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Monday, June 26, 2017

ZIO FELICE


He stood at 4' 4" tall, weighed about 120 pounds, and sported a long handlebar mustache going by the name of Zio Felice or in English, Uncle Felix.

During the depression and afterward, during the war, Zio Felice worked as a gang foreman on a construction crew, building large multi-storied complexes out of brick and concrete.

My Uncle Joe, his nephew went to work under him after he finished high school and was told to haul wheel barrels of concrete up a plank, and dump it, go down and do it again and again. My uncle Joe's hands were bleeding and raw from the hard work. This was before lunch. He goes to Zio Felice and says, "Look at my hands!" Zio Felice looks at the and says, "Go behind the building, and urinate on them." This hardened the hands and after a while, he never had problems with bleeding again! He also gave up finger foods!

Uncle Felix fathered 16 children; each and every one of them feared the little Caesar, as he commanded the respect that went beyond the call of duty for any child.

There is a story that went around the family that when he came to America, while on the boat as it sailed; was told that there was no macaroni in America. This made him highly agitated, and he wanted to go back to Italy. He wore a black suit, with a gray fedora and brown shoes. As he stood on the stern of the ‘Joe Garibaldi', right out of Napoli, he asked if they had macaroni in America once again. When they told him; "No" he jumped overboard. His wife, Rose, a sweet young thing leaned over the railing and yelled: "Ritornare a bordo, lei l'idioto!" (Roughly translated: "we were only kidding!")

When he landed in America and fathered all those children he insisted that they have macaroni every day! All his children had to be at the dinner table waiting for him, standing at their plates until he came home and sat down. Once Zio Felice sat down, everyone else could.

One of his sons wanted to become a priest and Zio Felice would not hear of it, and forbade him from doing so. His son then joined the U.S. Army during World War II and was killed in action at Anzio Beach, very near the birthplace of Zio Felice!

Zio Felice was also the older brother of my Grandmother Francesca. Zio Felice was the father figure to my Dad, since his real Dad had died during the Great World War while in the U.S. Army, where he contracted the Spanish Influenza and died in a hospital during the cold of winter, where he tried to jump out a window to go home to visit his three children.

Many years later on a Saturday morning when I was about 12 years old, my Dad said to me: "I have to take your Mother somewhere. I expect Zio Felice to come with Grandma and your Aunt to see our house for the first time. If he comes while I'm away, show him around." Sure enough, the entourage arrives with a flourish, as the little giant steps from the car and I greet him. I immediately escort him and those that follow to the house, through all the rooms, and finally take him back outside to the front of the house at his request. "Tella me, awhata you doer over here?" "What do you mean?" say I. He points to a spot off center of the lawn, about halfway toward the street, and says to me: Wella over here a you puta the bricks ina a nicea big circle an in the middle a here you puta the flaga pole." "Ona the bottom ofa the flaga pole you puta the flowersa, a nicer colors. "THENA" pointing his finger for emphasis, "You puta the picture ofa Garibaldi."

He died in the early 1970's, at the tender age of 93. I guess he should have taken better care of himself.

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