Extremely proud of her 100% Italian heritage, both Delia's father and paternal grandparents came to America on Christmas Eve, 1929 through Ellis Island. She considers her Italian roots to be a huge part of her identity.
A technical instructor for a Fortune 100 company, Delia was originally destined to follow in her family profession of teaching but did not look forward to wrangling scores of kids day to day. She also developed human resource skills in the areas of leadership, team building, and other interpersonal domains. Always passionate in the volunteer area, Delia transitioned into public relations, helping community organizations while earning a living. She coordinated volunteer activities for more than 8,000 employees who helped to feed the poor, encourage at-risk kids to return to school and provide gifts to others who didn't have a decent place to live, let alone a Christmas tree.
One of Delia's most meaningful experiences was spending six months away from her regular job to help a non-profit organization called Make a Difference, part of a larger group called City Cares of America. This organization now has a Buffalo branch through AmeriCorps called Hands On Greater Buffalo. After transitioning from employee to consultant in 2002, Delia came back home with her husband and four-month-old daughter, and took a position with an innovative firm here in human resources. She then attained her masters in HR. She now runs the family business, continuing a tradition.
The decision to return was a quick one for Delia and her family. Her husband was disillusioned with his employer and when he came home complaining again she said, "Quit and we will move back to Buffalo!" He thought she was crazy but then said, "Yes!" This was June 17, 2002... and on June 27th, all of their belongings were packed and ready to go. The entire family arrived in Buffalo on July 2nd.
"I don't think I ever planned to say, "Let's move." It just came out of my mouth... all the pieces fit together and it was like a perfect storm. It just felt like the right thing to do.
"My mother would always send me articles when I lived in Phoenix saying that jobs were coming back or the weather was getting better. She would never admit that the weather was less than perfect. I remember watching the Weather Channel of a live shot of Hamburg during a storm and I called my mother to be sure they were OK. She still wouldn't admit that it was snowing. "No it's fine here honey. Come home!"
Delia grew up living behind the family business, a statuary store on South Park in Blasdell (Highland Garden Craft.) She never had a normal yard like most kids. It was filled with religious statues and concrete deer but she never thought it was weird... only when she got older did she think... "Wow, that was a strange place to grow up" but she was always proud of living there. "Our street had a bunch of kids and we played all day until the streetlights came on... We knew everyone on that street."
Delia was never able to make friends with her Phoenix neighbors like she had in Buffalo. "We all had garages with electric doors, so we would drive in, shut the door and go in the house. No one had porches there so there was no reason to hang out in front of your house. Phoenix was much more transient and it was harder to meet people. We still have an amazing core group of friends there but most I met at work. Buffalo "neighbors" are just friendlier and want to build relationships. If people in Buffalo see you struggling, they come to your assistance. There is just something special about Buffalo people and how much they care."
As it is not entirely uncommon to get into a little trouble as a youth in Buffalo, I asked Delia if she recalled any situations that she might consider sharing. With the exception of the kind of antics one would expect of a teenager before a St. Francis dance, she described the Western New York way of life as follows:
"I think I stayed out of trouble because of the kids I hung out with... Just nice normal kids trying to do the right thing...my best friend had very strong positive values and I think she really kept me (not consciously of course) on the straight and narrow. I guess I would have to credit my dad, my family and my best friend with keeping me out of trouble... I think the old adage..."It takes a village" is very true. There were many things I DIDN'T do because I wanted my family to be proud of me."
When asked if she was as happy with her decision to return to Buffalo as she was in the beginning, she responded:
No regrets for coming home. My daughter was able to get to know my mom and dad before they passed away. She was the apple of their eye. She gave them something to live for in those last years. They would have seen her only once a year and I think I would have regretted not coming home. Sienna is able to be with all her cousins, aunts and uncles here. Even my stepdaughter, who was born and raised in California, is moving here in June. She likes Buffalo and wants to be closer to family too.
Recounting her fondest memories, Delia includes the Erie County Fair, Crystal Beach, Mickey Rats, and the Elmwood Strip. I did not expect there to be a work-related memory in her answer:
One of my fondest memories is working at an Italian restaurant behind Bella Pizzeria in Lackawanna called Rafael's when I was about 17. I was a salad girl there in the mid to late 70s and the dishwasher's name was Kenny. We were friends but eventually, both of us would both go off into America, get married, (and then divorced). We finally met again in Phoenix in 2000. At that time, still just as friends, we had dinner and then went our separate ways. We emailed each other and within one month, we fell in love. Ken moved to Phoenix in June 2000. We were engaged in July, married in January 2001 and pregnant that June. It was a whirlwind 25-year courtship!! Ken and I have been married for 10 years now and are so happy and grateful that we found each other again. We share the same sense of humor, values, love for our family, and love for Buffalo.
Delia thinks volunteering is the best way for people to make Buffalo Better:
Even if it is just once a month... it opens your eyes to the needs out there. Get your children involved too. I was raised to help in the community and I see my daughter with that same helping spirit. Volunteering teaches our children to appreciate what they have and not be so focused on just their lives. Just the other day, my daughter had tears in her eyes and she said to me, (she really did!!) "I am so lucky, I have great parents and great pets and a nice house and I feel so bad when I see the people at the soup kitchen sometimes." It really made me see the impact that volunteering has on her life.
In order for Buffalo to be better:
Each person needs to get involved in something... whether it is volunteering or supporting organizations that are trying to make this city better. Brian Higgins, in my opinion, along with other politicians like Tim Kennedy are what our city needs. They love the city like we do and want what is best for it, not just what is best for them. Other progressive cities (like Phoenix) do not have the problems we do because they are not set in the old ways of doing things. They have an idea and if it will benefit the city it is done in record time. When I left in 1983, many of the same issues were being discussed and we are STILL discussing them! We have to stop thinking about what is best for me and think what is best for our city and its future.
For Delia and her husband, quality of life is about friends, family, spending time with them, having interesting and culturally significant places to go and events to attend, good food, and some money in your pocket to enjoy it all.
Buffalo has wonderful cultural events, museums, and theater, however I think we need to start looking at what other cities are doing to make their cities profitable and welcoming. Do some benchmarking and start implementing changes! Eventually everyone will see that change is good!
Welcome Back Delia and thanks for betting on Buffalo!
If you know an individual or family who came (back) to Buffalo, email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will consider publishing it on Buffalo Rising Online.