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Ronald W. Del Sesto, Sr.

ronald-w-del-sesto-srRonald W. Del Sesto, Sr., was passionate about Italian culture and promoting it was an integral part of his life. He served as Honorary Vice Consul for Italy, president of the Justinian Law Society, a Board Member of the National Italian American Foundation, founder of the Umbria Relief Fund to raise money for victims of the 1997 Umbria earthquake, founder of the Italian Film Festival in Providence, Rhode Island, and with his wife Deborah founded WebVisionItaly.com.

Ron’s son Justin Del Sesto was inspired to found ItalianTourism.us during one of his many trips to Italy with his father.

Ronald W. Del Sesto, Sr. passed away December 30, 2015. His daughter, Cristina Del Sesto, wrote and delivered the following eulogy.

Twelfth Day of Christmas

January 5, 2015
St. Sebastian Church
Providence
Cristina Del Sesto

Pop loved the Epiphany. The celebration held each
January 6 honors the coming of the Three Kings to
the infant Jesus. It’s a story about beginnings and
the wonderment of life. It’s also a story about
wise men with unique names from exotic places.
The narrative had special appeal for Dad.
Stories took him around the world —and he took
us with him.

When he came home from work each night our
dinner conversations would always turn to his
clients. We couldn’t wait to hear what was going
on at his law office. Each day brought more
intrigue. His clients were often unpredictable and
they included Babar the Elephant who was suing
someone over the Old Lady’s estate. Other
purported characters –I only realized much later –
were lifted out of Dickens, like the rascally lawyers
Dodson and Fogg of the Pickwick Papers, and the
elusive Mr. Mc Gillicuddy whom we never
completely identified.

In hindsight, I am really surprised Dad did not tell
us about a jury comprised of the wise men:
Balthazar, Melchior and Caspar.

His approach to parenthood was borrowed from
Cheaper by the Dozen, a book written by efficiency
experts in 1948. He had a special speed method
for toweling my brothers off after they bathed
and – while he never could figure out how to do
it – he especially liked the idea of having an endless
loop of recorded Italian lessons always playing for
us in the bathroom.

At high school graduation I am certain that I am
the only person to have received a first edition of
Death in the Afternoon by Ernest Hemingway—
about bullfighting in Spain.

When it comes right down to it, my father was a
character. He strived to be like the colorful,
fictional people he read about. In the last twenty-
five years he wore a beret and carried a man
purse. He had an espresso machine in his office
with a special water line fitted for steam. He had a
collection of watches and pens with various color
ink. He wrote in long hand and then would have
his secretary transcribe. He didn’t send emails. He
corresponded by letter. He loved Catch-22
and often channeled Major Major in his management
style. He was a very, very funny guy.

He believed in celebrating every day and every
meal. Our quests for ingredients on the weekends
took us all over the state. Inevitably, we would
have to buy two loaves of bread: one for the car
ride and one for Sunday dinner. He declared
national holidays – usually during the winter
— and would stay in his robe all day and make us
the only thing he knew how to cook: hot chocolate.

And then there was his blindness in one eye which
made driving with him give new meaning to the
expression blind faith. He had devised a plan of
lining up the hood ornament on his brown,
Cadillac Seville with the highway lines but if he’d
been to the car wash and forgotten to realign the
ornament the car skittered across dotted and
sometimes even solid lines.

The blizzard of 78 proved to be one of those times
that highway surface markings didn’t matter. The
two of us were in the car together for four or five
hours trying to get from Providence to the East
Greenwich exit. I had a Snickers bar for
sustenance and was wearing a fair isle sweater
and clogs. He didn’t speak a word as his one
working eye, like a Greek mythical creature in a
Mary Renault novel, scanned the road ahead like a
chess board. Cars to the left and right were getting
stuck but we kept going. My father was one of the
only men in the entire neighborhood that made it
home from work that night. He was like
Commander Caractacus Pott in Chitty Chitty Bang
Bang, which I also happen to have in a first edition.

His tenacity in a blizzard and everything else was
undeniable and I often wonder if it was because of
his blindness and his contracting polio as a
preteen that he seemed impervious to obstacles in
his path. Part Odysseus, part Don Quixote, he
tilted at windmills his whole life.

Surely, it was not a strong need to get along with
people that accounted for his success. He won no
popularity contests and was proud of it. In fact, he
is the only person I know who honestly did not
care what anyone else thought of him. You either
liked him and his berets, or you didn’t. His world
was so much bigger than the local streets he
walked on. It was in his mind and in the places he
traveled to.

His early love for the far-flung – and sometimes
farfetched – may have begun with a European
voyage he went on as a boy with his parents and
teenage brother in 1950.

We forget that it is only in our lifetime – in the
1970s to be exact—that jet travel became widely
available. At a time when very few people we
knew were traveling much beyond the borders of
New England or Disney World, my father was
planning trips to Italy, St. Maarten, Madrid, and Rio de
Janeiro—with his kids.

Thankfully, while he loved the book, The Mosquito
Coast, he never took us camping. With his devoted
wife, Deborah, they went off on many adventures
of their own over the past 25 years. They were in
Argentina to visit their new grandchild in 2011 and
they went to Italy almost every year at least once.
They’ve spent five Christmas Days in Umbria.

Today is the twelfth day of Christmas– the eve of
the Epiphany. The birth of the savior is celebrated over many
days rather than just one as the Partridge in a Pear
Tree carol explains. Symbolism in that song was
used to teach the Christian faith long ago but it
also is just a really imaginative story. In my
father’s very exacting way he tells me he is well
through the lyrics. Both on the surface and in its
deeper meaning.

More characters are featured in the song than
those paraded through Dad’s law office: Ladies
dancing , Lords Leaping, not to mention an aviary.
As we celebrate this twelfth day of Christmas and
Pop in this the church of his youth, let’s envision
him enjoying life everlasting with twelve
drummers drumming and a really great loaf of
Italian bread.

 

For more about his passion for Italy check out: