The Italian-American Triumvirate: #3 – Family

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We begin our third and final installment of the Italian-American Triumvirate to honor Christopher Columbus and all descendants of Italia during October as we celebrate Italian-American Month.

The third item on the list has been known by many names. In fact, for those who remember football in the 1960s, may also remember the three pillars being defined quite differently (and creatively). Italian-Americans played a prominent role in this.

On June 16, 1970, Brian Piccolo, starting running back for the Chicago Bears, died. Only seven months earlier, on November 16, 1969, Piccolo scored a touchdown on a one-yard run in the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Falcons. He then surprised his teammates by Continue Reading “The Italian-American Triumvirate: #3 – Family”

The Italian-American Triumvirate: #2 – Country

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As mentioned last week, October is Italian-American Heritage Month. Not only do we take a day (either the original October 12 or the second Monday) to celebrate Christopher Columbus, the Italian that most influenced America, but, like other ethnic groups, we spend the entire month honoring those who immigrated to the United States centuries after the first Italian discovered a brand new world.

This is the second in a series of columns on “the Big Three,” the three institutions that, though to some extent describe all Americans, speak especially to the cultural heritage of Italian-Americans.

Recall the meaning of “Italian-American.” It represents an acknowledgment that you are Continue Reading “The Italian-American Triumvirate: #2 – Country”

The Italian-American Triumvirate: #1 – God

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Each October we celebrate Italian-American Heritage Month. The month is obviously chosen in honor of the Italian that most influenced America: Christopher Columbus. Of course, Columbus’ discovery of the New World predated the creation of the United States by about three centuries, but our country long ago adopted his journey as an inspiration for the nation.

Columbus has since been joined by many Italian immigrants who would become Italian-Americans.

That’s an important distinction: “Italian-American.” It recognizes that you are, in fact, an Continue Reading “The Italian-American Triumvirate: #1 – God”

Remembering Mike Francesco: A Community Builder

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Mike-Franscesco-photoAs I sat in the pews of St. Catherine’s last Friday morning, I couldn’t help but admire the courage and clarity of Andrew Boyce and Conner Boillat as they described and honored the very full life of Mike Francesco.

Mike touched the lives of many in our little neck of the woods, even those who may have never known him. He, together with his late son Michael, Jr., conceived and built what has become the hamlet of Mendon’s community cornerstone.

For almost four decades, I was one of those who was blessed to have experienced the wonder of Mike. While I can’t pretend to offer more than his family, I can share memories – and, more importantly, the context of those memories – that affirm their stories from a non-family perspective.

I met Mike and Rose in the mid-1980s shortly after I moved back to Mendon in the house I Continue Reading “Remembering Mike Francesco: A Community Builder”

Is Cattaraugus County Leading The Way To Greater Western New York Independence?

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Just because you may not have seen this in the news doesn’t mean it isn’t news. In fact, it could be big news.

Actually, it could be very big news, and it occurred just a month ago in the halls of the Cattaraugus County legislative chamber. What’s more amazing, and not really being reported, was how fast it all happened and the fact the origin didn’t start with an elected official, but with a group of concerned everyday citizens like you.

Cattaraugus County is located along the Southern Tier of the Greater Western New York region. It’s mostly rural with the largest city being Olean (the other “big” city is Salamanca, the birthplace of NFL legend Marv Hubbard, who played fullback for the Oakland Raiders). Cattaraugus County is also the home of St. Bonaventure University.

Known for its promotional nickname “Enchanted Mountains,” traveling through its picturesque hills full of never-ending green trees gives you a sense of what our region looked like to the pioneers who first settled Western New York shortly after the Revolutionary War. Seeing this unadorned beauty throughout our region, you can’t help but think Continue Reading “Is Cattaraugus County Leading The Way To Greater Western New York Independence?”

It’s An Old-Fashioned Barn Razing!

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It was a nice little shed. The kind placid suburbanites plant in the green carpet of their backyard lawns. Sort of a mini-barn. A testament to an older, quieter way of life. Back in the day when we worked the land because, well, that’s what we were born to do.

Such were the fancies of a young man about to embark upon the American life, the American Dream.

The official Town Permit was obtained on April 29, 1991. It’s signed by June L. Smith, Town Clerk. For those of you who don’t know, she was the mother of none other than Continue Reading “It’s An Old-Fashioned Barn Razing!”

Remember 9/11 Forever

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Photo by Yvonne Stepanow from FreeImagesIt was the kind of Tuesday that can’t make its mind up if it’s Summer or Fall. In that way, it was a textbook “on the cusp” day. The skies were clear and crisp that morning. If you woke up early enough, you could feel the dew, smell the moisture, and immerse yourself in a cocooning blanket of warmth.

You can’t imagine a more pleasant beginning to a practically perfect day.

In a moment, in a series of unbelievable moments, the world changed.

There are two seminal occasions in our lives that most late phase Baby Boomers finally felt accepted, recognized, and part of what this nation is all about. One was good, the other Continue Reading “Remember 9/11 Forever”

Ode To The Open Road

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Photo by Debbie Schiel from FreeImagesIn the minds of many, the fast-approaching Labor Day represents the metaphorical end of summer. Before we take that literary leap, however, let’s spend one final weekend basking in the glory of the sun and the freedom of endless fields of rolling hills, chirping nature, and fragrant wild flowers.

There’s more to it than that, though.

From the beginning of our lives, we’ve come to see summer as a 10-week break. It starts with the calendar of school. Out in June. Back in September. July and August became the Continue Reading “Ode To The Open Road”

The Real News About Kathy Hochul Being New York State Governor

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You’ve probably read the headlines about Kathy Hochul “making history” by becoming the first woman to hold the position of New York State Governor.

If you’re like me, you cringe every time you see the appellation “first” applied to anyone. With the clear exception of sporting events, landing on the moon, and a few others, the term “first” seems more like a back-handed compliment. In today’s world of woke, it makes people wonder if “token” wouldn’t be a better description.

And that’s not fair.

I know. I’ve lived with this designation. The “first” Italian-American to do this… The “first” Catholic to do that… The “first” graduate of Gates-Chili high school to…

Each time, despite the apparent good intentions of various speakers of those words, it always felt condescending.

While I’m proud of my heritage, I didn’t want to be remembered merely as an Italian-Continue Reading “The Real News About Kathy Hochul Being New York State Governor”

The Road All Runners Run

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Photo by Jennifer Marr from FreeImagesThe world is an imperfect place. And we are its imperfect inhabitants.

You shouldn’t, as the saying goes, allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. For all our imperfections, we all possess some ounce of good.

Like hating the sin and loving the sinner, it is that ounce of good that we should glorify, amplify, and dignify. It’s what gives us all hope in a world marred by inadequacy and faultiness.

So it was with A.E. Housman, the troubled poet of the 19th Century. If you’re on your toes, you may have caught that the title of this piece alludes to a line in Housman’s greatest work.

While Housman’s works reflect the tragic demons that tormented him, the poignant poem still contains that ounce of good that makes it memorable.

A behavioral economist might call it “reframing.” Us regular folk simply say it’s looking at Continue Reading “The Road All Runners Run”