Trentino Helps Apollo to the Moon On the subject of space exploration, Romeo Zuech, a Trentino immigrant from Brez in the Val di Non, played a pivotal role in getting Apollo to the moon in 1969. Two years ago an article in the Trentino newspaper L’Adige chronicled the fascinating history of Romeo.
Romeo specialized in metallurgy at the Technical Institute of Bolzano. In 1950 he immigrated on his own to Chicago where a maternal uncle was living. Romeo’s father Adolfo was born in Frontenac, Kansas, and his mother in Mexico, though she was registered a US citizen in El Paso.
At the time many travelled from Brez to the US and Mexico to work in the mining industry.
Romeo’s parents settled back in Trentino, but he gained US citizenship through them.
In 1953 Romeo married Margaret and had twin daughters, Maria and Sofia. The same year he landed a job at North American Aviation’s Rocketdyne Division in Canoga Park, CA. From there he worked on the Apollo project to create a super light and resistant alloy able to withstand extreme temperatures caused by high-speed friction. He received three
patents for his work. In 1979, on account of his contributions to the aerospace
industry and Apollo project, he won both the coveted Leonardo Da Vinci Award
and Rockwell’s Engineer of the Year Award. In 1983 Romeo retired from the aerospace industry to pursue another dream of his, winemaking.
He established Piedra Creek Winery in San Luis Obispo, planting various varietals including two that are typical of Trentino, Teroldego and Lagrein. The Trentino eagle is featured on the winery’s logo, and Romeo named one of his most popular blends after the patron saint of his beloved Brez, San Floriano. He also enjoys good food and has written a recipe booklet in English and dialect featuring the soups of the Val di Non.
Romeo continues to pursue life with gusto and vigor, and on his 90th birthday next February, he hopes to release his first vintage of pure Lagrein. He is currently grooming his grandson to take over the production and management of the winery.