Saturday, October 15, 2011

Feedback Welcomed

Thank you for taking time to send me some feedback and notes. I recently received a note on a misspelled name. I was thrilled to know that others find the blog useful. Please continue to send me notes, news, corrections and photos. I would love to post your family stories, photos and history. Again, this is a project of love dedicated to our families. Thanks.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Family and Friends Remember Mindy

The following is another article on the life of Mindy Costanzo.  I enjoyed reading about the Pettorano native and his life accomplishments.  The reason I first started this blog was to connect together those who can trace their ancestry to Pettorano.  I am, at times, amazed at how the Pettoranesi effected the communities of Steubenville, Weirton, Follansbee and Mingo Junction.  Please continue to send me articles, notes, obits and the sort.  Again, enjoy the article.

STEUBENVILLE - If one word can be used to describe Emanuel "Mindy" Costanzo, it would be generous.  "Mindy was probably generous to a fault. He was that type of man who always looked out for others," said Dave Monaco, son of the late Ross Monaco, who grew up Costanzo's best friend in the city's south end neighborhood.  Costanzo, a former co-owner of the M&M True Value Hardware store on Sunset Boulevard, died December 26, 2010 at the age of 96.  The man who contributed to the community in different ways was mourned privately by a few family members and close friends.  "After his wife died, he told me he didn't want a public funeral," explained Cathy Concilla, a daughter of Costanzo's surviving sister.  Concilla was one of several family members to work in the former M&M Hardware store when it was located on Market Street.  "Uncle Mindy made the store so much fun. That's when they sold appliances as well as hardware and toys. Everyone was downtown in those days and they would all stop in to see Uncle Mindy," said Concilla.  Costanzo also was one of the last living city residents to have grown up with Dino Crocetti, who later became Dean Martin.  "I know they stayed in touch over the years. And Uncle Mindy would visit Dino in California. And he was thrilled when Deana Martin came to Steubenville for the annual Dean Martin Festival," noted Concilla.  Rose Angelica of the Dean Martin Festival said she called Deana Martin to tell her of the death of her father's boyhood friend.  "She was upset because Mindy was the last link she had to her dad. She loved to talk to him about her father growing up in Steubenville. And Mindy, who served as the grand marshal of the 2009 Dean Martin parade, was always supportive of the festival," cited Angelica.  According to Monaco, Costanzo may have played a key role in creating the future star of song, television and movies.  "I remember hearing from my dad and from Mindy how Dino liked to sing when he was in a car with his friends. But he was very shy about singing in front of a crowd. One night those guys stopped in a night club and Mindy talked the manager into letting Dino go up on stage to sing. The manager said yes, but Dino didn't want to do it. Mindy finally pushed him onto the stage and we know what happened after that," related Monaco.  Costanzo was born in Pettorano, Sul Gizio, Italy in 1914.  Concilla said her grandparents decided to leave Steubenville and return to their hometown in Italy and that is when her uncle was born.  "They returned to Steubenville in 1916, but several years later Uncle Mindy received a notification that he had been drafted into the Italian army by Benito Mussolini because he was a native of Italy," laughed Concilla.  "Right after Pearl Harbor my uncle persuaded 23 friends in the area to join him in enlisting in the Army. They wanted to be paratroopers because of the extra pay. None of them made it into the paratroopers, but they all made it home after the war ended," Concilla continued.  Monaco said Costanzo was involved in three campaigns during World War II, including the battle for North Africa, the invasion of Sicily and the liberation of Rome.  "While he was in Italy, his unit stopped in a very poor village where an elderly woman who had nothing decided to cook for the soldiers. After they were finished eating, Mindy collected some money from the other guys and bought a donkey for the woman. She went from one of the poorest people in the village to a property owner with a donkey. But that is who Mindy was," said Monaco.  "After he came home Mindy decided he wanted to go into the hardware business, so he joined his father who had an eighth interest in the M&M Hardware Store on Market Street. Later on Mindy and Harold Robinson became co-owners of the store and in 1969 opened their new store on Sunset Boulevard," Monaco recalled.  "Mindy told me later he was scared to death because at that time it was the largest True Value store in the country. But he maintained the same business approach that made the downtown store so successful. They always remembered the community and gave back to the community," said current store co-owner Scott Campbell.  "Mindy was an institution. He had customers from Wheeling to Youngstown to Pittsburgh. People came to Steubenville to shop at M&M Hardware," Campbell added.  "A lot of people never knew that Mindy sent at least a couple kids to college. He would also buy a new car, always a Chrysler from DiNovo's, and give away his old car to a kid who needed a vehicle. Back in the late 1940s and early 1950s, when the sports leagues were still segregated, Mindy donated money to buy uniforms for the black baseball and softball teams. He believed in everyone," Monaco related.  "Mindy was a remarkable man who was born of immigrant parents and then was himself an immigrant. During the Great Depression, he and my father would thumb up to Detroit to pick up new vehicles for delivery to local dealers. That was before they delivered the cars. One time Mindy and my dad had to deliver four Nash cars to California. After they delivered the cars, they thumbed north and worked for a time at a California resort. Then they came back to Steubenville and started the original Hy Hat Cafe on Fourth Street," Monaco said.  "I will always remember when I was 4 years old and I thought Mindy was the real Santa Claus. I was a South End kid who had to see it to believe it. So I hid under the dining room table and saw Mindy carry all these toys into our house. I really thought at that time that Mindy was the real Santa Claus," Monaco recalled.  Monaco said Costanzo organized annual summer trips to Geneva-on-the-Lake starting in the mid-1940s.  "He would have between 200 and 300 people going there every year. They had their own entertainment, held parades and basically had a good time relaxing there," said Monaco.  Costanzo was also a charter member of the Theta Chi Alpha social fraternity, according to Dom Zinno of Steubenville.  "We are now down to about eight or nine guys, but Mindy still drove down to the meetings every week. He was a generous man who would do anything for anyone. He was one of those guys that everyone wanted to know and be around," said Zinno.  And according to Charlie Manfresca, who served as medical power of attorney for Costanzo in his last years, "Mindy loved to golf. He would golf every day if he could. He had one of the highest handicaps in the area. He was fun to be around. He enjoyed life every day," observed Manfresca.  Judy Chadnock described the friend she knew the past 40 years, "as a very humble man. He lived simply but enjoyed going out with friends. There was so much to the man. He was very loyal and supportive of his parish."  M&M store employee Sue Lanham started working for Costanzo in 1975.  "I always thought he was a very classy guy. Every morning he would work with the guys in the back getting the appliances that had been sold ready for delivery and making room for more appliances. He still came into the store to visit time to time," Lanham remarked.  "He created the phrase, 'the store of 10,000 items.' Mindy was M&M Hardware," Lanham declared. 

