John Constantino Meola was born September 19, 1913 in Brooklyn, New York. His father, Nicola Meola, was born in 1878 in Italy and came to America in 1900. His mother, Catarina Letizia DeLeone, was born in 1881 in Italy. His parents married in NYC on June 8, 1902. His parents had eight children: Adelaide (b.1903), Vincent (b.1908), Olga (b.1909), Mary (b.1911), Ida (b.1912), John (b.1913), Albert (b.1915), and Americo (b.1917). John was their sixth child. His younger brother Americo Michael Meola also grew up to be a magazine illustrator. The family lived in the Little Italy district of the Lower East Side at 220 Grand Street. The father operated a tailor shop.
On June 27, 1909 the eldest child, Adelaide, was six years old when she was accidentally killed on the congested streets by a street car trolley.
After this tragic loss the family moved to 122 Third Place in Brooklyn.
John Meola was active in his local YMCA and became a regular contributor to their weekly newspaper, The Prospector, which inspired him to become a professional illustrator.
On January 30, 1931 he graduated Alexander Hamilton High School in Brooklyn. According to a local newspaper account, "An oil painting of Alexander Hamilton was presented to the school on behalf of the senior class. The painting was done by John C. Meola, a student who was awarded the Art Prize and the school's Distinguished Service Medal." The prize included a scholarship to attend the School of Art at Pratt Institute of Brooklyn.
He studied illustration under Ogden Minton Pleissner (1905-1983), William James Aylward (1875-1956) and H. Winfield Scott. In 1933 he was chosen for advanced study in lithography with George Charles Miller (1894-1953).
In 1932 he was elected Class President. He was a member and the Art Director of Pratt's Marionette Club.
One of his classmates at Pratt was Adele F. Cording. She was born in 1913 in Brooklyn. The two young art students fell in love.
In June of 1934 he completed the three-year art training program and graduated from Pratt Institute. His year book inscriptions says," One of Pratt's finest products who we are sure will cap all honors in the future as he has in the past."
In 1936 he began to draw pen and ink story illustrations for pulp magazines, such as Adventure, Argosy, Detective Action Stories, Sports Novels, and Knockout. In a few instances he signed his work "Meola" but in most cases with only the initial "M." Unfortunately several other pulp artists also happened to use the initial "M" signature, including Stockton Mulford, Rex Maxon, Jay McArdle, and William Meilink.
In 1938 he married Adele Cording and moved to Great Neck, NY, where they raised four daughters: Virginia, Lucille, Anne, and Frances.
He was a member of the Society of Illustrators of New York.
During the 1960s he illustrated several children's books for MacMillan Publications.
In 1976 his portrait of Theodore Roosevelt appeared on the cover of Time Magazine - Special Report - The American Presidents.
In 1979 he retired from freelance illustration.
In 1990 he moved to Gaithersbug, Maryland, to live closer to his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.
John Meola died at the age of eighty-eight in Gaithersburg, Maryland, on May 1, 2002.
© David Saunders 2012