Festa Italiana was a wonderful event

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 3, 2005

Editor, the News-Herald:

I am writing this letter to than the city of Suffolk and the Suffolk Sister Cities Commission for sponsoring &uot;Festa Italiana.&uot;

The festival honored the founder of Planters Peanut and Chocolate Company, Amedeo Obici and his wife, Louise, of Oderzo, Italy. The event was held in downtown Suffolk at the HIlton Garden Inn and Suffolk Conference Center located at the newly remodeled Constant’s Wharf and was a life-lasting experience.

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Being able to welcome the visiting Italians to our city and experiencing the fellowship and the gratefulness shown by our guests was phenomenal. The harmony provided by the male singers was superb. Watching the Italians work together displayed their appreciation for the gifts Mr. Obici left this city.

As the Italians performed, I had many memories of Mr. Obici during my childhood days. Most of my family, including my grandfather, mother, aunts, uncles and even my husband worked for and retired from Planters, which was one of the highest-paying businesses during that time. I can also remember Mr. Obici riding around in the front seat of his convertible driven by Charlie Byrd, who at that time was his chauffeur. They would ride through the Beech and Oak Street areas, Mr. Obici wearing his little Italian hat while waving at spectators. Mr. Byrd also drove Mr. Obici’s milk truck, distributing free milk to the needy. Early mornings there would be two quarts of milk on the porch. I also remember the 4-7 p.m. shift that provided light work such as making boxes and sweeping floors for after school jobs.

On the week of the Tidewater Fair, which was a yearly event in the black neighborhood, Mr. Obici would have tickets distributed and tables set up for dinner to be served to his employees showing his appreciation.

In 1954, when my daughter was born, we were given shoes with the birthday engraved in gold lettering. In 1956, we were given brass baby pins for our new daughter. I was happy to be in the presence of people whose native brother had contributed so much for the livelihood of many people.

I am very happy that I was able to witness the Italian festival and see the art displayed in our gorgeous hotel.

Hats off to the city manager, council and the mayor for having this elaborate first class hotel build in downtown Suffolk. Now we have a showcase like our neighboring cities and we no longer have to send our guests out of town or miles away for relaxation. I also commend the Sister Cities Commission and city staff for a job well done.

Thanks also for our guests who so graciously thanked Suffolk for the hospitality shown them be dedicating two selections — &uot;Amazing Grace&uot; and Auld Lang Syne.&uot; These selections were performed in Italian. While the guests were singing all the laughter and congregating stopped. Even the waiters and waitresses didn’t move until the completion of these dedicated hymns.

For the Maitred’ and her staff, a fantastic job.

Helen V. Daughtrey