Matteo Albert Santalesa was born in Sveta Nedelja (Santa Domenica in Italian), Istria, Austria-Hungary (modern-day Croatia) on 27 September 1892. He was the son of Marino Santalesa.
In April 1912 Santalesa was a hospital steward aboard the Carpathia when that ship rescued the survivors of the Titanic disaster. From a 1919 interview Santalesa stated that at the time the Carpathia had received the distress calls from Titanic he was in bed and fast asleep. With the calm broken by this change of events, he recalled the preparations being taken to receive the survivors. He recalled working from early Monday morning until late that evening, tending to survivors who required medical attention, one of whom was Mrs Astor who reportedly injured herself whilst boarding her lifeboat.
On the dock in New York, where we berthed about 10 o’clock Thursday night, the most pathetic thing was the effort of a flock of district messenger boys to deliver telegrams and messages addressed to the steerage passengers and crew. The first and second cabin list had been wired to New York in advance of arrival, but there was no information available as to the others who might be among the survivors, and those who had or thought they had friends on board loaded down the wires with messages of inquiry. Only a fraction of these found anyone to receive them, in spite of the long-continued paging of the boys who tried to do their duty. — Wilmington News Journal, 12 April 1919
After the Carpathia, Matteo worked aboard Saxonia for a period and departed that ship in July 1914 when he emigrated to the USA. He made his home in Wilmington, Delaware and later naturalised as a US citizen in 1921, becoming known as Matthew in his new homeland.
In April 1919 he was a resident of 1003 Tatnall Street and an employee at the du Pont Hotel. He was later married to Domenica, née Verbanaz (1902-1988) and they had four children: Alma, Federico, Alice and Luigi, with the family making numerous travels back and forth the Atlantic.
Matthew Santalesa died in Queens, New York aged 94 on 15 March 1987 and was buried in Mount St Mary’s Cemetery in Flushing. His death left only one known living Carpathia crewman, Giuseppe Zupičić.