The saying goes that behind every great man is a great woman. The following interview proves the old adage to actually be a truism.
The following interview is with Jill Pantano, wife of GOP primary victor for the 7th Congressional District of North Carolina, Ilario Pantano.
Where are you from? What did you parents do for a living, how many siblings, what was life like growing up? I grew up in New York City. My Father had a Furniture Store in the city and we had a Family Business, A Golf Range in NJ. I have a younger brother and a younger sister. I loved growing up in the city. I went to public school at the High School of Music and Art.. My Mom stayed home with us and when I started modeling she would come with me.
How did you get into modeling? I was discovered at 17 by a famous photographer named Robert Mapplethorpe, who then photographed me for Italian Vogue and from there I got an agent and started modeling full time. I have traveled and lived for extended periods of time in all parts of Europe (Paris, Milan, and London) and Tokyo and feel very blessed to have had that experience. After that I had another full career in NY, where I worked my way up to VP of Merchandising in Retail after many years of hard work. Since moving to Wilmington I have been in Executive Recruiting, also in Retail management.
What were the circumstances being meeting and eventually marrying your husband, and what were you first impressions when you found out he was a former Marine who had been in combat? We met at the gym! We have both always been into fitness, and we were introduced by our teacher in a Spinning Class in NY in 1999. He was knee deep in the start up of his business. Our country was semi-peaceful at the time and war seemed far removed. My first impressions were intrigue and interest
Where were you on 9-11, and what was your knee-jerk reaction to seeing the death in Manhattan that day? I was home in our apartment on 43rd street (our building was above an elite team of fire fighters, Rescue 1) and Ilario had left earlier for a meeting. Once I knew we had been attacked, I knew my life was going to change immediately. I knew he would be on his way down there if not there already. I worried tremendously, and when the towers collapsed, so did I.
What was your first reaction when you saw your husband-to-be with his head shaven and ready to go back into the Marines right after 9-11? Shock. And it would continue over the next days as he brought his gear out of storage into the apartment to get “ready to go”. Where, I did not know, but the contrast between us getting ready for our wedding and now he getting ready to go to war was almost too much to bear. We had been planning our wedding which was 4 weeks after 9/11.
Do you consider yourself ‘politically aware”? Have you always followed politics and world events? I would consider myself aware, yes, but mostly through my husband’s voracious intake of current events, history, foreign policy and philosophy.
It goes without saying that you’ve been through stressors that would have crushed many a marriage. What keeps you and Ilario together? Love, Humor, family, faith, commitment but when it gets intense I think we fall back on faith.
What would you consider your personal credo/motto you live by? Go big or go home?? Mess with the Bull you will get the Horns?? Treat others as you would have them treat you.
Young Marines here in Wilmington get a bad rap from college kids. What’s your impression when you meet a 19-yr-old Lance Corporal with a Purple Heart (if not multiple) and at least one decoration for personal heroism, such as the Bronze Star with Combat V denoting personal heroism, the Silver Star, etc.? Growing up in NYC I did not have the exposure to these fine young men that we have in Wilmington today. One of the best parts of this journey that I have been on with Ilario has been meeting these guys. I am continually impressed by all of them. From the young Lance Corporals to the senior Officers, I am always amazed at the grace and charm they posses on top of the all out bravery with which they conduct themselves. It has been a pleasure spending time with each and every one.
What profession would you like to see your sons go into and why? Where their hearts lead them. I see from Ilario and some of the other folks in our lives that being service orientated is like a chip they are born with. If my sons follow that path I will be right there behind them. On the other hand like every Mom just want them to be fulfilled and safe.