Working In Heaven


March 11, 2014 

My father died on my birthday, however; that didn’t make it more sad than if he’d passed on a different day.  Dad knew my memory suffered, but now his going home will be indelibly etched in my mind.   I will remember him for many things but especially for the way he brought life to all situations.

Note the boy peeking out the screen door - uncle George.  Dad is in the middle of the line-up wearing the bib overals
Note the boy peeking out the screen door – uncle George. Dad is in the middle of the line-up wearing the bib overalls

Dad was in the middle of the picture as he was with life. He was the seventh born in a family of fifteen. Dad had eight sister’s and six brother’s, seven older and seven younger. He was the first born in St. Paul, his older brother’s and sisters’ were born in Cumberland, Wisconsin. It was a large family for those days but surely not unheard of. I met only one guy in my entire sixty-one years with a larger family (an Irish family with seventeen kids).

Dad was born the same year as the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” (1929) so he was around in the days of real gangsters.

He was fond of saying, “My generation went from the horse and buggy to the moon!” Dad was a proud American and was right with his words because he told me stories of his childhood and life in the old neighborhood.

He told of the rag sheeny (a guy who used a horse-drawn wagon) to collect old clothes and junk from the area and how that guy would slowly walk the horse or ride in the wagon up the street yelling, “Rags, rags,” and the people made their donations. 

Definitely a poorer time but I think (from stories heard from Mom & Dad) a much happier time.
Definitely a poorer time but I think (from stories heard from Mom & Dad) a much happier time.

Dad told me of how he got into the painting business because the carpenter’s hall didn’t need any new recruits at the time. He went over to the painter’s union and made a successful business out of that.  He was the quickest painter and paperhanger (I’ve heard the stories of his good work and speed) but he hired a crew so his commitments would be kept.   He was doing the work of three guys, at least. He never once complained about the hard work or the many hours…Dad was a happy guy.

Back in the day he’d contracted with a couple national hotel chains (Holiday Inn and Howard Johnson’s).  He had entire hotels to renovate and decorate both in and out-of-state.  He was a maestro the way he quickly assessed the situation and assigned the right people to the tasks at hand.

1948 - wedding picture
1948 – wedding picture

He began selling carpet to people who’d hired him for other decorating jobs and that went so well that he eventually got into the carpet business alone. He had a store but none of us knew how it should be run.  Dad stuck with it and made a success out of that venture as well; he sold to many contractors, businesses, and residential customers, contacts he’d made while in his more speedy and spectacular days.

Lastly and at the age of eighty-one, Dad became a restaurant owner. He purchased, “Romolo’s” in the fall of 2011 from his friend, Jay Mondo.

He could not understand people retiring young, “What the hell do they do all day?”  That was my dad.  He saw no sense in taking the easy life and so did a total cleaning and refurbishing of his restaurant. He replaced much of the equipment along with sticking his mortgaged money into the fledgling operation and pointed Romolo’s in a new direction.

Dad never spoke much about himself, though; I heard the stories of his quickness and mastery of the entire construction field.  His good friend, Tom remarked once, “Your dad was so smart he finished school in the eighth grade.”  Well not entirely true, he had to quit school and get a job to help support that large family.

His dad, my grandpa, took his every paycheck.  I think that motivated him to strike out on his own and Dad really made an impact with those he came into contact with.  He always paid more than fair wages. He emphasized neatness and a loyalty to your job, something he said was gone.

Some of the old days and ways stayed with him though.   For example, paying off cops for minor infractions that my brother and I had gotten into.  I’m sure his mistrust of the government came from his Grandpa and dad, and then from my Dad and onto me.  The government in Italy, in those days, took everything from the workingman…through taxes.  There were still taxes to pay in America, but they weren’t so hefty then and the government of the day branded the new Italian immigrants as being gangsters, I mean who hasn’t heard of the, Mafia.

Battling through the stereotypes and prejudices Dad lived to eighty-four years of age and lastly he made this prophetic remark, “I’ll work until the day I die,” and so he did.  I love that man.  

Dad's Pizza pie at his Romolo's restaurant, love you, Dad.
Dad’s Pizza pie at his Romolo’s restaurant, love you, Dad.

Steve Richie

Hi folks, Two lives in one lifetime. The first me, lived to age thirty-four. That Steve was overly confident and oozing with pride. Then, on a record heat-setting day (107º) here in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota and western Wisconsin, a one car near-fatal wreck left me in a two-month long coma. I emerged much as I was before minus certain physical capabilities, but my mind seemed mostly in tact. The crash and its effects did not change me (I emerged a happy individual) but the deeds perpetrated against me in the ensuing months from my wife of sixteen years scared and humbled me as I was dragged down with nothing left by my wife who now had guardianship over all of our accounts. And neither would she allow me to see our kids. She took everything out of, "Our" names and changed them to her name only; then would not allow me to our home and divorced me. I was angry, but no more. I spent half of 1988 and more than half of 1989 in hospitals, nursing homes and a three month stint at a head-injury rehab center where I was being taught how to re-enter society as this different person, that I didn't know. I was not able to return to my previous line of work, a self-employed decorator, you know, painting and paperhanging. It was a physical job which required much dexterity, finesse, and a good grasp of numbers. I returned to the beginning, school, but on a community college level. One of the instructor's liked my writing and I began focusing my attention on that. I attended classes at, "The Loft," A Place for Writers in Minneapolis. While there, a classmate of mine was having her friend from New York, a CBS executive, to her home for the holidays and asked me if she could do a critique on a couple chapters of a book I was writing, "A Day I'll Never Remember" and I obliged. When she returned to class the following Monday she told me that the exec wanted a ten-page synopsis of the book for a possible movie; I was excited. After obliging for that also, I never saw or heard from her or the guy from CBS. Next thing I knew I was watching a movie called, "Regarding Henry" starring Harrison Ford and the scenes of therapy were exactly like what I went through and had written about. Regarding Henry - could've been my story except that, "Henry" got his head injury from a gunshot and his wife stayed with him throughout the ordeal. Coincidence I'm sure, though, the therapy scenes entailed what I described in the book so I always wondered..... My hope, my dream is to bolster our income for my daughter and for myself. I am and have been raising this beautiful, talented little girl who was diagnosed with autism at age two, since 2006 singlehandedly. I divorced her mother the same year following complaints that I spent too much time with our daughter. However, Stephanie began school with no need for special education. She has been reading since age four and understanding what she'd read. Stephanie maintains straight "A's" on her report card, has published two books (through school) and has been selected as an, "Honors" student for seventh grade English. My ex moved to New York to be closer to her sister and has been remarried now for a number of years. Well, that's only a snippet of my sixty-one years and I would like to thank you for reading, thank you.

6 comments

  • Will never forget him, when I was in high school he used to be at our house all the time either playing Gin or May -I, I would get up and get all ready for school, and they would be playing cards and he would start to laugh and say you nut it is only midnight. So I would go back to bed. Love Roxie Gresafe

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  • Reading March 11 … a learn a lot about a proud American : your father, He was a man of integrity !!!

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