Mindy Costanzo

I was recently sent an article that appeared in the Steubenville Herald Star from my new friend Dave Monaco.  Costanzo served as Monaco's Godfather.  The article gives a great picture of the life of Emanuel Costanzo, another of the Pettorano immigrants who called our area home.  Enjoy the article.

Mindy Costanzo was best known to the area as the face of M&M Hardware for decades. To those who knew him best, he also was a loyal friend, generous and fun and active.  Born Emanuel Costanzo in Pettorano Sul Gizio, Italy, in 1914, he died at the age of 96 December 26, 2010.  Costanzo was a close friend of Dean Martin when they were in their youth, and he remained in contact with the entertainer through the years.  He was a man of class and was a gentleman, whose main criticism told to a reporter about one of the books written about Martin's life was the salty language the author chose to use.  He was the emblem of the American dream in a blue-collar town, literally rising through the ranks to become a small business owner of good standing.  Coming from Italy, he enlisted in the U.S. Army for World War II, serving in battles in North Africa, Sicily and for the liberation of Rome.  His father owned partial interest in M&M Hardware on Market Street, and after the war, Mindy joined him there. Along with Harold Robinson, he went on to open the Sunset Boulevard location where M&M still operates, now under the ownership of Scott Campbell and Tom Birney.  He was a giving and generous man, whose tales of generosity followed through every phase of his life. Costanzo didn't seek the spotlight or brag about what he did for others, simply choosing to offer assistance where he could. For example, it was known that he would give away his old car when he bought a new one, usually to a young person who needed a vehicle. He sent kids who needed help to college, never asking for acclaim or recognition.  His life is memorable to those who know him because of the kind and good gentleman he was. His life is memorable to the community because it embodied what had been common throughout the 20th century in cities like Steubenville: The small businessman who knows his customers and treats them with respect, exemplifies the meaning of hard work and the rewards of free enterprise, while always remembering to help others.  As a business community and as a community as a whole, it's good that Steubenville got to know Mindy Costanzo.