a tribute to my grandpa

Posted on May 6th, 2016 by mountain girl  |  5 Comments »

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My grandfather, Fred DelConte, was born September 28, 1924. He was a farmer and a business entrepreneur, and he built his own house. He was also a brother, uncle, husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.

Grandpa was Italian, and his parents were immigrants from the province of Foggia in the Southeast of Italy. Here is a little history of Grandpa’s family:

His father, John Delconti, was from the village of Vico Gargano, and his mother, Concetta (Geni) Giannubilo was born and raised until age 13 in the little village of Serra Capriola. Her father, Fortunato (Fred), left Italy before his wife and five girls to secure a job and get established before sending for them four years later. They attended the church in Italy where the famous  young Catholic priest, Father Pio, presided. He was known to have performed many miracles.

Grandpa was very proud of this, and with teary eyes would relate the story of his mother taking her first communion.  She had no veil (her family was poor) and Father Pio said they couldn’t have that, and took the veil off the Virgin Mary statue and put it on her.

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John and Geni ended up living across the street from each other in Pittston, PA. John worked in the mines as a young man, and they married when he was around 20 and Geni was around 18.

Grandpa had 5 siblings.  After Fran, Frank, and Fred (Grandpa) were born, the family decided to move to North Syracuse, New York, and farm. Geni’s parents and sisters–she was the oldest–all packed up for North Syracuse. Louise, Joe, and Vera were all born there. In Italy, the Delcontis fished in the Adriatic Sea and cultivated tomatoes and other fruits, so farming was their forte.

Grandpa spent his early years working as a farmer (and later farmed as a hobby). He married my grandmother, Florence Michelina Koziol, and they had two children, my father, Larry, and his younger sister, Sharon.

When Papa was 3, Grandpa had to have a risky back operation due to scoliosis he had developed as a child from heavy farm work. His disks were deteriorating, and with the operation (which would fuse his disks) came a 50% chance of never walking again. When the operation turned out well, Grandpa’s mother dropped to her knees and thanked God in front of all the doctors!

Still, it was a hard and discouraging time. Grandpa said that while he was recuperating in the hospital, he desperately wished he could have gotten to the window to throw himself out. He was in a body cast for a year, and during that time he watched my three-year old father while Grandma worked a job at General Electric.

After that, Grandpa needed a less physically strenuous occupation. He took up a tool and dye apprenticeship at Pass and Seymour in Solvay, NY.  He worked there for 11 years and also at other places for short segments to gain experience.  Around 1964 he teamed up with 4 other Italian men–his brother, Beppo (Beppo shot at American planes during WWII – he was with Mussolini’s army!) and three other men.

He felt the other men were unwilling to take risks in the business venture, so around 1974 he broke off and started a new business in Phoenix, NY with another partner. The company, Arrowhead Tool Builders, was very successful, but a computer glitch caused a huge financial loss and Grandpa sold the business and retired at age 63.

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After retiring, Grandpa worked his huge garden well into his 80’s. I have memories of picking berries in the field behind his house, and in the summer they would bring us bushels of fresh vegetables. He was also a hunter for many years (his hunting buddy was my other grandfather) and would sometimes bring us venison.

Grandpa was a generous man to everyone who knew him. He and Grandma always brought gifts for us when they came to visit. I went with them on two road trips to Florida and a road trip to Washington, D.C., with my brother and cousin when I was about ten. I remember wanting to stop at the South of the Border attraction (for the second time) on our way back from Florida. Grandpa was tired and said no, but surprised us and took us anyway.

On one of those visits to their Florida condo, he went on a mysterious trip to Home Depot and came back with wood, tools, and stain. By the end of the day he had built a miniature corral for my entire collection of 1980’s My Little Ponies. I was thrilled!

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My Grandpa died yesterday. He and Grandma had been declining for the past year and were living in a nursing home. They had just marked their 70th anniversary the day before. My father was with him, and he passed away quietly. He was 91.

I’m sad he has left this earth, but I’m thankful for the many years I knew my grandfather. He was always kind to me and left me with many great memories. Love you, Grandpa.

Top photo: Grandpa, me, and my brother Seth. 

Second: Seth, Grandpa’s mother (Geni), my cousin Christopher, Grandpa, and me.

Third: Zia (age 3) and Grandpa.

Fourth: Grandma, Zia, and Grandpa.

Bottom: My brother Jed and Grandpa (last summer).

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5 Responses to “a tribute to my grandpa”

  1. Mom & Dad says on :

    Hi honeeee…what a beautiful tribute! You are lucky to know those stories and they look like wonderful, happy grandparents. Our prayers are with you and Papa and Mimi, and all your family! We love you, Mom & Dad

  2. mountain girl says on :

    Thanks, Mom–he definitely was a good grandpa! Hope you start feeling better soon. Love you!

  3. Seth says on :

    Really nice.

  4. Vicki A Barnhardt says on :

    This is a very special story about a great man i only knew through you and your family.

  5. Jennifer Miller says on :

    So sad to hear your grandpa passed. What wonderful memories you have.

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