Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday & Mantovani

I can't adequately convey the significance of Dad's influence on my life. But on this Father's Day I'll try, via a tiny blog salute to a big man, Francis Anthony Surfaro.

Here's pix of Dad with me at my wedding. The first and most important man in my life taught me much, but let me give three examples of priceless impact on the road I'm traveling.
  • On music: Dad worked five or six days a week while I was growing up, but never on Sundays. Long, lovely Sunday afternoons of macaroni and family visits included an assortment of albums on the phonograph. Mantovani, an orchestra conductor with family roots in Italian opera, was a "light music" favorite. We danced together in our living room and Dad would spontaneously burst forth with an aria or a quick performance on his violin. I've kept an assortment of his 78s and circa 1930s-40s gorgeous Italian Opera portfolio cases. Mostly I look at them but I've also played them (on a turntable we picked up at a local thrift store). Although an iPod is never glued to my ear, songs of all sorts drift in and out of my mind daily and I have my Dad to thank for this quiet, undercover enrichment to my soul.
  • On Volunteerism: Growing up in Brooklyn I didn't have material wealth but oh boy, our house overflowed with people and richness earned by my parents through selflessness they shared with our community and church. Dad was a tireless volunteer. Clothes drives, filling food pantries for those less fortunate - anything to offer help as it was needed. I also remember his pouring over methodical spreadsheets created for the parish bazar. He would spend months in set-up, coordination with local business and organizing booths and inventory of goodies. So much marvelous stuff collected and donated for good! I've tried to follow what he demonstrated -- that it's important to give of yourself and that serving this way actually reaps great happiness.
  • On Quality and Style: Dad worked at Bloomingdales more than 45 years at the Manhattan Lexington store. His name along with other WWII veterans is emblazoned on brass plaque by the elevators. He started in the Linens department and then moved into Furniture. Bloomingdales I'm sure introduced him to quality objects -- and I do know that the few choice material items we had in our home were absolute quality and personified strong design. To complement my grandmother's meticulously crafted dollies and tablecloths, we had several gorgeous European linens purchased from Bloomingdales (late 40s-50s?). Dad's suits and ties were impeccable (and of course Italian); my Mom's very few pieces of jewelry were again Italian, 24kt gold. On special occasions Dad brought home design magazines, antique books and strange objects (like a 19th century marble bust called Beatrice). He had a strong sense of style and conveyed that to me. Our glass table and chairs Dad gave to us for our wedding still magnify good craftmanship 36-plus years later. So now I know where I get my love of strong design, venerable first editions and unusual antique objects.
Dad as a youth won several awards in New York City for his violin performances. He also intended (as I see from his high school publication) to be an orchestra master. He was registered for the engineering program of City University of New York but his father's untimely death (from an automobile accident) tore away all those dreams, as my Dad needed to be the breadwinner for his mom and sister. No matter what his sacrifice in life, Dad personified optimism and leadership and belief in the power of individuals no matter what your class stature was. When I had my first job in journalism (radio producer for news show up at Riverside Church) Dad was there to drive me to my morning news assignment (3 am!), easing my fears and jump starting my career. Ah, I smile now, remembering those drives and our special talks, morning coffee and toasted corn muffins!

Dad, you were my good friend. So much to thank you for. You were a leader I admired, a musician of great talent. I wish you had been able to work in a profession that reinforced/recognized your talents, but, no matter, because your greatness did mark our world. I always will treasure and hold in safe-keeping your violin and Beatrice, the funky marble bust. Thank you for guiding me on to the right path.

1 comment:

karyn z said...


I enjoyed that tribute to your father. He sounds like a loving, caring, and cool guy.