Vic the Sicilian
Victorio Tripoli was the youngest boy in a family of three girls and three boys raised in Bagheria, Sicily.
His mother gave birth to all the children at home, and in Sicilian tradition they were named after relatives. Victorio was name after his uncle, who was a mechanic. Until his uncle passed away, family called him Victoruccio (little Vic). The naming was foretelling as Vic liked working on cars, and as a child helped out in his uncle’s shop.
In the mid-1960s, when Vic was just 17, he and his brother signed up to immigrate to Canada through a program that sponsored tradesmen into the country. His older brother didn’t score well on the tests, but Vic aced the mechanical aptitude section and was accepted. The family was dead set against the 17-year-old traveling alone, but he convinced them by concocting a plan that involved joining a friend and an adult family member on the trip. At the last minute, however, his companions were unable to go so Vic left by himself with a few dollars in his pocket.
Arriving in the airport in Ottawa, Canada, Vic found a telephone book and began calling names that sounded Italian. When he got to the Bs he came across a Mr. Philip Bruno, a common last name in his hometown. Not being able to speak English, he introduced himself in Italian and explained his situation. As luck would have it, not only was Mr. Bruno Italian, but he was also from Bagheria. Philip was so impressed with Vic’s courage and gumption that he agreed to pick the young man up and take him to a boarding house.
The next cold, February day, he started work in a car repair shop and began teaching himself English. A year later he traveled to Chicago, where his uncle Victorio had moved to take a job as a mechanic. Vic fell in love with the city, made arrangements to stay and enrolled in night school for mechanical engineering. He was soon hired by Volkswagen/Audi as a mechanic specializing in retrofitting air conditioners into cars. Business was brisk for the upgrade, and Vic found himself putting in long hours at a Chicago dealership. He soon earned a reputation as the go-to guy for difficult jobs.
Meanwhile, cousin Suzzie, 18, had taken up work in a factory in Chicago and lived with my Aunt Loretta. One night, she went out for a pizza with Tina, a co-worker, and the girls sat in the front by the window. While they were talking, Suzzie noticed Vic drive by and then drive by again and again. Apparently, the pretty blonde caught his attention. After several passes he parked the car and went in and introduced himself. Before the night was out he made arrangements for a date.
The first date– a double-date affair with Tina– was almost their last. Vic came across as arrogant and Suzzie decided she wanted to end the evening early. She told Tina, but Tina double-crossed her by telling Vic that Suzzie was not feeling well and suggested he drive her home.
Before leaving, Suzzie made sure she had a dime in her pocket for a phone call and was ready to bolt at the first chance she got. Vic sensed her uneasiness, apologized for being a jerk and asked if they could start again. The rest of the evening went well, and they decided to stop for a cup of coffee before saying good night. When they went into the diner, Vic brought along a thick, dog-eared envelope containing photos of his home and family back in Sicily. When he got to the photos of his parents he told Suzzie to look closely because they were going to be her in-laws.
Suzzie responded with “lots of luck, buster,” but they began seeing each other regularly. A typical date was Suzzie bringing a sack lunch to Vic’s workplace and reading a book late into the night while he finished up on cars. Two weeks later they were engaged. Both sides of the family thought the two were nuts, Suzzie pregnant, or both. Her father said it wouldn’t last a year.
Seven years later, Katrina, their only child, was born.
This Thanksgiving– Suzzie’s favorite holiday – they’ll have been married 44 years.