(I would like to thank my sister for this very catchy title. Thanks, Ellena!)
My father has been deceased for almost eleven years now and not a day goes by that I am not reminded of him in some manner, shape, or form. My father was my rock and my hero; there wasn't anything he couldn't do.
My parents married in 1962 and had three children by 1965. I didn't make my first appearance in the family until 1976, so my parents were just a little older when I was born. One thing I knew for certain was that my father could create and build just about anything he set his mind to. If someone said that he couldn't achieve something, he would go out of his way to prove them wrong. My father left school in 7th grade. Whether it was his doing or circumstantial, I don't know, but I do know that he went to work at a rather young age and gave the majority of his paycheck to his mother, my grandmother, Rosa.
Dad liked to take things apart and put them back together again. This would enable him to figure out how things worked. As a young man, he built a working helicopter, a hovercraft, and an assortment of other things that often ended up with him running into the caves near his house for a few days until my grandfather calmed down. At one point, my father rigged up a contraption of wires and radios in his attic. This contraption worked very well and he actually heard a distress call from the Andrea Doria.
If my father had the financial opportunity for higher education, there would have been no stopping him, but he never let it halt him in what he wanted to do. The above photograph was featured in our local newspaper in 1964. My father created a scale miniature model of the B & O Railroad Bridge that is located in Staten Island. As far as I know, the model is on display in a museum in Maryland, but I don't know this for certain. The following year, in 1965, he built another model. This time it was the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
He took many day pilgrimages to local lighthouses and since I was his sidekick, I usually went with him. He had such a passion for lighthouses and the subject of lighthouses that he contacted the U.S. Coast Guard to ask permission to volunteer in becoming the Keeper of the Staten Island Lighthouse. After many correspondences back and forth, the Coast Guard agreed and my father received the key to the lighthouse. He beamed with pride and spent many hours there. He was Keeper for nine years before he had to reluctantly relinquish the position due to continuing back and heart issues. It broke his heart. In the interim though, he kept himself busy and was quintessential in obtaining a spot on Staten Island for the National Lighthouse Museum. Sadly, he passed away before he was able to see all of his hard work come to fruition.
Dad made many contacts and developed many relationships with people who shared the same interests in lighthouses. He helped to relight the Fort Wadsworth Lighthouse, saved the Romer Shoals Lighthouse from the doomsday list, and was able to convince the United States Post Office to offer a canceled stamp in honor of Kate Walker from the Robbins Reef Lighthouse.
In 2014, I petitioned our local congressman to have my mother's street renamed for my father. He achieved so much for Staten Island that I cannot include it all here in a short blog, but I am so proud to be the daughter of such an incredible man. I would like to think that I inherited my love of history and research from him.
My mother's street was renamed on my birthday, 12 APR 2014 in honor of my father.
Left: my father's scale model of the Staten Island Lighthouse
Right: my father standing at the top of the real Staten Island Lighthouse circa 2000
My father died on 5 MAY 2005 of an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Gone too soon in my opinion; he was only 66-years-old, but his legacy lives on in his children and grandchildren. We will never forget him or what he accomplished. His policy was to never give up--find your dream and nurture it. I will always follow my dream to become a certified genealogist. I will make it work because I know I have my father cheering for me from the great lighthouse in the sky.
Thanks for reading!