August 24, 1919 to November 14, 1982
Let's reminisce. It has been about 40 Years since Papa's passing.
On his birthday in 2020, I decided to write out his life story.
We've always talked about doing that, so here we go.
I'm writing this for Rosemary and John
because we're the only ones who call him Papa.
Papa Fulfilled His Life-Purpose Many Times
(I count 16 moments which Papa encountered that allowed him to develop. These were times in his life in which his sole motivation, his sole purpose was a LOVE that drove him forward. If you asked him, he would say there were four loves in his life;
"Pina, Rosemary, Giovanni e Daniele."
Please keep in mind, this is my side of the story. Rosemary & John have given me input. We have corroborated on these facts and are in full agreement about what is written, so as to provide you, the rest of our family, to have an accurate historical accounting as well as a family heritage to pass on.
I'm sorry lots of you never got the opportunity to meet Papa because he died so long before many of you were born. This I can say: he loved everyone and everyone was his friend. He stood for something. He had a motto,
We all need at least one good motto for our life. When Papa had two mottos: he grabbed some oil and vinegar and made a salad!
You say tomato, I say two mottos.
Hey! This is my version of Papa's story! Of course it's gonna have my own style and humor in it, so let's go...
Seriously now, I am attempting to write about Papa and the great things he did in life. It's not merely what he did that made him great, but it's who he was. Papa was old Sicilian in thought, so also in his Italian nature. He sort of had a hard life attitude, (you can ask Dave about that, while he was trying to date Rosemary) but down deep Papa had a very loving heart with a great love for both his family and every person he encountered.
In the face of dire circumstances, he always remained positive. He had this "inner peace" and "a love and respect for people." He always had a purpose to strive toward. As I wrote, what he held on to, and grasped close to his heart contains the most truth:
On August 24, 1919, Luigi Pantano (Papa) was born in Palermo, Italy, to Giovanni Pantano and Maria Rosa Trifiro-Pantano. They were very poor.
At around seven years old, Papa had to help financially for his family, so he took up barbering as a child. I can only imagine what it would be like for a boy to cut my hair, so I guess he was just okay (at best) with his profession, but he didn't give up, and kept increasing in his abilities to enhance his career as a barber.
Soon it would become very apparent that barbering, though he didn't really like it, would literally save his life – and he loved that!
Still a poor family when he was about 15 years old, in 1934, they moved to a tiny, tiny street, across from the Catedrale di Palermo. The steet is called Vicolo dello Zingaro. It's there to this day, as designated in stone on the wall of the street corner.
The street has been there since the year 1184. During the Norman occupation in Sicily, they built the Catedrale with many large housing apartments across the street. The streets were three: Vicolo Brugno, Vicolo Carini, and Vicolo dello Zingaro. They were very narrow, one-carreto-wide streets.
In a few years, Papa's personality developed into a very friendly, fun-loving person. Mommie said that everyone he encountered was invited over and they wanted to spend time with him.
From the apartment, Papa's Barber Shop was about 200 feet away, on Via Vittorio Emanuele, across the street from the Catedrale.
Below is a picture of Papa cutting the hair of a man who [Rosemary adds] was Mafioso, who at one time tried to get Papa to hold guns for him at his Barber Shop, but Papa wouldn't. At another time, he offered to pay for Papa to get to the United States, but Papa wouldn't succomb, knowing some other day there would be a "catch" to repay. The boy is Gigetto, a child Rosemary knew well in those days.
Papa's stylish shoes speak for themselves.
Our apartment on Vicolo dello Zingaro was the one that I would eventually be born in, and in the ensuing years two of my cousins, Elio and Umberto, were also born there, by each of their own moms, who were my aunts, Mommie's sisters. But this story is about Papa, long before I was even a thought.
His First Life-Purpose:
Meeting Pina Alcamisi - Love is Life's Answer
Again, Papa was about 15 years old, when he moved across the street from the cutest 13 year old girl, Pina (Guiseppina). What first attracted him to her was that she used to sing doing her chores, all day long!
