This is Ersilia Conjoli Cecconi. In this picture (circa 1900) she was 22. I believe it to be her wedding photo. Ersilia is my great grandmother, and my hero. In fact, I made Ersilia my confirmation name (for all you Catholics you can appreciate the grief I took for not picking a Saints name—the Nuns were not happy). I did it anyway–because I wanted to honor the strength of this woman. I didn’t realize how prophetic that would be and how much I’d need to find that kind of strength myself in the not too distant future.
Up until two days ago I’d never seen a picture of my great-grandmother. I’d been to Italy, and stood in the church where she married Onorato Cecconi, in a small town just north of Florence, but, I assumed that any pictures were lost to time and the poverty of immigrants who rarely could afford such luxuries. After watching a documentary about Prohibition, I shared with my husband Ersilia’s story beginning with the loss of her husband in a mining accident in 1926, in a rough little town outside Pittsburgh called Whiskey Run. With six children, no income and unable to speak English, her situation was dire. But like many women in my family, she figured it out, she got it done and she kept her family together. Continue reading
As we near the end of 2012, a difficult twelve months for many Americans both personally and professionally, a Forbes article by Kevin Kruse caught my eye this morning Schwarzkopf. With the passing of General Norman Schwarzkopf (Stormin’ Norman to those of use who remember his leadership during Desert Storm) I can’t help but be amazed that more than 20 years have gone. Desert Storm will always mark an important season for me, a year living on my own and launching my career, the return of my children’s father after a 12 month deployment with the USMC and the birth 9 months later of our first child, a daughter named Marinda. In her lifetime some things have changed and most not for the good. We are still at war; we face a withering economy, high unemployment and massive debt. Now a junior in college she, like so many other Millennials are searching for a place to hide (Peace Corp, Grad School etc) to ride out a nearly 50% under/unemployment rate amongst the educated of her generation.
I can’t help but think about a 1991 Newsweek Cover featuring General Shwarzkopf’s face as he hugged a young woman who had been rescued. This was a rare moment, a female soldier taken prisoner—but we found her, we saved her and the troops came home. Schwarzkopf then and now is the embodiment of leadership. Personally and professionally he maintained his dignity and respect for his troops, the mission and the enemy during his active duty career and afterward.