Me and the famous Italian immigrant

Published 10:35 pm Thursday, January 9, 2014

By Frank Roberts

I was Amedeo Voltejo Obici for three years. People asked me where I was born, how I came to the U. S. and how and why Suffolk became my home and headquarters.

My responses were not too bad, but I did wind up with blank expressions when folks asked technical questions about the manufacturing process. In those days I couldn’t look at a portable hand-carry screen and come up with an immediate answer.


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Once or twice I tried to refer them to “Ted,” my – errr – chief engineer.

I can’t remember who decided I would make a good, wealthy Italian immigrant, but I carried on for three years. Each year, I had a different wife. The only one I remember was a nice part-Native American lady whose name was either Minna or Minnie. She was shorter than I — not-true-to-life since the “other” Amedeo was quite abbreviated.

I learned to really like and respect the man I proudly represented. If ever there were someone to admire, it would be A.O.

I studied him, his life, his achievements, arming myself with as much info as my wee brain could handle, because I was that man in several social functions.

Usually, I walked around, talked like Dean Martin’s grandpa, and tried hard to look and sound like I knew what I was talking about. I had done a lot of theater work. so was fairly adept at putting myself in someone else’s shoes.

I won’t go into his history or the history of his company, since most Suffolkians probably know all that. And, they know about his legacy — the hospital named for Mrs. Obici.

I will mention returning to Suffolk recently and heading straight to the peanut store and filling up on the best chocolate-covered nuts purchasable anywhere. My doctor recently suggested I need to gain weight, so devouring them has been no problem.

I often chortle when I watch those television commercials for the diets and pills that guarantee their products will let me lose 100 pounds by next month. Physically, at 85, I have enough problems, and don’t need anymore.

As a matter-of-fact, as I am writing this I am awaiting another visit from my cute occupational therapist.


A few other things: I recently watched an old (obviously) interview with Dick Cavett and Groucho Marx — the latter railing against the “filth in today’s movies and on stage.” God knows what he would say about today.

Speaking of that, you would never guess who said this: “Every day we wake up is another blessing. Follow your dreams and don’t let anyone stop you. Never say never.” That came from — honestly — Justin Bieber, America’s No. 1 talentless spoiled brat. The only talent in his camp belongs to his promoters.

On the subject of quotes — did you know that one of the most famous came from Madison Avenue? “The family that prays together, stays together” originated in a 1940s radio program, “Family Theater.”


Finally, this: When I was a child, we had a quicksand box in the backyard. I was an only child — eventually.

During a 60-year career spanning newspapers, radio and television, Frank Roberts has been there and done that. Today, he’s doing it in retirement from North Carolina, but he continues to keep an eye set on Suffolk and an ear cocked on country music. Email him at