Written by Anthony Mirarchi and Tanya Tecce
My parents immigrated from the picturesque town of Isca sullo Ionio in Calabria. In 1964, after completing his two years in the Italian army, my father, Saverio, left Italy to meet up with his father, Domenico, who had already been in the United States. He found work right away in a clothing factory, then eventually in his trade as an auto mechanic. He endured many challenges, including the death of his father shortly after arriving here. In 1969, my father went back to Italy to eventually meet and marry my mother, Giovanna. They were married in September of that year in their hometown of Isca, by my uncle Don Antonio Varano, who was a newly ordained priest. In December, my parents moved back to Philadelphia where they bought their first home in Mayfair.
My parents wasted no time starting a family and in September 1970 my brother, Dominic, was born. My brother Saverio (“Sam”) arrived a few years after that, in 1974. As if moving to a new country, learning a new language, getting acclimated to a new culture, getting married and having children wasn’t enough, in 1976, my parents decided to go into business for themselves. They purchased land and had one of the largest auto repair garages in Northeast Philadelphia built at Cottman Avenue and Roosevelt Boulevard, where they would remain until they sold it in 2005. Initially, neither my mother nor father spoke English well. This created a learning problem for my brother, Dom. Eventually my parents got him a tutor and he began to excel quickly in his studies. By the time my brother Sam was born, English became the first language in the home, so Sam and I avoided language barrier issues at school. We all excelled in our studies.
Dom went on to become a physician who owns his own medical practice, and Sam became a lawyer who served 16 years as a deputy Attorney General in Pennsylvania. I graduated Villanova University as a mechanical engineer and own my own business. As children of Italian immigrants who didn’t speak English very well, we overcame challenges by pure grit and determination to succeed, instilled in us by our parents.
My mother and father taught us responsibility and often we had to work with them in the garage. It wasn’t easy, but it was important to them that we knew where the money came from for things like our higher education. The work was hard and physical, but it instilled within us discipline and a strong work ethic that would prove to be priceless in our careers. We were fortunate to want for nothing, but we understood it was afforded to us through hard work and that empowered us with a sense of accomplishment.
The family business gave me a complimentary education not found in college. It provided the opportunity to hone my communication skills. Being raised in an environment where I was surrounded by blue-collar workers but having been blessed to go to college, I am able to easily converse and communicate with a wide spectrum of people in my profession.
To this day, we still follow many Italian traditions in the home. We continue to gather as a family when we make the sopressata and capocollo in January, the tomato jars in August and homemade wine from pressing the grapes ourselves in September.
We grew up Catholic and I still attend mass weekly. My mom and dad taught me to treat others the way I want to be treated, be respectful and to give respect where it is due. Being humble and remaining grounded was always of utmost importance.
I’m involved with Filitalia International, where I serve as president of the Southeast Philadelphia Chapter, COSMI (Comitato Organizzativo San Marziale). This organization’s main objective is to protect, promote and preserve the Italian culture, language, treasures and traditions of Italy. This chapter holds a special place in my heart as my father was one of many who helped to start it 43 years ago. San Marziale is the patron saint of Isca sullo Ionio who was martyred for his faith.
Filitalia’s History of Italian Immigration Museum on Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia offers a look back into the history of what Italian immigrants endured and overcame to become contributing members of society. We hold many events throughout the year and encourage others to get involved in helping to promote our beautiful culture. As a first-generation Italian, it’s important that I help preserve these ancestral traditions.
My wife Lisa and I look forward to it.
Anthony Mirarchi and his wife, Lisa, married last August 2022. He is vice president and an owner of J.M. Patton Associates, a commercial insurance brokerage providing innovative, creative, customized and unbiased insurance solutions that mitigate risk for you, your business and your family and help preserve, accumulate and transfer wealth. Learn more at jmpatton.com and filitaliainternational.org
OUR IMMIGRANT STORIES ARE PROUDLY SPONSORED BY STAMPONE O’BRIEN DILSHEIMER LAW