For five years, Pina and Luigi developed their relationship. It took a lot of patience. They couldn't go out on a date. When they finally were allowed to go for a walk together, the entire family, starting with Nonna, had to follow. But woe on them if they ever tried to hold hands! Little did they know, they would soon be destined for a wonderful life in the United States.
His Second Life-Purpose:
Becoming a Soldier and fighting for freedom
WW2 began in 1939. Papa was 20 years old when he became a Soldier in the Italian Army.
His Third Life-Purpose:
Being a Prisoner of War and barbering for food
Since Papa was gone to war, he was not present when the bomb hit Palermo's bomb-shelter. Instead, a different event in the military led to an unfortunate experience, and Papa became a prisoner of war.
Papa was incarcerated by the English, and sent to an Arabian prison camp. It was there He found his third life-purpose while he was imprisoned. He became a barber to the guards and officers.
During wartime, imprisonment was no little thing. Papa recalled,
"All we had to eat was stale bread and broth given to us once a day, and we were starving and had become skin and bones."
In his bunkhouse one day, he overheard guards speaking. With what little he understood of the Arabic language, he realized one guard was telling another that he needed a haircut. Papa told them,
"I'm a great barber, I can give you a fine haircut."
Papa told me later, he was thinking to himself,
"If I cut their hair, maybe they'll give me something good to eat."
Soon after he cut their hair, he did such a good job that all the other guards and officers began lining up for his services. He was so glad he'd begun barber training as a young boy.
Papa was cutting their hair for a period of several months. He hated it. The officers would come in speaking and boasting about their latest victory. He hated serving those who'd incarcerated him.
In addition to that, he hated Hitler and Mussolini and what they stood for. He hated the officer's mannerisms, and it was many years later in the US that he could once again even tolerate the sound of the German language.
It seemed like he was torn in two regarding whose side he was on. Italy was his home, but Mussolini and Hitler were an impossible pair. So he decided to become a traitor to his own country because Italy had become Mussolini's Facist Regime.
In WW2, hatred among people groups dominated all over the world. It was a conflict that involved virtually every nation. The principal confrontations were the Axis powers: Germany, Italy, and Japan — vs. the Allies: France, Great Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union, and, to a lesser extent, China.
The first few months of 1941 saw the British authorities establish a pattern for accomodating their Italian prisoners across the Empire. The immense numbers captured in Italian East Africa were eventually dispatched by rail to Arabia and Kenya, Libya and Egypt. Papa would eventually travel by train to each of those camps as a prisoner boxer.
This is a pic of German and Italian prisoners. There were 250,000 of them, and a lot of logistics the Brittish weren't prepared to handle.
This means that in prison, his captors were English, but kept moving him from one prison camp in Egypt to another in Arabia, then Greece, etc.. English was a language he'd never studied until he was incarcerated and wanted to communicate. And so Papa did...
His Fourth Life-Purpose:
Papa got an idea: Boxing to Stay Alive
He wanted to be free as soon as possible, no matter what the cost. While barbering at the prison camps, Papa overheard two officers talking as they were waiting for their haircuts. They were discussing how the prisoners were boxing at another prison camp and the guards were pitting one prisoner from one camp with another prisoner from another camp, placing bets and making money. Papa was incensed! They were using imprisoned soldiers for profit! After hearing a few times about the boxing matches, Papa got an idea and dicussed it with his Italian friend, Bruno, also a prisoner. They agreed, it was worth a try.
You need to understand: Ideas were almost non-existent in prison. To have an idea about anything while you're weakened by starvation and malntrition, is difficult. They were so weak from hunger and no exercise that even their morale waned into a “What's the use?” attitude.
So one day, Papa said to the officers in his broken English,
"I'm a very good boxer. I'll box for you."
He told us much later, as kids, that he lied to them because he'd never boxed a day in his life. But he was so hungry! This was a chance to get some real food and get back in shape. He was tired of being emaciated like all the other prisoners.
Papa continued speaking,
"If I'm going to box for you, I will win! You will all make a lot of money. If I do so, you've got to do two things for me,"
he told the officers,
"First, give me choice foods so I can get into shape to be your best fighter. Meat and vegetables will get me healthy enough to win! Second, I need a trainer, Bruno. He's a prisoner here and he must be the one who trains me.
