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Le Nostre Nonne, Il Nostro Futuro (Our Grandmothers, Our Future)


By Raphael Umphres-Piscitelli

When I first saw Joe Musgrove play for the San Diego Padres, I recalled a feeling of pride that a young man who grew up in East San Diego County (where I am also from) was living his dream. Joe’s style of play screams ‘class’: He’s a hard worker, and a good sport—the sort of role model that all of us would want for our youth. In that first moment watching him play, I was proud to be from the same part of town as this man. But as the cameras captured close-ups and displayed his face on the big screens, as he was deep in concentration before his next pitch, I noticed the glint of a gold Cornicello around his neck and couldn’t help but smile: I know what that means. Most of us that wear a Cornicello received it as a gift from a loved one—a symbol of good luck, but more importantly, a statement of hope that our futures, as the children and grandchildren of immigrants, will glow bright and make every hardship suffered by our forebears worthwhile as we honor them in the pursuit of the dreams that they fought for us to have.

In our community’s brief history in America, Italian Americans have often risen to the pinnacle of achievement in their respective fields. When you read the names of donors contributing towards charities, or see Italian surnames on film credits, it becomes obvious that the soul common between us has contributed some of this nation’s best work in the arts, the sciences, civic and military service, religious devotion, and, of course, in sports. With names like Sinatra, Fermi, DiMaggio, Cabrini, Luciano, Puzo and countless others numbering among the list of household names, it is clear that we are not short of champions to look up to. And yet, among all of our heroes, there is no figure more heroic in the community than the members of one’s own family, especially the mothers and grandmothers that we are so fortunate to have.

This most recent mother’s day, Convivio Society and other partners donated a mural to the City of San Diego, dedicated to the Musgrove family, to honor Joe’s late grandmother, Lucy Papitto. Lucy was a resident of San Diego’s little Italy. At the unveiling of the mural, Joe talked about how much his grandmother gave to him in terms of support, taking him to lessons and helping him grow in his youth, as well as the emotional support of presence that only a grandmother can give: the knowledge instilled that no matter what, your Nonna is there with you and for you, always.

Anyone alive today has stories from relatives about the sacrifices that our elders provided to give us a chance at a better life. How could one ever repay that much love? With honor.

Joe said it best: “When you see me out there and you appreciate the little things that I do, I hope you can appreciate a little bit of her as well, because she was a huge part of that.”

We have no shortage of heroes in our community, Joe Musgrove and Lucy Papitto now among them. Next time you see him pitch, when the gold glints on his neck, remember that heroes can be born at home, and that there are Lucys out there to raise them. You can think of your own mother and grandmother, father and grandfather, and recall that all of our chances at success are the result of generations of hard work, determination, and beneath all of that: love.

Thank you to our anonymous donor and Tarantino Gourmet Sausages for their sponsorship of the mural!






  1. Louis Palestini

    La Famiglia is the soul of our Italian culture. And for those of us who remember our Nonna’s & Nonno’s are blessed –
    I remember my mine and still miss them very much.


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