My friend, the very gifted poet Vincent Tomeo, spent the day with me in Port Chester, NY. His good friend, D.H. Lee, accompanied him. Below is an essay Vincent’s experience of visiting Luigi’ gave and his memorial. Thank you, Vincent, for sharing this unique experience. Your heart is as big as your talent for penning word to paper. To see Vincent’s poem to Luigi Del Bianco, click here:
Wisdom in Stone, a Mini-Essay in Memoriam to Luigi Del Bianco:
May 8, 1892 – January 20, 1969
Something there is about standing in the rain on the grave of Luigi Del Bianco, chief carver of Mount Rushmore. Paying tribute to a man I did not even know, never met, and to me was unknown, obscured in the annals of history. Here I was, August 28, 2019, 1:00 pm praying as if Luigi were my father, the father I never knew. On his grave at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Rye Brook, New York State.
Why should we honor this man? This man I never knew. And then, I should ask, why we should honor George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, or Theodore Roosevelt? I never knew them either. We only know someone, if you have a knowledge of them, and who they were, and what they did. Why should we honor anyone, anyway? Well, I will tell you. We should honor those who have contributed to all of us collectively, in history, art, music, theatre, literature, humanity, and poetry. Luigi Del Bianco’s story is a story that must be told, learned, and acknowledged. It is the story of an Italian immigrant who came to America, and like the generations before, he worked hard, persevered, and make a significant contribution to America, and the world. Luigi help bring life to the Presidents on Mount Rushmore, George Washington, dignified and poised, Thomas Jefferson, pondering, Theodore Roosevelt, a smile of assurance, and Abraham Lincoln, a look of compassion, understanding, and love.
The chief carver helped to create historical icons that are a national treasure, a work of art, a masterpiece for all the world to look up to and admire. Luigi Del Bianco’s story was unsung and untold. Until his son, Cesar and his grandson, Lou worked to make the historical record straight. And in so doing, these three men have given the world a gift. Walk with me into a book, Lou’s home, along with my friend, D. H. Lee. Here, an untold story came to life.
Lou Del Bianco has shown such enthusiasm, love, and reverence for his grandfather, grandmother, uncles, families. His respect for family is infectious. Filled me with sweet joy, this immigrant family showered each other with much love. Our journey started as Lou Del Bianco give us a tour of his home in Portchester, Westchester County, New York State.
As we entered the house, immersed in history, art, movie(s) memorabilia, theatre posters, and photographs. What impressed me most was the respect and love Lou displayed for his grandfather, Luigi. There were outstanding photographs of his grandfather at work on Mount Rushmore. With his massive chisel as he stands on a scaffold molding, shaping and chipping away at dead rock bringing sculptures alive. One of the things that impressed me was a photograph of Luigi Del Bianco standing next to a Native American in full headdress, Black Elk, member of the Dakota Nation.
I remembered the story that Lou told me about his grandmother, Nicoletta Cardarelli Del Bianco, making spaghetti and meatballs, celebrating friendship on the Reservation with the Native Americans. Few white people experienced such a privilege. One did not have to look far to notice memorabilia from Luigi’s childhood in the old country, Italy. His third-grade classroom report card is framed, matted, and hanging on a wall obscured from the sun, to protect it, but permanently displayed with pride. By the way, his grades were high. He was an excellent student. So, it is no wonder he would be a success in America. I should add the report card showed his skill, extraordinary in math.
Turn every corner, and you will notice something that Luigi left behind. There is a small sculpted bust of Jesus, gifts for friends and family. Family photos from the twenties, thirties, forties, and fifties, adorn the walls. Artifacts arranged on a table, like an altar honoring Luigi’s time on earth. There was a large steel rusted toolbox which carried the chisel that Chief Carver used to create the Monument. The toolkit looked heavy, old, rusted, and used. We toured Lou’s home, given a family history, which enhanced this author’s appreciation for Luigi Del Bianco.
After departing the house, we visited Luigi’s grave. In the rain, I paid tribute to chief carver in my poem, Wisdom in Stone, (which appears at the end of this essay) and a prayer. I thanked grandma Del Bianco for cooking up delectable Italian cuisine for the Dakota Indians. I thanked uncle Cesar, Luigi’s son, for his persistent research, care, and love. He helped to bring this story to light, and I appreciated the chief carver for his sculpting genius. As I stood in the rain with my laminated poem, I thought to myself, the man standing next to me is responsible for bringing this all to fruition. Reading my particular somber poem in the rain was cathartic. It was almost like being blessed by holy water. I now felt I had shown my respect for this great man.
Now, I feel I know Luigi. Having learned his history. I viewed his photographs. Touched the very tools he used to sculpt, the tribute to the democracy, on Mount Rushmore. I even held his fedora in my two hands and felt soft wool, a comforting, reassuring feeling to know that I touched greatness. I spoke to Luigi as the native Americans would. In the rain. In honor, homage, and pride on his grave, face to face with his tombstone heralding his contribution. What a hallelujah moment! Thank you, Luigi Del Bianco.
Afterward, Lou took us out to lunch. Over lunch, we bonded. We spoke of art, movies, theatres, family, history, and stayed away from politics. Today, I suspect Lou gained two new friends. As we left the restaurant, the rain stopped, but the sun was anemic, hidden, and obscured. This encounter today was a meaningful life experience as we passed a bronze memorial plaque, embedded in a considerable boulder, honoring Luigi Del Bianco. I wondered how many other immigrants have unsung, untold stories, yet left to be told. Who will relay them to the world?
Proceeding home, again, it started to rain.
by Vincent J. Tomeo