The officers began peering at one another with scouls on their face, wondering if this guy was a good gamble or not. They didn't want to get in trouble with their commandant!
When they again fixed their gaze on Papa, he continued,
"Not only do we need first, to be fed healthy food; second, to have Bruno train me; but just one more request: third, we need a private place to workout."
The officers walked away discussing it – it felt like forever – yet they soon returned with their approval! Papa was now on his way to becoming the representative boxer for his prison camp and would soon be pitted against the other boxers. He agreed to be profitable for the guards, but he and Bruno had an alterior motive, which they kept to themselves.
Papa began boxing and was winning a lot of the matches. It was such a success that Luigi Pantano earned a fame which he, himself didn't anticipate. He told us kids that he became famous in the camps as The Boxing Champion of the world in 1945! We have reason to doubt his exaggeration, but to put it into context, this all occurred a year before Sugar Ray Robinson actually won the real title. So it must have been that Papa became the champ of all the prison camps during WW2. That's still quite an accomplishment!
But Papa was a pretty good boxer and was making a lot of money for his guards on the undergound prison camp boxing matches.
History shows Benito Mussolini joined ranks with Hitler, the ultimate of facism! Papa and Bruno hated that! They decided to plan an escape, not only from the prison camp, but also from "Mussolini's Italy." This meant they now sided with the English – who were presently their captors!
This sounds a little crazy, but Papa and Bruno began planning a break out of prison, in order to turn themselves back in to the English, presenting themselves as now sided with them against Mussolini's Italy.
By doing so, they knew they were committing treason to The Italy That Once Was! Keep this in mind: They really loved the real Italy, But Mussolini had turned Italy into a fascist regime! Their plan of escaping and treason needed to be soon, but they didn't know how or how long it would take. Papa and Bruno set their plan in motion.
His Fifth Life-Purpose:
A Jump to Freedom
Several months had passed. As boxers, they traveled from Egypt, Arabia, Turkey and Greece, through much of Mediterranean Europe. From camp to camp, Bruno trained and Papa fought, while planning their escape.
At last a window of opportunity had come! They were approaching a camp for another match, but with their escape plan in motion, they jumped the train and hoofed it into a nearby English Barracks. Does that make sense? Jumping from an English train as prisoners of war and escaping to an English barrack to turn themselves in.
A 1935 locomotive which traveled throughout Europe.
Once they found an English barracks they said,
"We just escaped! We are Italians but we won't fight for Mussolini, that stinking fascist! We defect to Great Britain! We'll fight for freedom with you and America like we did when the war started!"
Of course, dressed as they were, it made some sense, but the English thought they were in too good of shape for having been in prison, and were lying.
So Papa and Bruno began re-canting their story. The English soldiers sat around a fire that evening and listened to the two Italians, Bruno and Luigi, tell their unbelievable story over and over again, of starving, barbering, boxing matches and an escape plan. Soon they understood and accepted them into their troop, but as Italian Prisoners of War Boxing Heroes!
With all Papa's poor treatment by his captors, traveling the world as a boxer, and now escaped and free men; Papa never got off the target of his Life-Purpose: get free to marry his girl – it's all about amore! L'amore vinci! It would be several months before Papa would be able to return home to his loving Pina in Palermo, the joy of his heart.
On October 13, 1943, the government of Italy declared war on its former Axis partner Germany and joined the battle on the side of the Allies.
Eventually, Mussolini was assassinated. He was hung upside down by his ankles in the piazza at Giulino di Mezzegra, about an hour's drive north of Milano. Papa had been angry with Mussolini switching sides to join Hitler. When he heard that Mussolini had been killed, he went there to see it for himself. When he arrived at the piazza, he was so glad he was dead, that he grabbed a tomato and threw it at his hanging corpse!
Papa: he was a hot-headed Italian man! You don't mess with Italia! Hey! He was also the Underground Prison Camp Boxing Champ and he had a tomato in his hand!
He didn't have two tomatoes, or he would have grabbed some oil and vinegar and made a salad! (you say tomato, I say two mottos!)
