One resident, numerous anecdotes
Name: Emilio LoIacono
Occupation: Assistant manager of charitable gambling at the VFW
Where we found him: Writing class
Why did you take a writing class? Someone told me I have a very interesting life, so we decided to write our memoirs. When I got into writing about my life, I found out there was a lot more than I thought there was. Everything started coming back to me.
Who is “we”? My wife, Inge, and me. She had an interesting life, too. She was born in Germany during the time of Hitler. We’ve been married 57 years.
How long did you date before you married? Three months. I went out with a nurse for three years before that and nothing came of it—then within three months, [Inge and I] were married. It was a small wedding, just the family. We got married at St. Nicholas of Tolentine in the Bronx.
How did you meet? On a blind date, believe it or not. … On one of our first dates, I had a 1954 Buick Special, and it leaked water. I said, “You better sit closer” and she thought I was getting fresh. When it rained, she found out I wasn’t fooling!
What’s one of your earliest memories? It was in Brooklyn. My father’s store was on 69th street and we used to walk home with him every night at 9 o’clock. He had a shoe store, and he not only repaired shoes, but he made mine and my brothers’ shoes. He used to work for I. Miller, and when they went on strike, he said, “I have a family to feed. I have to get into business for myself.” He borrowed money from his brother, who was a banker in Italy.
Other memories from those early years? I remember when my father died. They told me to kiss him, and I kissed him on his forehead, and I remember I said, “He’s very cold.” I was sleeping next to my father when he died in bed. My brother and sister woke me up and said, “Get out of bed, Papa’s dead.” And I thought, he can’t be dead. His eyes are open. He died from a heart attack, I think.
It had to be hard to lose your dad so young. My mother’s friend took us in for a few months, but she had three kids of her own. We went to the orphanage. I was eight years old. My brother and I went to a boys’ home, and my sister went to a girls’ home.
Your mother was gone? She was in and out of hospitals all the time so she couldn’t care for us. I was about five years old the first time. She had TB. She died in 1946.
Did you get to see her? Once my cousin took me to her. I was 15. I couldn’t speak Italian to her. She couldn’t speak English to me. But I remember her. She was a teacher.
Tell me about growing up in an orphanage. Most of it was happy times. You don’t remember the bad times; you do remember the good times. We had classes from nine to three. We had to make our bed, had chores. On Saturday, you’d wax the floor in the dormitory. We used to get these rags and go skating to shine the floor. We used to sneak out. There was a pizza place across the street, and we’d buy pizza there. Other times we’d go to the candy store. We’d buy five loose cigarettes. They’d sell you five loose cigarettes and they’d make 20 cents instead of 15 cents on a pack. Then we’d get chewing gum to take away the smell.
How many siblings do you have? Two older brothers stayed in Italy. One died there, and the other had polio when he came over here so [immigration] sent him back and my uncle took care of him. He died when he was 16 or 17. Here, I had an older brother and sister, and younger brother.
How long have you worked at the VFW? Twenty-five years. We’ve lived in Rochester for 30 years.
What did you do before you moved to Rochester? I worked at the American Bank Note Company off Wall Street for 37 years—from 1952 to 1989. We printed stocks, bonds, travelers checks, foreign currency, liquor stamps, food stamps. … We printed stock for Playboy magazine, and a girl named Wilhelmina Rey posed for it. The stock exchange took a look at it and said, “Give her a little more coverage!”
Were you ever in the military? I was in the navy. I came out of high school and joined the navy right away. It was February 1945 when I went in. I went to Hawaii and Saipan. It was right after the war. I never did like Hawaii. Waikiki beach was like Coney Island to me. Maybe it was because I had to be there. Then I went on the USS Pennsylvania. Strangely enough, two weeks after they dropped me off at Saipan, she was torpedoed at Buckner Bay.
You’re still active at 92. Secrets to a healthy life? I still enjoy working for the VFW. I still play cards. We stay active here [at Shorewood Senior Campus]. I do have my ailments. I have bladder cancer, and there’s now a cancerous tumor in my bladder. Otherwise, I’m perfectly healthy.
I’m sorry to hear about the cancer. I was diagnosed six years ago, but the tumor was discovered recently. I figured, it’s enough now. Quit. Let it go. I don’t want any more surgeries, I don’t want to go through that anymore. I’m 92, I’ve outlived everybody in my family, including my younger brother. I’m ready. Enough is enough.
You’ve been married 57 years. Any advice? Meet her halfway. If you disagree, don’t hold it. If you have an argument, don’t go to bed with that argument still intact. Say I’m sorry. Forgive each other.