I never understood the true depth of the meaning of “family,” until I took my family to Sicily. We were headed to the little interior village of Delia to find my mother’s relatives, the Borzellinos. My father, a Polish descendant, married my mother, a Sicilian. My father’s sister, my Aunt Dot was also of Polish descent (naturally) also married a Sicilian here in Reading , PA, Iggie Lachina. My aunt and uncle found one another along the streets of Reading, as did my father and mother, with their spouses family’s hailing from the same tiny town all the way across the ocean. So when we traveled to Delia, we learned that nearly the entire town was either a Lachina or a Borzellino. When we met someone in Delia, they said , “Hey, you my cousin!” they were correct. It didn’t matter if we were related “by marriage,” we were related and that was all that they cared about.
I was my Uncle Iggie’s favorite, or at least he told me that in private and behaved as though I was. (I later learned that he also told my brother Johnny the same thing!) He helped my husband and I build our house, in fact we could not have built our house had it not been for him. Uncle Iggie had a demolition company. For years, Todd and I met him on the job with crow bars in hand, stuffing our pick-up with light fixtures, floorboards, beveled glass doors, windows, even antique ice boxes and wooden hutches. Our biggest score, however was our slate roof. The building was in the Wernersville State Mental Hospital and the building that was no longer needed and scheduled to be demolished had only 25 year slate on it. There was still 50 more years of good life in it. We worked like dogs all weekend pulling up slates with the help of another couple, our lifelong friends, Frank & Lila Fretz. Aunt Dot made a pineapple upside down cake for the event- always the cake of choice back in the day.
I was pregnant with Sierra when we hoisted those 900 slates, weighing 7 pounds a piece up onto the roof in a plastic bucket on a rope. This gorgeous house only cost $20,000 to build and that included our well and septic- thanks mostly to Uncle Iggie’s recycled building materials.
Todd and I rented a house that was bigger than the cabin that we lived in in order to store our recycled goodies. It took us 4 years to construct our log home and everywhere I look today, are gifts from Uncle Iggie- from the living room floor that came out of an attic, to the kitchen cabinets from another house, to the recycled clawfoot tub sunk into our bathroom floor that came from Uncle Ig’s and Aunt Dot’s own bathroom when he remodeled, as well as the pedestal sink, our front door.
Uncle Iggie used to slip my kids dollars when they hugged him, even though they were a tad afraid of him. He hugged them hard. He used to say to me immediately after embracing him, “I could squeeze the shit out of you, Cindy! “ Then in the next breath, “If there is EVER anything I can do for you, just let me know,” and he meant it. And I knew it. Uncle Iggie was a gift to us all. And I feel the most blessed out of everyone, for he died peacefully tonight. Everyone has their memories, but I am blessed with a whole beautiful home to remind me of my favorite uncle. He will surely live on.
PS – a testimony from a friend who knew my uncle…
Uncle Iggy was just like the dozers that he operated. I have so many stories from my days working with him, his brother, Jack, and his son, Joey. If he liked you, he would give you the blood from his veins and if you crossed him, …oh boy. He was old school, a man’s man and got things done no matter what. He seemed strong enough to out live Moses.
If it were not for him and Dot, I would have never met you and Todd or set my eyes upon your beautiful log home or been inspired by your stories of travel and adventure. The smallest of circles can contain so many spokes.
I will raise my glass to your uncle, Uncle Iggy, in salute for a life lived long and full.