There's something to be said here about beating a good joke into the ground! Wait! No one said it was a good joke!
Yeah, yeah – I know.
Back to From 1939 to 1946, it had been a total of seven years from the time he left Palermo for the war, until he returned home. The war ended in '45 but it took a little longer then he liked to get back home.
His Sixth Life-Purpose:
Get Home, Get Married to Pina
Meanwhile, Pina waited for him all that time. Down deep, although she had other suitors, she knew Papa was the man for her. She was only 18 years old when he left. She had never heard from him during the war. Seven years with zero contact.
Both their families didn't think she should wait – he might be dead. But she still loved him so much that waiting was the only way to show her faith in their younger commitment to one another.
One day Pina, who now was 25 years old, was singing through her daily chores when she heard a familiar neighbor's voice yelling down the street,
"Luigi! Luigi e qui! Luigi is here!"
Her heart leaped within her and she shouted for joy when she ran down the street and finally saw him walking toward her on Vicolo dello Zingaro! Papa was finally home!
Pina didn't care that no other family members were present! She wasn't going to wait for anybody else! She immediately threw both her loving arms around his strong shoulders and kissed him like a "longing for love Italian woman" would! He'd never been kissed like that before!
"Ciao mio bello bello Luigi!
Mi amore! Ti amo! Ti amo!
Quanto ti voglio bene!"
His Seventh Life-Purpose:
Getting Started with a Family
They loved one another so much they instantly got married at the Catedrale, 100 yards up the street. In Sicilia in those days, when you got married, you'd just start having kids! They were married in January 1947. Rosemary was born in December 1947. John was born in April 1952 and they kept living at Vicolo dello Zingaro with their families, as was the custom for poor people.
His Eighth Life-Purpose:
An Invitation to Embark on a Journey
In 1952, after John was born, Papa's older sister, Josephine, who was 17 years older than Papa, had moved to the US when she was 18 and Papa was 13 months old. She eventually settled in Pasadena, Ca. We called her Auntie. She sent for Papa and Mommie, Rosemary and John, to move to America. She touted,
"You can be in the land of the free. You can be who you want. You will always have food on the table for your family, and you'll provide the best life for them."
They began the paperwork, but it was very slow, slow, slow in Palermo! Take a minute to sing that with me, would ya?
Slow, slow, slow in Palermo!
Itsa so slow don ya know?
Gelato, cannoli e ravioli,
Atsa good way to go!
If you didn't sing that with me, it's probably because you're embarrased about your voice –
not that the song is bad!
Things in Italy just took time, sometimes too much of it. Meanwhile, after everything was in motion, before we moved, I was born. So they had to start the whole stack of paperwork over again. I was born in 1954, then another year later we came to America.
We came over to the US on the last successful voyage of the Andrea Dorea cruise liner in December 1955.
She sank on her return voyage to the US in July 1956. I can still remember Mommie's words on the ship,
"Danny, don'a play wita da cork ata da bottom o' da boata!"
Buta she sanka anyway! We enjoyed the coffee.
We came by ship to New York, then train to Pasadena, where we were to move in with Auntie Pelosi.
At this point, please realize we have every convenience in place for our babys now, but back then, there were what we'd consider today "minor inconveniences." When we arrived at the train station in Pasadena, I was in diapers. Not those new-fangled disposable ones, I was in cloth diapers before they invented plastic covers. So if I peed, it would just wet whoever was holding me as well. Tough, tough times they were! Even my milk bottle was made out of glass. I've kept one in my hutch to remember where I came from all those years ago.
But we were in America!
Okay, back to Papa's story – we're still in the fifties:
Papa had succeeded with the help of Auntie, his sister, to bring his family to America. He wanted with all his heart to give a wonderful life to his family. And he did! He was a huge success! His new motto after we became citizens was,
"I'm an Italian-American with a lot of amore"
He was so proud of everything!
His Ninth Life-Purpose:
Barber College, Citizenship, Learn English
His many years of barbering, the profession he used in order to escape from his military prison, once in America, they still required a Barber's License from Papa .
