Virgil Petrocchi, a retired Sacramento County regulator who protected consumers against being shortchanged when buying gas, groceries and other products sold by weight or volume, died June 14 of congestive heart failure, his family said. He was 98.
A Sacramento native, Mr. Petrocchi learned about weight scales as a young man while working a kitchen supply job. In 1951, he went to work for the Sacramento County Agricultural Commissioner and rose to deputy sealer of weights and measures, overseeing inspectors who enforced accuracy of commercial weight and metering equipment ranging from gas pumps and meat scales to taxi meters and commercial weigh stations.
He visited businesses to verify items sold by size, count or weight. He filled up at gas stations in an undercover county vehicle outfitted with special fuel and oil tanks designed to accurately measure volume. He hired supermarket shoppers to buy packaged meat that could be checked for errors in weight and price.
“A lot of the store people think that we are bastards,” he told The Sacramento Bee in 1977, “but we are out doing our job to protect the public.”
Mr. Petrocchi, who retired in 1981, took his job as a consumer watchdog seriously.
“Nineteen-inch shoelaces actually have to be 19 inches, so he sent a shipment that weren’t back to the manufacturer,” his son Dan said. “He closed down a whole turkey warehouse the weekend before Thanksgiving.”
A son of immigrants, Mr. Petrocchi had deep roots in Sacramento’s Italian-American community. He was born Nov. 13, 1915, to Dante and Louise Petrocchi at Third and N streets, where his mother’s family ran a boardinghouse for Italian immigrants. His grandfather Abramo Petrocchi – believed to be Sacramento’s first cobbler – was a founding member of the Piemonte Reale Benevolent Society in 1888 and served as the first president.
After graduating from Sacramento High School and Sacramento City College, he attended Heald Business College and worked at Hobart Kitchen Supply. He was drafted in 1945 and served as a B-17 mechanic at McClellan Air Force Base.
Mr. Petrocchi was an active man who read three newspapers daily, enjoyed working in his garden and drove his wife, Faye, to get her hair done until he was recently hospitalized. In addition to Piemonte Reale, he belonged to the East Portal Bocce Club and Italian Catholic Federation.
He lived for many years in the Italian enclave near East Portal Park before moving to the Sierra Oaks neighborhood. He hosted boisterous family gatherings of four generations and cheered loudly for the Oakland A’s.
“He went to San Francisco when he was 11 or 12 for the Columbus Day parade in North Beach, and the boys gave him a hard time for being from a cow town,” his son said. “That was the last time my dad rooted for anything in San Francisco.”
In addition to his son and his wife of 74 years, Mr. Petrocchi is survived by two daughters, Donna Messner and Debbie Costa; nine grandchildren; and 14 great-grandchildren.
A funeral Mass is set for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 58th and M streets, Sacramento. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Mercy Foundation and to Christian Brothers High School.
Call The Bee’s Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Davila.