Recently, on a bright, crisp late summer day, I thought we should take our son, Lucas to Ellis Island to see his grandfather's name on the Immigrant Wall of Honor. Lucas never knew his grandfather, which is why he knows him as "Angel Grandpa", but through my stories he feels that he knew him. I'm happy for that. I never knew either of my grandfathers--they were both gone long before I was born. Both were immigrants and so was my father, Saverio Finzi.
Dad passed through Ellis Island in 1914 at the age of 4, with his father, Sergio, his mother, Caterina De Ceglia, his older brother, Anselmo and baby sister, Antonia. His father, Sergio had two prior excursions to America before being able to bring his family with him to start their new lives.
There were 12 other men from Molfetta traveling with Sergio on his 1907 voyage. Many from Molfetta eventually settled in Hoboken--which still today is considered a sister city to Molfetta. The cold, early spring sea voyage lasted 13 days. He was going to stay with his "cousin, Domenico Pansini" in Hoboken, NJ.
On his second trip, there were 8 other men from his hometown of Molfetta traveling with Sergio Finzi. He was the only man from Molfetta to list a trade (tailor), with all the others listing themselves as "laborers". Sergio listed his "brother, Mauro" on the ship's manifest as the person he was meeting in Hoboken, NJ. It must have been rough at first--he had only $13 in his pocket when he first arrived on Ellis Island.
By the time Sergio returned in 1914 with his family, he came with $27 and paid for their passage himself. He left a home, mother, father, brothers and an entire life back in Italy. At the time there was fear about the upcoming war, there was massive inflation and joblessness. He was 5'3" tall with blue eyes--just like my father, Saverio.
I wanted Lucas to learn from the exhibits in the Ellis Island museum displays just how hard it was for his grandfather's family to make the sacrifice and leave their native Italy to start a New Life here in America. I wanted him to know why this Presidential election is so important--especially considering the negative rhetoric concerning immigrants. I wanted him to understand that although at one time Italians were "the other", most like my father Saverio, became American citizens.
When I saw Lucas searching for his grandfather's name along the bright stainless steel walls of the Wall of Honor, I knew he felt proud... and then he found it. We touched the engraved "Saverio Finzi" together.
You have a fantastic grandson, Dad. He's proud of your memory--you would be so proud of him.
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