About nine months ago I received an email from Lou Del Bianco telling me that he was looking for a publisher to publish the story of his family’s 25-year fight to gain recognition for his late grandfather Luigi Del Bianco, who they believed was the Chief Carver on Mount Rushmore. I read the email and was intrigued. I had remembered interviewing Lou back on Episode 23 and remembered being really excited and interested by his grandfather’s story and his family’s efforts. I responded and asked him if we could have lunch to see if I could help him out. Last Saturday, nine months later, I found myself at Mount Rushmore, with Lou, his family, and the book that we published together, watching history be made as the United States National Parks Service (NPS) unveiled a plaque that officially named Luigi Del Bianco Chief Carver.
Don’t worry, next week, through episode 50 of The Italian American Podcast, you’ll have the ability to experience that weekend trip, as our next episode includes segments of conversations with Lou, highlights from the ceremony, and other footage. However, in this post, I want to focus on how caring and learning about your family history will not only enrich your own life, but can have a dramatically positive impact on others.
Lou and I (with help from many others including Dolores and our designer James) worked extremely hard over the last 9 months to finish his book Out of Rushmore’s Shadow: The Luigi Del Bianco Story. Should you decide to read it, I promise it will inspire you tremendously, and here’s how I know it will.
We were in South Dakota for a few days before the ceremony, so we shared several meals together and spent time in the hotel lobby just enjoying each other’s company. When I say “we” — I mean me, Lou and his large Italian family (he has six sisters — yes six). During this time, several people approached us just to say hello, or ask what the special occasion was to have so many people together (about 40). When we told them the story about their long journey and that Luigi Del Bianco was finally being recognized, two things happened. Firstly, they congratulated Lou’s family over and over and told him they would come to the ceremony, buy his book, and support the cause in any way they could. Secondly, and even more interesting, they reflected on their own ancestors and some of the spectacular things they did. Powerful.
One woman started telling us how her grandfather played a key role in helping to build a famous Church in Minnesota. She became inspired by Lou’s story and now wants to try and get her grandfather’s name on the plaque outside of the Church. Another woman explained that she was a Native American, and she has been told that her tribe doesn’t qualify to get on the national register of Indians. Well, after hearing Luigi’s story, you can bet she’s going to fight that.
My point here is that, when you learn about your ancestors and you tell their story, everybody wins. In Lou Del Bianco’s case, he persisted for more than 25 years to gain this recognition for his grandfather, and now, while thousands of Americans will hear about, read about it, and be inspired that an Italian immigrant has been named Chief Carver of such an important American Memorial, others will write their own story. Thank you, Luigi Del Bianco. Thank you Lou Del Bianco, and thank you to the Del Bianco family. We’re all going to benefit from your persistence.
You can read this inspirational story (which includes over 100 photos and documents) at www.RushmoreBook.com.
Co-host of The Italian American Podcast
Author of Forty Days in Italy Con La Mia Famiglia