Our Mission Is to Reawaken the Genuine American Spirit . . .
The Story of Dino Casali
Editor’s Note: Dino Casali was a long-time subscriber and supporter of The St. Croix Review. He died several months ago at the age of 87. This biography was sent to The St. Croix Review by Dino’s friend Thomas F. Wall who wrote: “I enclose a short biography of Dino’s life prepared, by his home city’s Torrington [Connecticut] Historical Society, which is most inspiring and shows how many older U.S. citizens accomplished so much in the old-fashioned way of working for it.”
Thomas Wall writes of Dino Casali: “He had a distinguished career, although his quiet demeanor would not indicate this. He made a deep impression on me.”
It is the mission of The St. Croix Review to reawaken the Genuine American Spirit of Living in a Good, Great, and Growing Nation as Free Individuals. The writers — and the subscribers — of The St. Croix Review cherish our American freedoms and we are ingenious and industrious people who are capable of solving whatever difficulties we encounter. We find strength in our families, in our neighborhoods, and in our faiths.
The bond that holds America together is a belief that ordinary people of whatever ethnicity or faith can accomplish extraordinary feats as long as American freedom is preserved. To preserve America as the land of opportunity it is necessary to oppose and reverse the growth of the federal government, including the onerous bureaucratic regulations of the various agencies, intended to render individuals subservient to the state.
America was founded as a nation of immigrants who arrived in America legally, who wanted to become Americans, and who were willing to play by the rules. That Dino Casali was a long-time subscriber to The St. Croix Review was not an accident — his story embodies the ethos we promote. Indeed, Dino Casali’s father immigrated to America from Italy, just as my father, Angus MacDonald, came to America from Australia following W.W. II — Angus founded The St. Croix Review in 1968.
Immigrants who come to America, and who want to become American, are able to see America with fresh eyes — they are able to appreciate this nation as a land of opportunity — because they can compare America to wherever they came from.
I would never have learned of Dino Casali’s story if his friend Thomas Wall hadn’t sent me Dino’s biography. I’m grateful for Thomas Wall and for the Torrington Historical Society. And I’m grateful for all of the subscribers of The St. Croix Review. I haven’t been able to meet very many of you — though I have been typing your names over and over again in thank you notes year after year. I suspect we all have much in common.
If you, the subscribers to The St. Croix Review, would send us memoirs or biographies we will reserve a place for you within our pages — we’d like to foster a sense of community among us. —Barry MacDonald
Carlo Casali emigrated to the U.S. in 1907 after hearing stories of great opportunity there. Upon his arrival in 1907, he was refused admission because of a hernia. He returned to Italy, had the hernia corrected and promptly returned to the U.S. [and was admitted into America].
He had to return to Italy in 1914 because of World War I.
After arriving in Italy in 1914, he married and established a family. Carlo Casali and Giovanna Guarnieri Casali were born in the province of Piacenza, Commune (town) of Mofasso in 1885 and 1890, respectively. Morfasso at that time had a population of about 3,000, now about 6,000. They were married in Morfasso on February 13, 1915 and made their home in a section of Morfasso called Sperongia. They farmed the land in an area owned by Carlo called Brandolino. To this day, the heirs may still own the title to this property, but they have allowed their relatives to occupy the property, farm it, and probably have title to it.
One night while sleeping in their home with their two children, August and Domenica (Mae), [Carlo and Giovanna] were frightened by a loud crack in the walls (which was a continuing problem). An investigation determined that the house was unsafe. Having had a favorable experience in the U.S. during his 1907-1914 residence, Carlo decided to return with the objective of paying off debts accumulated in the building of the house which was now a big liability. He, therefore, decided to return to the U.S. in 1919. From 1919 to 1928, he worked in the construction industry and worked for Perini Bros. in Framingham, Massachusetts, for about seven years. He was able to earn enough to pay his debts in Italy and move Giovanna and the two children to the U.S. in 1928. They rented a home on Laurel Hill in Torrington, Connecticut, where Dino was born in 1929. Then in a typical display of courage and confidence for the future, Carlo built a large two-family house at 250 Hillside Avenue in 1932, at the depth of the Great Depression. It was a struggle to maintain the house and provide for his family, but Carlo and Giovanna lived there until their deaths in 1950 and 1974, respectively. His search for permanence was completed on Hillside Avenue but not until the children, August and Mae, were required to leave school at early ages, of necessity, to work and contribute vitally to insure that the house would not be lost. The home is now owned by Carlo and Giovanna’s grandson, Alfred Bonvicini.
Dino went to the East School grammar school (now the Glass Building) where his classmate was his future wife, Corinne Zoli. Starting at age seven he delivered the Torrington Register six days per week door to door to the residents of Hillside Avenue. This early experience of dealing personally with customers, keeping track of their payments and paying the Torrington Register weekly for his newspapers introduced him to the basics of business and laid the foundation for future business achievements. At age fifteen he got a break that would forever change his life. He was hired by Fahnestock & Co. (now Oppenheimer & Co.) by Bob Bligh, manager of the Torrington office and future mentor, as an office boy. His duties varied from marking a blackboard holding 120 stock abbreviations, whose price changes he had to mark with every quarter point change (no computers) to washing and waxing the floor every Friday afternoon. However, in this environment he became fascinated with the stock brokerage business and he decided rather quickly that his life work would be dedicated to this business, a decision that he has never regretted.
Having saved his earnings, and, encouraged by his family and Bob Bligh and his wife, Alice, he was admitted as a freshman to the School of Commerce and Finance of New York University in 1947. He went to daily class from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and walked the ten blocks to the Loft’s Candies store off Union Square where he worked from 2 p.m. Because of this grueling schedule, and because NYU had no dormitories, he enrolled at Babson College in 1949, and was graduated in 1951. Upon graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force (during the Korean War) and served until February 1956. On March 5, 1956, he started work (thanks to Bob Bligh’s influence and efforts) with the New York office of Fahnestock & Co. as a security analyst. He learned about the securities industry in depth, but he yearned to be back in Torrington with his new family (he married his childhood classmate, Corinne Zoli on April 30, 1955, and their first child, David, was born on July 26, 1956). They eventually had three more children: Paul, Dina, and Carla. With Bob Bligh’s encouragement, and subsequent help, he made the move [to Torrington] and has never experienced any doubts. As proof of this, not counting his high school employment with Fahnestock, he has, as of March 5, 2014, been continuously employed by one company: Oppenheimer and its predecessor Fahnestock for 58 years. Upon his discharge from the Air Force, he realized that he was eligible under the GI Bill for further education and proceeded to enroll at NYU for the MBA program and completed the requirements in 1961. In accomplishing this feat, he drove to New York from Torrington three nights a week for classes and made a late night return to Torrington, all while working full time for Fahnestock.
Looking back on his 84 years of life, as the sole surviving member of his original Casali family, with appreciation and gratitude for his parents’ dedication and sacrifice, it is evident that whatever success Dino has had in life can be largely attributed to his parents. Their courage in starting a new life in a foreign land with a different culture and customs, with a strange language, in successfully confronting unforeseen challenges and financial difficulties, inspired in Dino an indestructible faith of optimism and confidence for the future. *