Passed away on March 30, 2019

Giovanni Battista Dal Santo, known to many as the patriarch of Little Italy, Ark., died Saturday, March 30, just a day after turning 99 years old. He made it a point to enjoy one more birthday surrounded by his loving wife of 77 years, Olga, and his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Always the consummate storyteller, John has shared his immigration story from Italy to Arkansas with many. He was born in Caltrano, Italy, on March 29, 1920, and immigrated to the United States when he was 10 years old to escape Mussolini’s dictatorship and the fate of joining the youth organization Balilla. Once in America, he left Chicago at age 19 to travel, making a life-changing stop in Arkansas, where he met a young Olga Vaccari.

The meeting was telling of their extraordinary relationship and love for one another. When they met in 1941 in the small community of Little Italy, Ark., John remembers trying to impress Olga with his city-slicker knowledge: “You know, we’ve got a dance hall,” he said, not knowing Olga’s parents owned a honky-tonk across the street. And she said, “Well, we have one, too! You want to go over there?” The couple married in October 1942 and spent the next 77 years together, dancing and sipping wine, offering an amazing example of marriage for all who know them.

Shortly after their wedding, John was drafted to serve in the European Theater in World War II, where he was the only one of his group to survive a German hit on his tank. He earned several medals for valor, including the Purple Heart. Once home, John and Olga raised two daughters, Sandy and Alice. He was a career firefighter, serving as a Captain with the Little Rock Fire Department until his retirement.

John was known for many things, namely the fact that he never met a stranger and that he could weave a story like none other. He and Olga perfected the recipes for sausage, spaghetti and sauce still used today at the infamous Little Italy Spaghetti Supper held each October in Arkansas. John was known for his generosity and his love of all things Italian, including his favorite Carlo Rossi Paisano wine. He loved being a Nonno to his four grandchildren and spoiling the great grandchildren with $10 bills from Bisnonno. He even learned how to Skype late in life in order to talk to relatives in Italy.

John is preceded in death by his parents, Giacomo and Santina, and his son-in-law, Joseph Ghidotti. He is survived by his wife, Olga; his daughters, Santina Ghidotti Hogue and Alice Ostie; his sons-in-law, Johnnie Ostie and Ronald Hogue; his grandchildren, Nicole and Geoff Rhinehart, John and April Ostie, Jason and Natalie Ghidotti and Jana and Chris Harral; and his great grandchildren, Mary and Nicolas Rhinehart, John, Evan, Rosie and Giovanni Ostie, Nathan and Corinne Ghidotti, and Logan, Max and Ben Harral.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Friday, April 5 at 10:30 a.m. at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Little Italy, Ark. with Father Richard Davis, Celebrant. Visitation will be 6 p.m. until 7 p.m. Thursday, April 4, 2019 at Griffin Leggett Healey & Roth, 5800 W. 12th Street, Little Rock (501) 661-9111 followed by a Rosary service at 7 p.m. Donations may be sent in John Dal Santo’s honor to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a cause the Dal Santos have supported for many years, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN 38105. To sign the online guestbook, click “Add a Memory” at:


  • Visitation Thursday, April 4, 2019
  • Rosary Thursday, April 4, 2019
  • Mass of Christian Burial Friday, April 5, 2019
  • Committal Service Friday, April 5, 2019


have a memory or condolence to add?

Cathy Vaccari

April 2, 2019

My Uncle John and Aunt Olga are also my godparents. I feel quite sure that neither could imagine the extent to which they fulfilled their duties. I have been gone from them and from my home since I was fourteen years old. They could not see the profound effect they have had on my faith. I pray the Rosary daily the way I saw my aunts pray. So much of what my dear Uncle John said to me is written on my heart and blessed my life. My life certainly wouldn’t be the sweet life it is today without their guidance and their love all those many years ago.

Sheryl Zulpo Troutman

April 2, 2019

One of my fondest memories of Mr John was of him playing Santa Clause for all of us when we were young. When he came to my Fathers funeral last year I walked up to Mr John and said "hello Santa". He smiled and we carried on a conversation about his days as Santa and we talked about our travels to Italy. Mr John (Santa Clause) will be greatly missed. My thoughts and prayers are with the family as well as the community of Little Italy. Rest in Peace Our Dear Friend.

Chris and Samantha Dorer

April 1, 2019

With the deepest of sympathy at the loss of Santolo. His love, guidance, and advice will remain with me always. He taught me so much about life— from digging potatoes, to the “best” way to hang Sheetrock, to how to forgive those who wronged you. The impact of his loss was felt immediately and there will forever remain in my heart a void from his absence. Until we meet again, Santolo... Rest In Peace.