Peace and Quiet

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Grandpa- what comes to mind when you hear that word? Perhaps a wrinkled old man, stooped with age, or maybe a distant figure, only coming into your life in the form of gifts around your birthday and Christmas. Vincent Joseph Vella, my grandpa, is neither of these stereotypes. Vincent is tall and tan, with a big Roman nose and not much hair. His blue eyes twinkle with humor, no matter what the situation is. He is in excellent physical condition; he recently went on a bear hunt in Saskatchewan. He is also a dedicated grandfather; he takes time every year to make sure he gets to see all nine of his grandchildren. Like Odysseus, he is an outstanding role model because of his perseverance, his dedication, and his love for his family.

Vincent, or Vin, was born in 1930 during the Great Depression. He recalls an enjoyable childhood in his birthplace, New York City, but he remembers the hardships that some of his neighbors went through. “I still turn lights out if they’re not being used,” he says, remembering his life during the Great Depression. Vin was an only child, but grew up surrounded by two loving parents who cared a lot about him. When he was a teenager, he joined the rifle team at his high school, St. Francis Xavier High School in Manhattan, and was extremely successful. He was recognized nationally, helping set four world records in rifle marksmanship. After high school, Vincent won a four-year athletic scholarship to St. John’s University where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration in Marketing. “This prepared me for the buying, selling, advertising, and managing that I would do later on,” Vincent comments.

Vin had always loved the military. “We would drive up to West Point where the military Academy was, and I loved to go to the cadets parade,” he recalls. Vincent joined the Army in his early twenties as a Private First Class. He had planned to go to England with the Seventh Regiment’s rifle team in 1950 (this was the main reason he joined up) but the Korean War began, and the trip was cancelled. Heartbroken, but still willing to help to his country, Vin decided to remain a soldier in the National Guard. By the end of his ten years of service, he had become an Infantry Company Commander.

Not long before he left the Army, Vincent met his soon-to-be wife, Barbara Cosenza. They were married April 12, 1958, and moved into a two-bedroom apartment in Jackson Heights New York. In 1960, Vin’s first son was born, David Andrew Vella, and his family life became too important for him to remain in the National Guard. Over the next 6 years, Barbara gave birth to four more children, two boys and two girls, including my mother, Maria Lucia Vella. In 1968, the Vella family moved to Long Island where they bought a house that did a much a better job of fitting the whole 7-person family. That same year, the Shakespeare Company hired him. Over the next bunch of years, he moved around a whole bunch and became the Vice president of the Shakespeare Company, a fishing tackle manufacturer, and the general manager of the Canadian division.

When the kids were still very young, he decided to buy a plot of land on Clarendon Lake, now called Big Gull Lake, in Ontario, Canada. His friends thought he was crazy. “Why would you build a cottage in Canada when you could just buy some land in New York?” they asked. But he really just wanted some peace and quiet, a place to get away from it all. Every year, the whole family still gathers up in that little lakeside getaway to catch up with each other. We are all so thankful for that place; it means the world to us to know that there is a place where we can all meet and visit and not have to pay a fortune for a fancy vacation.

Vincent Vella is a very subtle hero. He may not have saved a baby from a burning building or risked his life to push an elderly woman out of the path of a drunk driver, but he is a hero nonetheless. Odysseus was a great warrior; similarly, Vincent was a great soldier and marksman. He overcame his rough beginnings in New York City during the Great Depression to become a leading executive in the Shakespeare Company, making him a great example to his children and grandchildren. Seeing the importance of a little peace and quiet, he built a cottage on the shores of Big Gull Lake, giving his whole family a place to relax and take stock of their lives. Vincent’s dedication to his country kept him in the National Guard for ten years, an amount of commitment that not many of us could even imagine having. Through all his years, Vin has succeeded in all he has attempted, and given his family the example it needs to thrive.





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