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A Childhood to Remember

By , Park Ridge, IL
An Interview with my Father

Do you recall any childhood memories of things that really stuck with you?

One of the most important things outside of my family would be playing football in Middle School. I grew up outside of Newark, New Jersey and played for a team called the Irvington Colts. We were a good football team, in fact we won a couple National Championships, but the most important thing was the life lessons I learned. Our coaches were off duty policemen who not only kept us safe during the day, but also volunteered their time in the evening to coach us. Again, it wasn’t just football, it was the life lessons: hard work, finesse, diligence, and collaboration. These are things that I use every day, from work, to home, to church to raising my kids.

Who were the most influential people you had in your life growing up?

First and foremost were my parents. My dad fought in WWII, and really didn’t say much about it until later in life. He did a lot of were very dangerous things in the Navy, and he was very humble, very modest, he never played it up, he did what he needed to do for his country and we respected him very much for that. Also, my parents and grandparents lived through the Great Depression. It was mentally and physically the most challenging things anybody could live through, they like so many others almost lost all their worldly possessions, but they kept together as a family. I respected my parents so much for how they ran our family, and savings, and hard work. Another was Robert Miller, who was the head coach of my football team, but not only that he was the chief of police, and then he became the mayor. I admired him because of his inspiration, protecting us and being the leader of our police department, but also by wanting to do more and become our police chief and mayor and becoming coach of one of the best football programs in the United States, and the life lessons he taught us.

Growing up just outside of Newark, New Jersey, can you remember any events during your childhood that made a lasting impression on you?

Well, it’s like anything in life, the good and the bad, you have to learn from it. When I grew up just outside of Newark, there were certainly some very good times like family, sports, and education, but there were also some very challenging times. I lived through the Riots of Newark of 1968, it was a very scary time, you were wondering why can’t we get along, why did people want to burn down and kill other people from the MLK assassination and others. They were very troubling times as well as other things I remember: There was the 1968 elections in Chicago, there was the riots there and the disagreements, discontent, and you’re wondering why did this happen, again why can’t we get along, and is the country coming apart? There was the 1972 Olympics over in Munich, there were the assassinations and the abductions and the kidnappings by the PLO of Israeli contingents, very tragic. But on the flipside you had the wonderful events as well. You had Dave Waddle; he was kind of a lanky, mile runner for the U.S., nothing fancy about him outside of he ran fast, he ran hard, he worked hard, but he wasn’t good looking. He wore a silly golf hat, he was 10 meters behind in the final stretch of the gold medal run, and somehow, he launched into a sprint, and he dove over the finish line and he won that. There was the 1976 Bi-Centennial celebration, and there was also the Nixon impeachment, or the almost impeachment that I remember. Why would someone do something so stupid, why would someone do something to break the law? That was a good experience on someone thinking they were above the law.

So going back to all the great things your parents did for you, raising you, can you talk about any specific events that really shaped you as you are today?

Going through 8th grade was a very good educational program; the teachers and the administration were good. But as the city started going downhill after the Race Riots in Newark, the educational system was no longer near as good as well as the fact that it was no longer safe. So my parents decided even though we were Protestants, and it was a Catholic school, my parents sent me to Seton Hall Preparatory School in South Orange, New Jersey. I was only one of two kids in the entire town of 40,000 that had the grades as well as well as the parents who were able to support me and send me to Seton Hall Prep. It was a great education, but it was also a challenging time for me because I didn’t know anybody else there besides one other kid. It was a Catholic school; I was learning Catholic education, the Old Testament and the like. So there were a lot of challenges, a wonderful experience, I learned not only a lot educationally but also getting along with folks, and learning different cultures and different religions. It certainly was a great foundation for further education down the line.

As you were growing up, in your early teenage years, did you work at all outside of school? Or did you not have time? So what did you do in your free time?

When I grew up, as I mentioned before, my parents lived through the Great Depression so they saved anyway they could and they instilled a lot of that in me. So I used to go to the bank a lot, passbooks, and so forth, and it was also, “Ok, how do I save money and where do I put it?” Every summer from my sophomore year in high school through graduate school, I worked for my dad who was a general contractor. So we built houses, we modeled houses, built roofs, did a lot of painting, outdoors and indoors. It was a great experience, you worked for your dad, but it was hard work too. It was heavy labor, you got up at 6:30 and you were pretty much done at 4:30, so there wasn’t much else you had time for during the summer. So we were blessed to have my dad there, but it was also a very interesting experience working for your dad. He was hard, but it was fun as well because I worked with my brother as well.

Thank you dad for doing this Oral History with me, I really appreciate it.

You are very welcome.





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