Since he couldn't just jump into cutting hair, he took a job at Jensen's Cafeteria in Pasadena, while attending Barber College. He also enrolled Mommie and himself into citizenship classes. By 1959 all us kids had started school, I was finally old enough to start kindergarten. That's where we learned English for them, and we spoke English to them, while they answered in Sicilian. That's how we grew up.
One time in surgery they took out kidney stones and he asked to take them home. He showed us the culprit stones. Impossible to have simply passed them, they needed to be surgically removed. They were in a little jar and were the size of two large green olives. I was shocked to see them, but I understood better now why he moaned in pain all the time.
He never really overcame the kidney stones. It was the truly sorrowful look on his face when he would see us as kids notice his being in such escruciating pain. He continued to show strength, even in the face of his anguish!
His Eleventh Life-Purpose:
Buying Our First Home
After working very hard as a barber for years, with the financial and wise business-like know-how of Auntie, in 1961 we bought our own house on Garfias Drive in Pasadena.
Being as lively as always, Papa still had many many family friends he would have over. He'd serve them a vermouth as an appertivo. With the meal he'd always serve a glass of wine with Mommie's cotoletti e patati fritti con una insalata fresca (cutlets, fried potatoes and a salad.) After they'd eat, Papa and Mommie would sing and teach Italian songs to their friends.
"Tutti a cantari!"
If it was a "tutti a ballare" evening, we'd have to move the table and chairs.
His Twelvth Life-Purpose:
Bucca di Beppo is not just a Restaurant
Auntie Tina was Mommie's aunt, sister of her mother, and they lived in Eagle Rock, about a twenty minute drive. We called them Auntie Tina and Uncle Joe. Uncle Joe was the groundskeeper at Griffith Park in L.A. He owned a rather large hill, so he built two houses on it.
We'd park at the street level, enter the gate and and go up and up, climbing 173 steps to the house. What made it enjoyable was that on either side of the paved pathway, on each of the 6-8 terraces, as we'd walk up, there was a mulberry tree, a fig tree, a peach and plum and apricot tree, fava beans, pomegranites, finocchio (fennel), a "nespoli" Italian loquat tree, all sorts of vegetable greens, spices, herbs and more! It was pretty overwhelming and really great!
We'd often just go eat our fill of mulberrys. A few minutes later we'd go eat our fill of figs. Later we'd go eat our fill of peaches or apricots or plums. We stood and ate for hours on end in the fava bean field. Obviously, when we went to Auntie Tina's, we'd be there all day.
Under the house, the Buca di Beppo, (buca means “under,” Beppo is a nickname for Guiseppo, or Under Joe's house.) At the bucca you'd go down about 8-10 cellar stairs and open the door. There were Italian landscape-painted walls, a large long table with a red-checkered tablecloth, a stove, a pantry and sugar cubes, and lots of wine, whiskey and always, pasta cooking and high volume discussions, laced with a few songs 'a cantari' all day and into the evening! Connie Stevens, our second cousin, was about 17 years old while she still had her hit TV show: 77 Sunset Strip. She would show up at the Bucca every once in a while. I remember when I was a kid about 5-7 years old that she brought her cute little terrier in her arms, and we'd play.
Often with cousin Chuckie, John and I would secretly take any kind of leftovers; meat, salad, garbanzo beans, including cigarette ashes, and make a horrible, smelly "goulash" we called it. All while the adults weren't watching us, especially Uncle Joe. If he'd enter the room, Chuck would grab a spoon, put his face down into that stinky old bowl, and pretend he was eating it. John, Chuck and I did this many, many times. All this time there, where was Roesmary? Not a clue! Let's ask her some day.
And cats! Whoa the cats! Do you like cats? Outdoors, Uncle Joe had 8-10 feral cats he'd feed all our left-overs to. He'd just come out from downstairs and beat on the back of a pan with a large metal spoon,
"Here kitty, kitty, kitty."
The cat's would all come running. They'd eat pasta, mingled with a few sardines, olives, salad mixed right into it, garbanzo beans, fava beans too.
John and I, still young kids, used to sneak upstairs and steel a couple sugar cubes from Auntie Tina's tea cabinet. Then we'd take them downstairs and pour a few whiskey drops into them. I don't think we ever got caught!
