Friday, April 15, 2011

The value of a good name

Thursday, April 14
“A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.” Proverbs 22:1

Having grown up in Gig Harbor with many wonderful uncles, aunts and cousins, I have recognized the value of a good name from a young age. One time I stopped to help a stranger who was stuck in a ditch, and he said, “You must be a Spadoni.” Whether he was relying on my dark hair and brown eyes or the fact that I stopped as an identifier, I don’t know. I asked him how he knew, and he just shrugged, but I grew accustomed to this throughout the years. Most people who have been in Gig Harbor very long know a Spadoni, went to school with a Spadoni or at least have heard the name. Even better, most of them have a high opinion of the Spadoni they know, so in a way, I have made a good impression on people before I even meet them, and I know the family name has given my little asphalt maintenance business a lot of jobs that I might otherwise never have had. Once, while on a waiting list for a flight in Chicago's airport, I was bumped to the top of the list because the airline hostess knew a pair of Spadoni dentists whom she said were "wonderful people." To all my cousins out there, thanks a million for doing a great job upholding the family name.

It is equally important—maybe even more important—here to have a good family name. While we have found Italians to be friendly and helpful in general, it helps to have a name that the locals recognize. In fact, two names, since once people start asking me questions, I am not shy about dropping in my grandmother’s name, Anita Seghieri. In this region of Toscana, if somebody doesn’t know a Spadoni, he will probably know a Seghieri, and both families enjoy a solid reputation; they have done well both here and abroad. Here in San Salvatore, anybody who is anybody knows a Seghieri. The Spadoni name is a little less known here, but three miles away, in Ponte Buggianese or Pescia, the opposite is true.

Of course, we are not the only families here with deep roots. As I look into the family history, I see the same names over and over again. They have married and intermarried numerous times, so that every old family here is tied to every other old family multiple times. Often I will be looking at names on stores and see a name that I recognize as having married into the Seghieri or Spadoni family at some time in the last couple of hundred years. In fact, sometimes more than once. I see the surname Cinelli three times in the Spadoni line. And back home in Washington, the Spadoni-Seghieri families have married a Natucci three times.

Alberto Spadoni, who sells real estate in Pescia, gave me a copy of the Spadoni family coat of arms and a little treatise on the historical significance of the name, though I take it with a grain of salt, because it is possible that we have little connection with these famous Spadonis. So far every Spadoni I have found in our family line, going back to about 1750, is listed as a contadino, a peasant farmer, certainly nothing to be ashamed of, but one might wonder how the descendents of the gonfaloniere of Lucca came to be contadini. In any event, I am happy that I have chosen to make this area the base of my Italian experience.

Here is the family background Alberto gave me, translated to the best of my abilities:
An ancient and noble family that flourished for centuries in various cities of Tuscany, where the family has produced illustrious and noble men of renown. Formerly known as Spada, the family flourished in Lucca; in Gubbio and Bologna; in Pesaro; and in Rome and Terni. The head of this noble family had the surname Brando and was nicknamed Spada (sword); he lived in 1010. Many members of this family were of the Council of Elders in the town of Lucca, and some held the high office of Gonfaloniere.* Mino di Gerardo was one of three ambassadors sent by Emperor Charles IV to Pisa in 1355 to help obtain freedom for the homeland (Lucca); Giannino di Mingo in 1370 was elected one of the twelve citizens of a reform council and of the eighteen elected with very broad authority for the government of the republic, and in 1371 he was one of the first three leaders of the city; Giambattista di Gheraldo was a noted doctor of law who went to Rome and was dean of the lawyers of the Consistorial Council** and was a lawyer for the tax department and for the  Apostolic Chamber in the Pontificate of Clement VIII, Leo XI and Paul V.  Another Giovan Battista, grandson of the former, was made a Cardinal in 1654 by Pope Innocent.

Coat of arms: Red, with three swords of gold fanned out with the tips down. 

* A gonfaloniere was a highly prestigious communal post in medieval and Renaissance Italy, notably in Florence. The name derives from gonfalone, the term used for the banners of such communes.
**An assembly of cardinals presided over by the pope for the solemn promulgation of papal acts, such as the canonization of a saint.

1 comment:

  1. So true, we hadn't lived in Gig Harbor long before we knew a Spadoni. Met I think John at Little League. Interesting blog post.


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