John Brezzo1911 - 2005
November 16, 2005
John Brezzo was born on August 30, 1911. He died this morning in his bed in Oakland, California. He lived a long and happy life. He was my Grandfather.
He and his wife Olga built onto a house on the Oakland Hills. It is a beautiful house with big rooms, a spacious back yard, and an incredible view across the bay of San Francisco and Marin. My grandpa built dozens of secret hatches and panels into that house to use as storage and utility areas. The dining table pulled out of the wall like an old-fashioned ironing board, and my Dad's old bedroom had a false wall that pulled out ot reveal a huge storage area above the living room. I always dreamed of how much fun it would be to grow up in such a house.
I wish I had the foresight and time to sit down with him and listen to his experiences recounting the times when he was growing up during the depression, through 17 presidents, two world wars (and numerous world conflicts), and living near the center of the Silicon Valley and the technology revolution. He also experienced what no parent should have to - his daughter Betty died when she was in her twenties (I never met her, but her pictures reveal a bright and beautiful girl).
We used to visit that house on holidays, birthdays, and occasional dinners. My Grandmother would cook elaborate Italian meals and we would all sit around the table chatting and eating. I'd always want more ravioli, but I always had to finnish my beans first. Such is life.
He had a Newton's Cradle which sat on the hearth in the family room of the house. It was my favorite thing to play with when we would visit. One day, many years ago, he sat down next to me while I played and told me how it worked. He said that it demonstrated a universal principle in life - that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. At the time, I didn't absorb the meaning behind his statement, but I never forgot it. I have carried it with me beyond my physics classes in college, and into life. I describe it as a sort of literal karma. It is a rule I often recall when dealing with people and situations that are difficult. That rule reminds me that I should treat people the way I would like to be treated, and to respect their views and beliefs because there is a good chance that they hold theirs as sacred as I do mine.
In more recent years, my Grandpa has watched his children's children grow up and have kids of their own. My older Sister and I would occasionally visit with our kids and try to brighten up John and Olga's days. We never visited enough - is it possible to visit enough?
My two younger brothers are their pride and joy. Pietro is out of college and working hard to start a career. He will be getting married in 2006 to a wonderful girl. Marco, also done with college, is pursuing a career as well. We always said that Pietro got Grandpa's hairline, and Marco got his nose. Both got his direct disposition and forthright demeanor. One thing I continue to respect about my Dad's family is that you always know where you stand with the men. That's a good thing.
John Brezzo lived as rich a life as anyone could hope for. He kept a strong marriage, raised an honorable and successful son, loved his friends and family, gave to his community, and enjoyed his time on the Earth. What more could a person ask for?
I think that a person's immortality is marked by the impact they had on the people and places in their lives. John Brezzo will live on in his family, friends, and in the wisdom he imparted upon them. My grandchildren will learn about Newton's Cradle someday, and they will tell their grandkids after that.
My Grandpa will live forever.