CLOSTER, N.J. — A secret World War II aircraft repair depot in a remote area of Eastern Africa was made possible, in part, by two brothers who planted deep roots in Closter.
Alberto and Aldo "were businessmen, but they were very hard-working people -- they gave back,” said former mayor Joseph Bianco, who's been learning about his in-laws through his wife.
Great Britain was in dire straits in North Africa, running short on planes, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt secretly agreed to help Prime Minister Winston Churchill by building the depot 1,100 from the front lines in Eritrea.
It repaired combat-damaged planes and assembled new aircraft.
The Zampolinos family later settled in Closter, open their own businesses and served in emergency services.
“Aldo lived until he was 92. I found the logbook of his flights in and out of Closter Airport,” Bianco said.
“People then used to help each other out then and say 'hi' on the streets,” he said. "But now, we have everything here - you name a language we have it. We have houses of worship, banks, stores, and about 10,000 people living here now from all backgrounds.”