Did I mention Papa was always giving Uncle Joe and any of his friends free haircuts too? Late at night, when all the eating had subsided, of course the drinking never subsided, Uncle Joe was buzzed and he would put all us kids into the second downstairs room, turn out the lights, and throw handfulls of loose change into the air.
"Is everybody happy?" Uncle Joe would shout!
The room was pitch dark, only the light from the kitchen helped us see, and we would all scramble on our hands and knees to find however much money we could! I think I got $2.71 once and I was thrilled! With hindsight, Uncle Joe must have been throwing $20+ of loose change over the course of 2-3 handfulls. Mind you, that was when minimum wage was $1.35/hour, so you can see why we were so excited as kids. We made a killing financially! We all had a blast there as kids. It was just crazy fun!
I remember in the 1960s, Papa always had cash in his pocket. He was making a good living at first. But in those years, hippies started to grow their hair long, so Papa's barbershop wasn't as popular, and the money he used to carry in his pocket became less and less.
I'm sure he wondered,
"If we'd stayed in Sicilia, or if we go back, could we make more money?"
We didn't ever go back – we stayed here
because there was a better chance for us kids in America.
He did it for us. He and Mommie did everything for us.
What a fantastic gift and life in America they gave us!
His Thirteenth Life-Purpose:
A Wedding we'll Never Forget
Then it became time for Papa and Mommie to give Rosemary a more wonderful gift than they ever had! Dave had asked Rosemary to marry him. Mommie and Papa spared no expense! We went as all-out as we could, even with Papa's financial shortage.
We all headed back to the house on Garfias Drive for the reception. We emptied the furniture out of the tiny, small house.
But Uncle Joe was nowhere to be seen! We had left him at the church! I said I'd go back to get him, knowing at the wedding he was already a little drunk. In fact, he missed the ride to the house reception! I was 13, someone had to drive me.
I went with them to go retrieve Uncle Joe because it was the thing to do! When we got to the church cul-de-sac there he was, no one around, standing on the curb and singing,
He was sort of wobbly and singing over and over,
We just laughed and put him in the car.
By the time we got back, fortunately we could park in the driveway because there wasn't a parking space for about a four block radius! When in the driveway I opened the door to get out of the car, and glanced at the large front picture window of the house. It was fogged up from about 200 people standing around with drinks! After that, it's funny: I only remember a few things.
At the front door, I had to fight my way through all the people to get to the kitchen, about 20 feet away. I heard Papa singing, but I couldn't find out where he was standing. When I finally got to the kitchen I heard the doorbell ring. The doorbell at Garfias was a sort of weird "scraping buzzer" sound that no one knew what it was. I realized I was the one who knew it was the doorbell. "Why was someone ringing the doorbell?" I had to fight my way back to the door.
It was a guy with a stack of 8-10 large pizza boxes! I said,
"You're going to have to bring it inside and find a place for it."
He did, and I again headed to my room. The last thing I remember is the keg of beer outside my bedroom door – wait, I remember refilling my glass at least twice!
Ask Rosemary: Did I take any pictures at the wedding? No! Was I supposed to? Yes! Did I apologize? Not sure yet... I should!
Papa and Mommie's provision for Rosemary and Dave's wedding was a wonderful memory we'll never forget. I thank God for the love of great parents, shown while we were either getting married or getting buzzed!
Remember in the '70s everything was "far out"? Rosemary had moved out, and John and I grew our hair out.
During the "Large, bushy, big-hair" days, I felt kind of bad when I had to fight off Papa's constant plea to cut my hair. It was selfish on my part. Today I have shorter hair than I used to, and it would be so great to once again have Papa give me another haircut! Also, I would love to have a barber's shave in the big chair. I've never had one because I was so young and didn't have much of a beard.
A year later, I was invited to my friend's Christian Rock concert. In those days there was no such thing as Christian Rock. Churches were all choirs, pianos and organs. Absolutely no drums could be allowed in the church! Didn't they ever read the Bible? It says to praise the Lord with loud cymbols and resounding cymbols! It Sounds like a drumset to me!
