Tuesday, July 30, 2013

My Grandfather: From Immigrant to Proud American

On my mother's side of the family, my ancestors arrived on these shores around 1710. They were Quakers and, as non-conformists in their homeland of England, were not accepted there. So they crossed the Atlantic and settled in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where folks of all religious denominations were accepted.
Whether they wanted - or intended - to or not, they helped this land of their new home become the United States. As Quakers, they would have spoken with the thee's and thou's that they were known for, and outspoken against war - all war. This is what their religious beliefs dictate. But, even with their religious differences, they assimilated and became friends with the society around them.
Unfortunately, most descendants on my mother's side either lived very far from where I grew up, or died before I had the chance to know them well.
Or they just never associated very much with family.
However, I have loads of information on them dating back, as stated above, to the 18th century (and before, in one case).

On my father's side, my ancestors immigrated much more recently - 1912. This line came from Siciliy and, if you know anything at all about American history, you know that the Italians were not very much liked by the other nationalities. Because the Italians were culturally different from most of the other European immigrants and "natives," hostility towards them reigned, along the lines of the hatred of the Irish in the previous century.
And my grandfather, bless his soul, received his share of the ill will from the moment he arrived on these shores in that year. But, grandpa, who was sixteen years old at the time, persevered. He worked long hours at the Detroit Stove Company, married a young girl named Rosa, who bore him two children, and bought not one but two houses. Eventually, he also bought a summer cottage (followed by a second a number of years later) on the banks of Lake Huron.

Grandma and Grandpa at the cottage - mid 1960's

Grandpa (and grandma) also became a legal American citizen.

But, one thing he never did that his siblings did - he never returned to his homeland of Siciliy. He had opportunities, but declined them all. He was an American now and this was where he wanted to remain. He learned the language the best he could. No arrests - not even a traffic ticket. His two sons both served their country during the second world war.

Grandpa kept some of his old ways - how could he not? - but he was a proud American and he was proud that his children and grandchildren were all Americans. He understood the importance of hard work - how one will earn what one deserves through employment and not through hand outs. Except for his monthly social security checks (after working at the Detroit Stove Company for around 40+ years), he received no other funding. He didn't need to - his houses and cottages were paid for, and, just as important to him, he also had a massive vegetable garden. We all enjoyed the fruits of his labor, believe me. He very rarely went out to eat - a waste of money for poor quality food that was never cooked to his satisfaction. You see, grandpa was a cook beyond compare. He put on spaghetti dinners for the local churches and communities; he cooked for his extended family - all the cousins came over frequently and never left with an empty stomach.

Grandpa also was a peacemaker. Once, as a pre-teen, I got my butt beat by some bully who lived a couple blocks over. When I told grandpa, instead of going after this kid like I had hoped, he, instead, invited him over for cookies and milk! I didn't understand grandpa's motive at the time and was quite angry with him. It wasn't until I was an adult that I understood - grandpa showed this angry young boy friendship and a kind heart. It worked - the kid never beat me up again (whew!).

Why am I bringing up all of this about my grandfather? Well, besides the fact that he, except for my father, was the greatest man I have ever known, he was also a proud and true American; he was what every American should strive to be, despite all that was literally thrown at him when he first immigrated to this country.
And that makes me proud knowing that I am descended from someone like this - someone who made something of himself because of the opportunities he saw and grabbed. Not because of some government handout.

My grandpa was a great man - his life lived is proof of that - and I hold him high on the American pedestal. He was what all immigrants and native-born Americans should strive to be like:
Grandpa's obit from the 1st week of August, 1972. Grandpa died on July 30 of that year.
As I write this on the 41st anniversary of his death, I can say that I think of him often. Almost daily, in fact. And I tell my children stories about him.
In that way, he and his spirit still live on.



MissFifi said...

What a lovely tribute, thank you for sharing.

the bee guy said...

Great post!