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.
Most nights when I sat down to dinner with my parents, my grandmother, Rachel, Aunt Josephine and my five (soon, six) siblings, in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, my father would begin talking about my grandfather. My father’s tears embarrassed me as I watched him reach for his handkerchief.
Concezio Perrucci 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. In his thirties, my grandfather began suffering from Parkinson’s disease. No medication had yet been discovered that could alleviate the symptoms of this devastating, degenerative neurological condition. He lived with Parkinson's for 24 years, which has to be some sort of a record.
Parkinson’s may have derailed my grandfather’s dreams, but he never stopped fighting, I discovered. When he was only 16 years old, he made the first two trips to America, one in a flock of two million migrant workers from South Italy known as “birds of passage.” Before he died, he saw three of his seven grandchildren take their first steps in the house that he built and handed me and my siblings what he and my grandmother Rachel had dreamed about: the future with its unlimited possibilities and the rich lives that we enjoy today.
Money may make the world go round, but sacrifice, courage, honor, devotion, and loyalty give money its true worth. I began to see that my grandfather’s life had been a triumph—not a tragedy—and challenged me to redraw the narrow boundaries of my definition of success.
I finished writing in July and started my next search: finding an agent and a publisher for my book, which I have titled Searching for Concezio: The Courage and Endurance of an Italian "Bird of Passage."
Would you read my blog and send me your comments? Would you tell me about the immigrant ancestor who started your family’s story in America? I welcome the opportunity to speak to your civic or community group.
News & features
There weren’t any letters or diaries for me to consult when I started my search for family records. My grandfather Concezio was too busy working two jobs to record his thoughts and observations. I had only three pieces of information to rely on when I started writing my book, Searching for Concezio: …Read More
Do you have a “bird of passage” hidden in the branches of your family tree? My grandfather, Concezio Perrucci, was un uncello di passagio.I repeated the words a few times when I first came across them while writing my book, Searching for Concezio. The words sound lovely to the ear in Italian, but they meant…Read More
As I stepped up to the stage, I wished I had said no to the invitation to speak about my family history at the 2022 Columbus Day celebration in Scotch Plains, New Jersey (Searching for Concezio – YouTube). My voice cracked as I began talking about my grandfather, Concezio Perrucci, whose story I grew up…Read More