7.10.1917 - 8.21.1968
Was my father, an Italian painter and sculptor. My Mother a debutant from Milwaukee. Who had been an editor at the Herald Tribune in Paris her junior year abroad from Smith College. She left the Harold to work for an airline magazine. Which took her to Rome, where she met my father. He taught her how to speak Italian sometimes drawing pictures on the inside of a foggy windshield. It was very romantic. They fell in love. After five years of living in Rome. Where my father didn't have much work. I'm sure it wasn't easy for my father to leave his family. But they decided to go to the United States. We traveled from Venice in 1958 by cargo ship. My Uncle Bob who had made a gentleman's bet with a friend. Had both purchased tickets for the Irish sweepstakes. His friend was the winner, they split the winnings. And this was how we made our way to the new world. We moved to Little Italy in downtown New York City where my Dad could adjust and feel more comfortable, he spoke no English. He found work with Remco and Ideal toy companies. Where he made new born baby dolls. He also worked Madame Alexander a doll manufacturer. I remember my Dad taking me along one day to meet with her. He had a doll to show her. Her private office was on the street level door of the beautiful old building on the North side of 23rd Street and Fifth Ave (Mario Batali's Eataly is now there). He was making the proto types of new born baby dolls. It was a fascinating process to watch. First making the head out of clay. Some of the dolls had actual bodies. Where others had cloth bodies, with only hands and feet. Next he would make an outside mold with plaster of paris. When that dried, he would heat a bees wax, and pour it into the mold. When the wax cooled, he would use special sculpting tools and a fine sand paper to smooth out the surfaces. Finally he would blend water base red and white paints to achieve a flesh tone color. When I was six he and I went to look at the window of FAO Schwartz where the Thumbalina doll was on display (there's a photo here of the one I had). He had made the proto type. I could see that he was very proud. There is nothing like a father-daughter relationship. He was a beautiful man. He had a three dimentional mind. Always creating something. On many levels not only working with bronze, wood, and his painting were painted with espresso and ink. He was the best story teller. Captivating us with his many stories (sometimes at bedtime). Some of his experiences in India. Both as a prisoner of war in the prison camp. And the three years he lived there, after the war was over. He was commissioned by the Indian government to make art there. Unfortunately I wouldn't know where to start looking? He was drafted during the Second World War. Italy was an alley to the Germans. He had been captured by the British. And sent to India which was a British colony at the time. At the end of the war, the Italian government didn't have funds to bring their soldiers home. I've included here, some of the letters he wrote to his family. A very special man, who I knew for only a short time. A friend, brother, son, husband, father, teacher of so many things. I remember watching him take a wire hanger, untwisting it for some purpose. I recently dropped a set of keys between the outside steps of my beach house. I thought, get a hanger. I was able to fish them out with a long hook I had created with a hanger. The keys would otherwise still be there, gone forever! He would take us, my brother and me hunting and fishing. An appreciator of the land and sea. Also a great swimmer. There were stories about him saving people from drowning. We watched, and him skin deer and rabbit, pluck feathers from duck, pheasant, quail, scale fish, clean out the guts. AND then there were all the ways he would prepare incredible Roman meals. With the foundation of olive oil, garlic and tomato. What wonderful childhood memories in the brief time that we knew him.
So here, I present to you some of his works which I have been able to find from various places in the world. Some from family here in the US, and some from family in Italy. My email is here, I would love your comments.
With compassion and love for my father,
A special thanks to
Carlo & Laura Ungaro
Rita De Duro
Stewart Hickman & Sue Ungaro Mingus