Monday, September 24, 2018

Mr. Peanut Comes to Americus Garden Inn

Mr. Peanut enjoying breakfast at Americus Garden Inn with Jordyn and Ryan
One of the joys of innkeeping is meeting new and interesting people from all walks of life.  This weekend we had the immense pleasure of hosting Mr. Peanut and his wing nuts aka peanutters.  Everyone has a story and I had no idea that Mr. Peanut’s story would be so fascinating.  Mr. Peanut was conceived 102 years ago by a 13-year-old boy named Antonio Gentile.

Born in 1903 in Philadelphia to Italian immigrant parents, Antonio “Tony” Gentile was one of eight children.  The family moved to Suffolk, Virginia, where his father was a tailor at West Brothers.

In 1916, Tony entered a contest by Planters Peanuts founder Amedeo Obici with a series of drawings of an anthropomorphized peanut with legs, arms and a face.  He won the contest and received $5 for drawing the figure that became Mr. Peanut, the trademark for Planters Nut and Chocolate Company.

Mr. Peanut and Jordyn in the garden at Americus Garden Inn
But, the story of Tony Gentile and Amadeo Obici goes much further than Mr. Peanut.   Amedeo and Louise Obici were unable to have children of their own.  They took a personal interest in all the Gentile children and the Gentile family often visited the Obici’s farm.  
Tony was an Eagle Scout and graduated as valedictorian of Jefferson High School.  The Obicis paid Tony’s college and medical school tuition, and, also paid for four of his siblings to attend college as well.   Tony attended the University of Virginia, earning honors and three degrees: undergraduate, medical, and a master’s in science.

After four years of specialized obstetrical surgical study, his medical career took him to Elizabeth Buxton Hospital in Newport News, Virginia, where he was one of the youngest surgeons admitted as a Fellow in the American College of Surgeons.

In December 1938, he married Delcy Ann Maney, but their marriage lasted less than a year; for Tony passed away of a heart attack at the age of 36 in November 1939, while on duty at the hospital.

Tony learned the lesson of generosity from Amadeo Obici.  In an editorial tribute memorializing his passing, the Times-Herald of Newport News noted:
"For Dr. Antonio Gentile, skilled physician and surgeon, loved by a paying clientele who admired his ability and his personality, was perhaps held dearer to those who were not a paying clientele, whose money was gratitude only but whom he served as freely, as fully and as willingly as though they had been able to return wealth for service."

And that, as they say, is the rest of the story.

The Planters Nutmobile in front of the Americus Garden Inn
Compiled from numerous online sources including the Smithsonian, Suffolk News Herald, and others.

Thanks for visiting the Americus Garden Inn blog.  Hope to see you in person, soon!