Inside the Chamber column: Of my grandmother, ‘The Godfather’ and me
Inside the Chamber
My grandmother lived to be 101.
Her name was Anna.
She was healthy into her 90s when a sudden illness led to surgery. She hadn’t been to a hospital in 62 years (since her youngest child was born). Faced with her own mortality, she decided to write her story for posterity.
This posed a problem because Anna was illiterate. Born on a remote farm in Italy, she never had the opportunity for formal education.
Don’t feel sorry for her — she was totally self-sufficient. Widowed in her 40s, she managed several rental properties that my grandfather had accumulated. She could do perfect math in her head, negotiate tough contracts as well as any attorney, plaster walls, fix the plumbing and of course make a mean red sauce.
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She frugally put her money into certificates of deposit (CDs) and deciphered a system where she knew when to roll the CDs over to earn the most interest. She accumulated enough wealth to pay her own way for a nursing home for 11 years and to leave a small inheritance to each of eight grandchildren.
But back to the story — Anna wanted to write. She didn’t let illiteracy stop her. My niece moved in, and every night and weekend my grandmother would dictate the story of her life. My niece transcribed it verbatim in broken English.
As you can imagine, this took several weeks. Anna talked and talked and talked. She talked until her throat was dry and her voice got hoarse. She talked until she was all talked out. Then she sat back in silence because she had said all she needed to say. After that she spoke very little.
I have been thinking of my grandmother a lot lately and know how she must have felt. I have had the privilege of mentoring (and being mentored by) Angie Anderson for the past year. As you probably know, Angie will be replacing me as president and CEO of the chamber at the end of this year.
During the mentoring process, I have found myself jumping up from my desk and going into Angie’s office with another bit of information, observation or cautionary tale.
It’s like Don Corleone counseling Michael in “The Godfather.” (You know that scene in the garden where the Godfather warns Michael about Barzini? It ends with Michael telling his dad not to worry — he already has taken care of things.)
So it goes at the chamber. I remind Angie of something she is already on top of, and she gently tells me not to worry, she has it handled.
As I leave the chamber after 32 years I want to leave some words of wisdom behind, but everything I can think of has been said before:
1. My philosophy of life: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. (The Golden Rule and something my dad and his father before him said every day.)
2. About achievement: You’ve got to play big to win big. (Advice from my mom, mostly given in Las Vegas.)
3. About determination: “Never, never, never give up.” Winston Churchill.
4. Regarding being a petite chamber director in a small town: Yoda said, “Size matters not. Look at me.”
5. About surrounding yourself with talent: “Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see the greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself.” Edmond Lee and Kermit the Frog who sang of, “the lovers, the dreamers and me.”
6. About long-term tax initiatives and working to create CMC, RFTA and the DDA: “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” Nelson Henderson.
7. About having your dream job for three decades: “Choose a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Confucius
8. About the importance of business relationships: “Great things in business are not done by one person. They are done by a team of people.” Steve Jobs
9. About family: “Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.” Michael J. Fox
10. The last line of the last song on the last Beatles album is The Beatles’ closing statement (and mine): “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”
I am retiring from the chamber but not the community, so see you around. Ciao for now.
Marianne Virgili, president and CEO of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, is retiring after 32 years with the chamber.
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