- this time, to make operational the communications systems in Vietnam and Thailand. From 1966 to 1969 Rocky made three six-month tours to Vietnam, visiting every military base there and in Thailand. After earning several letters of commendation for his service in Vietnam, Rocky returned to his job at Bell to complete an impressive and successful career with the company.

His telecommunications expertise was sought by many companies following his career at Bell. He was particularly proud of being instrumental in designing the telecommunications system for the new Pittsburgh International Airport. In more recent years at Tollgrade, Rocky traveled the globe as a technological ambassador to industry and as an active member of various trade associations, including T1E1 and the ADSL Forum.

An avid youth athlete and a lifelong sports enthusiast, Rocky held season tickets for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Pittsburgh Steelers for 50 years and he always took such pride in being the official holder of ticket number "01" for the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team.

Family, friends and co-workers recently celebrated Rocky Flaminio's 80th birthday in October. Rocco L. Flaminio and his wife, Liz, are the parents of Christina Canton of Chevy Chase, Maryland and Nancy Meagher of Cape Cod, Massachusetts and grandparents of their six children.

Mr. Flaminio is also survived by his two younger brothers, Thomas of Saltsburg, PA and Herman of Wexford, PA. Both retired from their careers working for Tollgrade, the company at which their brother Rocky developed the technology for its first significant product.

Tollgrade Communications Inc.

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