My father, Silvio “Joe” Spigolon, has been gone more than 20 years now.
I thought about him this weekend as I searched for old photos to memorialize him on Facebook.
I do this same thing every Father’s Day and Veterans Day and his birthday in what is, apparently, a modern, digital custom. I see all of my friends do the same thing.
My dad was a self-made man who used government money — from his service in the U.S. Marines — to earn his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in civil engineering.
He was the son of Italian immigrants who was born in Chicago. His parents owned and operated a grocery store on the city’s south side and lived behind the store.
People often think I’m making that up because it fits the movie stereotype of Italians from that era so well. But that’s the way it was.
He grew up in the same part of south Chicago where Pullman railroad cars were produced. A couple members of the 1980s rock band Styx are from the same neighborhood, called Roseland, which was a heavily Italian area during the time my dad grew up.
My father wanted more than running a grocery store, though, and he committed to serve in the military to earn his way through college.
He was assigned to a couple colleges and ended up at the University of Mississippi where there was not a lot of tolerance for anyone linked to a country the U.S. had technically fought in World War II.
Or whose name they couldn’t pronounce.
So a man who had grown up with a very ethnic name, and my mom, named their sons the most American names they could think of. But he just wanted us not to have to deal with fitting in to a culture that had not yet experienced the diversity that became a regular part of the southern experience in the 1970s and beyond after Southeast Asians and Latinos poured into the region.
Everyone, if they’re lucky enough to have one like mine, should celebrate their fathers. They should celebrate the good things their fathers tried, or are trying, to do to give their children better lives than they had.
I know I do.
Tom Spigolon is news editor of The News. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.