by Rose Anna Lucarelli
Ed. Note: This tribute by a Chestnut Hill resident is in honor of Father’s Day coming up this Sunday, June 15.
Early in the 20th century, an orphaned boy left Toritto, a small town in southern Italy. Filippo traveled a long and difficult road and eventually arrived in Rome, where he knew no one. He found a resting place in someone’s home and asked to stay. He stayed many years. He worked very hard and learned the skills of a fine barber. His new family taught him to prepare wonderful Italian dishes. He loved Rome and spent glorious afternoons visiting the Vatican.
Filippo was my father. He did not allow poverty to define him. He had dreams and worked laboriously to transform them to reality. He saved his meager salary and lovingly sent his tips to his aunts in Bari. And paid for the education of a lifetime. He attended the Conservatory of Music at Santa Cecilia in Rome, where he learned music theory and to play the piano, oboe and accordion — just for fun.
One evening in occupied Rome, during the war of all wars, my father had to travel from the barbershop to the conservatory, and then return to his home during curfew hours. My father was captured and questioned by German soldiers. Fortunately, this incident occurred in front of a church. My dear father’s angel helped him speak words of courage and wisdom. He humbly and faithfully asked the soldiers to allow one final prayer. They did, and the rest is my family’s history.
The Nazi soldiers let him enter the church, and an angel quickly guided him toward another exit, to a safe harbor called home. Throughout the years, my father’s favorite Italian Thanksgiving tale was told: “The Nazi soldiers are still waiting for me!” Grandly, he toasted them with a glass of Chianti and beautiful smiling eyes, as my mother served traditional Italian and American specialties.
My father graduated from the conservatory and became a conductor. He had a small town band and wrote lovely music. His daughters and granddaughter inspired him. He named his compositions Rosa, Chiara, Agnese and Marissa. My father traveled to the countryside to instruct the farmer’s children in music. Once, a farmer paid him with a fat rabbit. Filippo knew the farmer’s dignified payment was far more valuable than all the money in the world. He accepted it graciously because he knew the value of the education he was providing.
My beloved father died on Columbus Day, knowing that I would remember him with a marching band and a tearful smile. The realization of our family’s dreams — the impassioned dreams of Italian Americans — have graced and honored my father’s memory with beauty and faith and creativity. And a proud parade.
Rose Anna Lucarelli, of Chestnut Hill, is an art educator who has been employed by the Archdiocese of New York and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia instructing students of all ages. She has participated in group exhibits in New York and Philadelphia. Her writing credits include an original screenplay, “Rose Petals,” and she has read her poetry at the New York Public Library, Barnes and Noble and Musehouse in Chestnut Hill.