I sit in my ergonomic office chair gazing out my window at a beautiful tree line. It’s a welcomed mental break from considering a particular client’s challenge and outlining a new book. My eyes catch my favorite painting of my father’s, the Dove of Peace, neatly placed under an arched window.
This painting makes me stop and appreciate what my father did to bless me with this life I enjoy. No better time with Memorial Day at our back and Father’s Day right in front of us. My dad was a WW II veteran and a father for all time. He was part of the Greatest Generation that understood the values, the vision and the acts required to achieve excellence. It was a generation that understood The Nature of Excellence.
Peter Colantuono was 14 years old when he was herded through an embarking station at a southern Italian port. He waved goodbye to his father through the mobs and never saw him again. Then my dad boarded steerage class in the bowels of the ship that was headed for the long, bumpy journey to the Promised Land… New York. He finally arrived with thousands of others seeking the same dream at Ellis Island, New York where his name is engraved today. A far off vision? Sure. Worth the journey? Absolutely.
I always wondered why this hairy man had bald shoulders and cantaloupe-sized calf muscles. To earn his way, he carried blocks of ice to the ice boxes of apartments in the city. To save time and to be more productive, he would carry two at a time on his shoulders (better than any laser hair removal treatment these days). After he dropped off one block of ice at the top floor apartment, he would proceed to the rooftop, get a running start, and jump to the next building to deliver the second block. Risky? Sure. Efficient? Definitely!
Like many immigrants in the 1920s, my dad’s broken English handicapped him in the classroom, but that did not stop him from eventually winning his class spelling bee. A struggle? Sure. A better student and person for it? No doubt.
Dad never graduated high school, but he fought for his country and fought to apply his God-given artistic talents to earn a living for his family. To him, all nighters were not reserved for the college student cramming for finals. They were a regular push to make a better life for his family… so they could learn more, travel more, earn more, give more. He left a legacy of riches unmatched by the estates of Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. The legacy of values – the values of excellence. Easy to pass on? No. The ultimate legacy? Indeed.
Although my father died on Christmas day 1990, his legacy of excellence is alive and well. So, as I stand up from my comfy office chair, my thoughts shift from clients and book titles to how I can leave a legacy of excellence for my family.
May you each find your own way to honor your father on Father’s Day. Here’s to Fathers and Excellence!
Lee J. Colan (proud son of Peter Colantuono)