Tampa parents head to Italy for a memorial after death of their soldier son, who attended Plant High

Peter Sebastian Cimino, 19, was a deeply religious young man who loved fishing, pasta and cheese, and serving his country.
Published March 12
Updated March 12

TAMPA — Peter Sebastian Cimino was a young man from Tampa who loved fishing, God and serving in the U.S. Army.

Sunday, March 3, his mother and father received a visit no parent ever wants.

The soldiers came to say that Cimino, 19, a private with the 173d Airborne Brigade Combat team, stationed at Caserma Ederle, in Vicenza, Italy, was found dead on base.

“It was like in the movies,” said his mother, Gayle Cimino.

His death, she said, is under investigation.

Cimino was the third soldier to die at the Caserma Ederle base since June, according to the Army Times.

“We are heartbroken,” Gayle Cimino said by phone from Tampa International Airport, where she and her husband were awaiting a flight to Italy to attend a memorial service.

Peter was born May 5, 1999, in Tver, Russia, and adopted when he was 6 months old, his mother said.

When he was 3, his family moved to Tampa, where he belonged to Christ The King Catholic Church and Boy Scout Troop 45.

He attended Villa Madonna Catholic School in Tampa, then Plant High School.

“He loved to fish,” said his mother. “He caught a few giant grouper with his uncle.”

The family has a house one block from Tampa Bay.

“We have a canoe, he would go to trout holes,” she said. “I have a Cajun heritage, so he would bring home trout and momma would make trout meunière,” a simple dish with butter, parsley and lemon.

Cimino also liked to spend time at the beach with his skim board, his mother said.

He left Plant High in 2016 and earned his high school diploma as a home-schooled student. He attended Franciscan University in Ohio, but didn’t finish, then decided to join the Army.

“It was like a lot of young men do when they sort of get lost,” his mother said.

Gayle Cimino said she had “mixed feelings” when her son told her he wanted to enlist.

“I love someone who wants to serve their country,” she said. “But putting your kid in harm’s way, well, that was something I had to get used to.”

Service, she said, was a family tradition. Her father was a World War II vet, as was her husband Kevin’s father, a B-17 tail gunner who was shot down and became a prisoner of war.

Cimino enlisted March 10, 2018, according to his obituary, and loved being stationed in far northern Italy.

“We Facetimed two to three times a month,” said his mother. “The last time, he showed me a big block of Parmesan cheese. He was a big pasta and cheese guy.”

Peter was lauded as "an exemplary soldier. He did everything he was asked to do and then some,” said his father, Kevin Cimino.

He is survived by his parents and a sister, Sarah Cimino.

A wake will be held 5 p.m. to 8 p.m with a vigil service starting at 7 p.m. March 21 at Christ the King, 821 S. Dale Mabry Hwy. A Mass of Christian burial will be held 2 p.m. March 22 at Christ the King, followed by a reception at the McLoughlin Center parish hall. Interment will be 2 p.m. March 25 at Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell.

Meantime, Cimino’s family waits for the Army and Italian authorities to conduct autopsies and complete their investigations.

“It is against God’s natural order to bury a child,” said Gayle Cimino. “I’m glad it doesn’t happen that often.”

News researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Howard Altman at [email protected] or (813) 225-3112 . Follow @haltman

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