When Angelo D’Amico was a little boy growing up in the heart of war-town Italy, life wasn’t easy.
His father, a sharecropper, watched as bombs destroyed the family’s livelihood, and they nearly starved.
The family would pluck the wheat from the ravaged fields, and mother once cooked orange peels for dinner.
As a last resort, townspeople sometimes had to resort to taking the boots off fallen soldiers, shoes for their survival.
Those days of the fall of Mussolini’s fascist kingdom didn’t stop little Angelo D’Amico, so you can bet that no coronavirus, 82 years later, is going to either.
On Monday, two months after he was forced to close the doors of his Carrabelle barber shop, D’Amico swung back open his doors and welcomed 21 customers for their long-awaited clippings by his skillful hands.
“I’m absolutely 100 percent glad to be back,” he said, his accent still as thick and authentically Italian as the day 64 years ago, at the age of 18, he left his native land for a life in America.
“I’m kind of tired a little bit,” he said Monday evening, after seeing 21 customers opening day, and another 13 the next. “It was nonstop, 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. I had a couple today with long hair; they hadn’t had a haircut in three, four, five months.
“Tomorrow is another day,” he said.
Customers relaxing in his barber chair, enjoying the care he takes in every snip, every massage of their neck, can look up and see a large sign that recounts Angelo’s journey.
“I was born and raised in Pusi in the province of Frosinoni. I am so lucky to come to America and proud to be an Italian,” it reads. “On Oct. 15, 1956, I got to Ellis Island in New York. On April 10, 1962, I became a proud citizen of the USA. From day one until now, I lived the American dream and still going strong. God bless the USA and everyone in it.”
After D’Amico first landed in America, he later returned to Italy and there met his wife, Luisa. Together they had four daughters, Benedetta, nicknamed “Bonnie,” Anna, Lisa and Linda.
Tragically, Luisa was killed in a car accident, but her name lives on their granddaughter, Luisa Holland, who attended the Naval Academy in Annapolis, not far from where D’Amico settled in Maryland.
D’Amico would later marry the former Pam Wellman, an executive with an Atlanta engineering firm who was on a trip giving seminars when her aunt introduced her to the widower.
“He liked the way I talked,” she said.
Pam brought two daughters to the marriage, Dana and Debra, and now between them, their family circle includes six daughters, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
“I am very proud of all my children,” D’Amico said.
His path to citizenship, and making his way through life in America, was not always a smooth ride.
He failed his original written citizenship test, because the judge wasn’t pleased with the numerous spelling errors.
“He had me come back three times,” said D’Amico. “So with the help of one of the guys, I memorized the book and how to spell each word.”
He began work with a bread route in Maryland, for Vie De France, and then accumulated enough money to take a dilapidated bakery and transform it into QPS Bakery, which had success baking pita bread.
After his wife died, Angelo sold the bakery, and later opened a deli restaurant and bar near Frederick, Maryland, known as Angelo’s, of course. “Pizza was his best thing,” said Pam.
After they married, D’Amico sold the restaurant and moved to Jekyll island, Georgia, and later Brunswick, where he opened a barber shop with two friends, which he had for 15 years.
Later, the the D’Amicos moved to Punta Gorda, but a damaged right lung proved problematic. “He kept getting pneumonia,” Pam said.
So they went west, to Arizona, where the climate was more suitable, and over the next dozen years, D’Amico operated two barber shops, one with five chairs, and another with three chairs, which was later sold to daughter Lisa.
The D’Amico’s bought the Carrabelle shop three years ago, after Angelo told his wife “I think I want to go back to the water.”
They now live in Lanark Village, and Angelo has been busy six days a week, ever since January, plying his trade.
“I will not be able to do it without the help of my dear wife Pam,” he said. “She is my biggest fan and supporter. Without her, I could not be running D’Amico’s by myself.”
For more information, call the barber shop at 850-933-6533.