You guessed right folks, it’s Italian. My ancestors came over on the boat around the turn of the 20th century from Sicily, which you may know is an island off of Southern Italy in the Mediterranean Sea. So in way, I’ve always been from the south!
I was born in New York, NY, the youngest of four. Both of my parents were born in the U.S.; it was their parents who immigrated here: my mom’s family to West Virginia, where my granddad set up a barber shop, while my father’s folks landed in the tenements of New York City, where lots of poor immigrants started their new lives.
My father, George, fought in World War II, briefly taught school and then went on to work for the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. My mother, Anne, was a classical musician who taught piano, violin (which she called her ‘fiddle’) and voice out of our home. They raised my brother, sisters and me just outside of Baltimore Maryland, in a little house with a big yard out back. My brother and I used to play tackle football back there, but mostly what I remember about the back yard is the garden.
My dad always kept a garden, ever since I can remember. I vividly recall holding the flashlight while he planted tomato plants at dusk, after work. Every time I let the flashlight wander off-target, he was not a happy man. When I was ten, I planted some corn seeds under a swing set, in ground so hard I had to break it with a chisel to get the seeds in. When some plants actually emerged and grew a bit, my dad decided I had earned a plot in his garden. The rest, as they say, is history. From a successful watermelon crop that next summer, to big gardens through college, to our small produce farm on old tobacco ground, I’ve been pretty much hooked ever since.
It was there in the garden where I learned that if you plant a seed, and you tend your land, something grows. That’s true of farming, and it’s true of people, communities and economies. And it’s a big part of why I’m running for Congress – to plant some new seeds, to tend them through hard work with all of you, and hopefully, to see great new things grow.
I’ve been in southwest Virginia for 32 years now, and in the Appalachian region for almost 40. It’s home, it’s where Laurie and I met, and where we raised our kids. And it’s the place where I’ve learned so much from neighbors, co-workers and colleagues. I hope to take that experience to Congress.