And happy birthday!
Happy birthday to my Father. He is 97 years old today.
His parents named him John Robert Petrone. He was born April 10, 1914.
Dad’s parents were Louis and Albina. They were both born in Italy. Southern Italy. They did not meet there, however. They met in Stamford, Connecticut.
My grandfather Louis came to this country first. Around 1912. My grandmother Albina years later.
They settled in Utica. In an Italian neighborhood. Immigrants tended then and now to group together.
My grandfather bought a six family home. Three stories high. Two apartments a floor.
My grandparents’ children all lived in the house following their marriages. At one time, I lived with my parents in the third floor front apartment.
My Father was one of seven. A sister died early in life. My Father is the last of the brood alive. His sister Mary died last year at the age of 102.
My Father quit school in third year high. He had to work. In the mid 1940s, he sort of returned to school. He studied at home. Took his high school regents with the kids. Passed. And graduated on stage. Cap and gown and all. He was proud. I was proud. I was there.
My Father first met my Mother when he was 14. As the story goes, he saw her from across the street for the first time and shouted “…I am going to marry you!”
My Mother’s name was Fortunata. Italian for Fortune. She was born in Italy. A place called Foggia. She was the ninth born of nine children. The other eight were all boys. That is why her parents named her Fortune.
Mom and Dad married in the early 1930s. I came along in 1935. I have been told many times my father was so excited that he ran up and down the street shouting he had a son!
We lived third floor front till 1941 when my parents bought a home on James Street. My Father would live there more than 60 years till he sold it and moved.
Along the way, my parents made my sister Joan. She is ten years younger than me. My mother was not supposed to have any more children after me. However, she did not want me to be alone. So my Mother gambled with her health. Forunately, everything worked out well!
In the l930s and prior to World War II, my father worked in a fishing tackle plant. Horrocks-Ibbitson. The biggest manufacturer of fishing tackle in the world at the time. Dad worked in the glue room. On bamboo poles. The dirtiest job in the place. The worst. A job that was reserved for Italians. There was a prejudice in Utica and the country as a whole at the time.
World War II came. Dad tried to enlist. He was 4F. He had a punctured eardrum from faulty medical treatment when he was young. He was totally deaf in one ear.
My Father went to work in a defense plant instead. For the length of the war.
After the war, he returned to Horrocks-Ibbitson. This time as a white collar worker. The war had changed things. He had a desk and all that went with it. He was involved in production. He continued in that field later at Bendix and then a toilet paper manufacturing plant called Sitrue. Except for several years when he served as a Deputy County Clerk.
My sister and I grew up during this time. I went off to college and law school. My sister to Florida.
My Mother passed on some twenty years ago. My Father continued to live in the house on James Street alone, until he met Frances.
After retirement, he worked in my law office till a couple of years ago. He started at 65 with many duties and responsibilities. They diminshed as he got older. He was a big help as my firm grew.
Several years ago, he developed a heart condition which minimizes his activities.
He found a friend and new partner in life about ten years ago. Frances. She is a blessing. She is now 72 years old.
They live together in a new complex for people 55 and older. They have a lovely 2 bedroom 2 bath apartment. And a shaded outside patio where my father sits and reads in the warm weather.
Except for the heart, his body is good. So is his mind. He and Francis get out at least once a week for dinner. Sometimes breakfast, also.
I think all fathers want their children to be athletes. My Father worked with me in baseball. I believe he thought I would be another Joe Dimaggio. I let him down. It did not matter. He took pride in my success as an attorney.
I hope Dad makes a 100! A 100 plus!
I telephoned Frances this morning and asked to speak with him. She told me he was still asleep. He had a bad night. Difficulty sleeping. He was worried he would not wake up to be 97!
That’s my Father!
Happy birthday, Dad!