Money does indeed make the world go round, I’ve learned after more than two decades of writing about personal finance, but in 2023 I’m heading in a new direction.
For years, I was too busy chasing deadlines to pay much attention to the most important story I ever heard.
On many nights when I sat down to dinner in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, with my parents, my grandmother, Rachel, Aunt Josephine and my five (soon, six) siblings, my father would begin talking about my grandfather. Concezio Perrucci had served in the Italian Army’s Calvary, and he could read and write English, too, but the only job he could get when he arrived in America was digging track for Central Jersey Railroad for a dollar a day. According to my father’s story, Concezio never achieved his American dream. Parkinson’s disease derailed his dreams when he was still a young man in his thirties. My father’s voice would begin to trail off as he reached for his handkerchief to hide his tears.
For years, there was always another deadline to chase until the Covid-19 pandemic prompted me to look again at the story my father never finished.
Parkinson's may have derailed Concezio’s dreams, but my grandfather never stopped fighting, I discovered. When he was 16 years old, he made the first of two trips to America, one in an unprecedented "flock" of more than three million migrant workers, known as "birds of passage," who left South Italy in the first two decades of the twentieth century. Before he died, he saw three of his seven grandchildren take their first steps in the house that he built and handed us what he and our grandmother Rachel had dreamed about: the rich future with the unlimited possibilities we enjoy today. His life had been a triumph—not a tragedy.
Money may make the world go round, I learned, but sacrifice, courage, honor, devotion, and loyalty give money its true worth. That is the message in my book, Searching for Concezio: The Courage and Endurance of an Italian "Bird of Passage." I finished writing in June 2023, and started my next search: finding an agent and a publisher.
Would you read one of my blogs and leave a comment? Would you tell me about the ancestor who started your family’s story in America? I welcome the opportunity to speak to your civic or community group.
News & features
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My sister Rachelle does not impress easily, but I could hear a genuine note of admiration in her voice. “I didn’t know that,” she said. “That is interesting—I never knew that about our grandfather. ‘Bird of passage,’” she repeated. She had just read my blog “Bird of Passage”—Where is Your Home?” Rachelle and I and…Read More
Every year on October 23rd, I think about my grandmother Rachel. I knew that she arrived on Ellis Island on October 23, 1920, but I never wondered why she took a ship from Le Havre, France instead of Naples, Italy. My grandfather Concezio had to walk or share a ride in a donkey cart for…Read More