Anyway, the concert made me think more about my spiritual life than I ever had. I decided to come home and pray to God from my heart for the first time. In my bedroom, the one I'd gotten soused in and passed out during the wedding a year earlier, – I prayed and asked God to prove Himself to me. I became a Christian. I told God I'd give Him six months. Let's see: that was about 49 years ago! When you let God do stuff for ya, it's really, really great!
Immediately I knew I was going into the ministry. At first, no one believed me. Rosemary was living with Dave now that they were married. No one believed me at home. Not John, not even Mommie and Papa who told me later that they just thought I was going through a passing fad.
For a few months afterward, John would ask me if we could smoke a joint together and I'd say, "No way! Let's read the Bible." At first he thought I was crazy, but soon after he'd also heard a few Christian concerts, he became a Christian too! I was so excited he did! It was great! Now I had my own fratello who I'd always looked up to in admiration, and now we could share our relationship with the Lord. We've sung a lot (for Jesus) together since then.
His Fourteenth Life-Purpose:
Living Waves at Huntington Beach
In the 70s Papa struggled with his self-image a little. He began drinking and it became burdensome to Mommie and the rest of us. They always had a Catholic relationship with God. They brought us up going to Catholic church. We all felt a new relationship with God needed to spring forth.
So John and I began a Christian Rock band, wrote a few songs, but while we were interviewing various Christian musicians, John was invited to join another Christian Rock band called the JC Power Outlet. He joined them and I went solo.
We both traveled a lot during those years on musical tours. It took about 6 years for Mommie to realize this wasn't a passing thing with me.
His Fifteenth Life-Purpose:
In 1978 all us kids decided we needed to give Mommie and Papa one trip for their lifetime: a time to go back to Italy. We wanted to send them back to see their families and friends. We pooled our money and paid for their flights. They went and had the time of their life. I'll bet Papa spent too much time there crying with tears in his eyes from the overflowing joy he had seeing everyone and everything once again.
I had planted my first church in Pasadena, in 1978, and I began pastoring. Then in 1980, Papa came to me, asking questions about his faith and my faith. I said I love the Catholic church like I always have, but I don't really like the way they do ministry. So I became a protestant pastor. It's not about the church, it's about God.
Papa took the time to ask me probing questions about how I worship and serve the Lord. He didn't want to just arbitrarily change his faith. He was serious about his relationship with God, and he believed in Christ already, as a Catholic.
So I told him,
"It's the same faith in the same God."
He decided to re-commit his life to God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He backed off from drinking so much, and now that he was clear headed, I saw the right kind of change in him. By 1980 he asked me to baptize him in his new way of life. I was excited that Papa really meant business with God!
I agreed to baptize him, even though he was frail from his kidney issues at the time. We went to Huntington Beach, where I baptized him between the waves. Now, as an adult, Papa had a renewed heart for the things of God. He began reading and studying his Bible. John and I even got him and Mommie an Italian translation so they could grasp it better. BTW, years later, Mommie was re-baptized in the little Baptist church next to Webster School that she used to attend. I went to her baptism also, I wasn't going to miss such an important occassion!
Papa read his Bible for hours and hours a day for the next couple of years, between episodes of Gunsmoke, Bonanza and the Big Valley.
"That Barbara Stanwyck was a fine actress,"he told me. Heath was eventually worth $6 million dollars! That's also where Rosemary and Dave got the name Audra!
His Sixteenth and Final Life-Purpose:
A Wonderful Home With God
Papa was a barber, a soldier, a prisoner, a barber again, a boxer, a defector, a lover, a dancer, a husband, a barber again, a father, a father again, a father once more, an American, a barber again, a home owner, a wedding planner, a seeker of God, and a baptized Believer! Finally on November 21, 1982, Papa went home to the Lord. He was 63 years old.
Mommie lived for thirty more years and we got to enjoy more of her wonderful spirit. She calmly passed at home, in her own bed, and went home to meet Papa in heaven on June 5, 2012. She was 91 years old.
Today, they are dancing with Jesus in heaven and will do so forever more!