Forgive me people for I have not written. It has been a month since my last post.
I do have reasons or excuses, whichever you’d like to call them. My husband sold his UPS Store and is officially retired. The holidays came upon us with the usual fanfare.
And, on New Years Day, my Dad, Rocco James Sicurello, went home to spend eternity with his Savior.
When I feel sad, I think about the life he lived, I think about the things he did, I think about all that he taught us and the legacy he has left, his most prized possession on this earth, his family.
This post is about his life…It was a good life and he lived it with no regrets…
He was born in the middle of the Great Depression on March 24, 1935. A first generation Italian, he was the middle of three full brothers and the next to the last of 15 total siblings. His oldest full brother, Uncle Nick, was 18 months older. His younger brother, Uncle Joe, was almost exactly 1 year younger. In fact, for 5 days, Uncle Joe and my Dad were the same age. When people would comment on the number of children my grandfather had, my Dad always had the same reply, “They didn’t have TV back then.”
My Dad and his brothers were typical little boys for that time. He and his brother, Joe would sneak into baseball games, waiting for a family to come into line with a lot of kids and slipping into the game with them so they didn’t have to pay.
On May 8, 1945, when the world was celebrating the end of the war in Europe, my Dad and his brothers, ages 9, 10, and 11, were grieving the death of their Mother. My grandfather, now 50 years old and only speaking broken English was left to raise his three little boys alone. He never remarried.
A year after their Mom passed away, and because my grandfather had to work, a social worker came to the house and offered to send my Dad and his brother Joe, to Boys Town camp for the summer. Uncle Nick was allowed to stay with my grandfather because he was 12 and had a job. When summer was over, my Dad was told that he and Uncle Joe could not go home because they felt my grandfather was too old to care for them. The state had decided that they would be staying at Boys Town. Within days Dad devised a plan that he and Uncle Joe would hide their sandwiches from lunch in their shirts and that night they would escape and walk home. That afternoon, before they could execute their plan, their Dad came to see them. He told the people there that he was going to take his boys out “to buy clothes”. He never brought them back.
My grandfather worked in a button factory. There were no safety standards back then and Dad remembered bringing a lunch pail to his dad and seeing the bandana he tied around his nose and mouth and the rest of his face covered in plastic dust. My grandfather slept straddling the back of a chair and resting his head on his arms so he could breathe. Though my grandfather did love his stogies, Dad was always sure that the plastic had gotten into his lungs. In April of 1952, when Dad and Uncle Joe had just turned 16 and 17 and Uncle Nick was 18, their Dad passed away. After my grandfather passed, the older siblings felt obligated but didn’t really want to care for my Dad and his brothers. Uncle Nick enlisted in the Army. Dad and Uncle Joe lived with their oldest half sister, Nicolina.
In October of 1953, while driving around in his first car, Dad saw a little red-haired girl hanging out with her friends. He waved to her, she waved back. They began their relationship as friends, but Mom remembers their first date was a bus ride to NYC to go to the Roxy Theatre to watch the movie The Robe. They had a spaghetti dinner together. Dad told Mom after a month of friendship that someday he wanted to marry her.
By December of that year, Aunt Nicolina decided that she didn’t want Uncle Joe living with her anymore so Dad took his brother and went downtown thinking that he and Uncle Joe would enlist in the Navy together. Dad and Uncle Joe were very close. Dad was the brains and Uncle Joe was the brawn and Dad always felt responsible for his younger brother. When they took the test for the Navy, Dad passed. Uncle Joe did not. They took Dad immediately. Uncle Joe, with no place to go, hitchhiked across the country to California to live with a sister he’d never met, Viola. Viola and her husband were in the Marines and helped Uncle Joe to get into that branch of service.
While in the service, Dad finished high school. Always very mechanically inclined, he became an Aviation Structural Mechanic and was stationed in Iceland at the tail end of the Korean War. Throughout his time in the service he and Mom wrote to one another. By the time Mom was 15 they were engaged. Dad finished his time in the Navy and in January of 1959, one day before Mom’s 18th birthday, they were married. People told them it wouldn’t last. People told them it couldn’t last. People didn’t know my parents. With sheer determination and what they didn’t at first realize was the grace of God, they remained married for almost 63 years until Dad’s passing.
When Dad got out of the service, he was going to school in Philadelphia during the day and working at night on Mcguire Air Force Base as a civilian Aviation specialist. Mom was pregnant with me and Dad soon realized he could not keep up that pace. He got a job at Tilden Brakes where his boss, Lenny Swell, soon realized his potential and asked him to go into business with him. They bought a gas station, and called it R & L Shell. Lenny handled the behind the scenes, Dad was the mechanic. Because of the type of man dad was, their business thrived. People trusted Dad. After a time, they left the Shell station and moved to a bigger station about a hundred yards away and R & L Sunoco was born. He and Lenny owned that station for many years with Dad winning awards for his service to the community.
Mom became a Christian first and soon each one of us followed. But, not Dad. One day, when Mom came home from church and was visibly upset, Dad asked why she was crying. She told him she had nobody to sit with at church. Dad said nothing. The following week, when Mom came downstairs to go to church, there was Dad in his suit. When Mom asked where he was going, he said he was going to church. When Mom asked why, he said because she had nobody to sit with. He went to church that day and never stopped. Dad’s surrendering his life to the Lord was a gradual process, but throughout that process Dad showed the Lord his love the same way he showed his love for us, by working and serving. Dad and Mom hosted Bible studies in their home, served together running a food pantry for families in the county and beyond that were in need. They took in homeless people and anyone else that needed a place to stay for a time. Dad volunteered at a home for disabled adults called Cheshire Home where he served as a driver for their van, picking up the residents for church and bringing them to activities. There was never a legitimate need my Dad would not meet. Never a time where he put his needs before others. That just wasn’t Dad.
When Cliff and I moved to Florida in 1998, Dad decided he was almost ready to retire and he and Mom came down a few years later in 2001. Dad’s retirement lasted all of 2 weeks before he decided he wanted to continue working. It was then that I talked to Andy to see if he needed help at the church. He asked what Dad’s name was, when I said Rocco Sicurello. He told me he’d never met a real ‘eye talian before. In 2002 the redneck from the North began working with the redneck from the South. They worked hard together. He worked with Andy until he was 80 years old.
Dad’s legacy is the thing he loved most on this earth, his family. His wife, his 4 children, his 10 grandchildren, and soon to be 8 great grandchildren. As a family, we will always remember the things he taught us.
Things like ~
“Find a job you love to do and the money will take care of itself.”
“You have to love people where they’re at.”
“Always remember your family.”
He taught us to always be content with what we have and to always put the needs of other first. He taught us these things by example. He taught us well.
On January 1st, 2022, Dad began the New Year with his entrance into his heavenly home. Healed, whole, and breathing freely. Greeted with the words “Well done good and faithful servant…” because that is what he was.
I love you and I miss you, Dad. I always will…