On August 13, 2020, my father and best friend passed away and left us with a big hole in our hearts. When I think about my father, I recall many of his accomplishments, growing up working at the family business, Tony’s TV, his love for the game of soccer, our first trip to Italy, and Sundays watching soccer. We would cap off Sundays with pasta and what he called “soupy-soupy,” cookies dunked in espresso.
He was born on the beautiful island of Ischia, Italy in 1937 and on April 5, 1956, he arrived in San Pedro with his parents Ciro and Maria and sister Angie. The rest of his siblings would arrive in America years later. He would meet my mom, Filomena “Cookie” Costa, at a family picnic on July 4th at Peck Park. It was love at first sight. Mom knew at that moment she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him. They were married in 1961, had four children — Jerry, Domenic, me, and Amy — and eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Growing up in Ischia, he was fascinated with radio, which eventually led him to earn an electronics technical degree from the National Technical School in Los Angeles. He would then open his trademark business, Tony’s TV, in 1965, serving San Pedro for 43 years. Due to his passion for soccer, the business would evolve in the 80s into Tony’s TV and Soccer Supplies, which made National Lampoon magazine’s list of interesting business combinations.
Over the years, his passion led to filling the gaps Italian immigrants were feeling after coming to America. He became involved in radio broadcasting in 1957 by providing soccer scores from Italy to Gianni Lauro’s Sunday Italian radio program using a shortwave radio. Eventually he started his own radio program and was on the air for 47 years.
In 1960, he started the Olympia Soccer Club and the Italian Sports Association, which would evolve into the Italian American Club, to fundraise for the team. In 1973, he formed the San Pedro Italian Soccer Club, which captured the First Division Championship in 1979. Finally, he promoted Italian music to audiences at the Warner Grand, the Hollywood Palladium, and many other theaters across Los Angeles.
His most memorable moment was during the 1982 World Cup celebration after he announced on his radio program that “when” Italy wins the Final against West Germany, fans should meet at his shop on 12th and Gaffey to celebrate. When Italy won, 2,000 people came from all over Los Angeles, the Valley, and San Pedro and filled the street waving Italian flags. This was a first-of-a-kind celebration in San Pedro that many still remember.
He received the 2014 Italian Spirit Award: Excellence in Community during Italian American Heritage Month from Councilman Buscaino to recognize his accomplishments.
Soccer was Dad’s main passion. Together, we rooted for Napoli and the national team of Italy. During the 2006 World Cup, Italy played the USA in the group stage. I was rooting for the USA and told him that we shouldn’t watch the game together as he might get upset with me rooting against Italy. He laughed and agreed. During the first half, I see my parents walking up my driveway. I said, “What happened?” With a big smile he said, “The power went out at the house.” I laughed and said, “God didn’t want us apart for the game.” Thank goodness the game ended in a 1-1 tie and Italy won the World Cup that year. Most recently, we watched the 2020 Coppa Italia final together as Napoli beat rival Juventus to capture the cup. The picture of us holding the Napoli jersey celebrating the win is our last picture together.
I will always cherish being the first-generation son of an Italian immigrant. Dad would say, “Don’t forget where you come from.” In a Christmas card I told him it was time for us to go to Italy for the first time together so I can see where we come from. He said yes with one condition: we plan the trip around two soccer games. So, in 2005, we planned the trip around Napoli/Rimini and Roma/Lazio. Walking the streets of Ischia together and seeing the very places he had talked about for years was a dream come true for me. I wrote about this experience in San Pedro Magazine.
I spent my youth working at his TV shop which led me to earn an electronics engineering degree. In 2018, I took him on a tour of the Boeing satellite factory that I lead in El Segundo. He was impressed by the size of our facility and the size of the satellites and was beaming with pride. I put my arm around him and said, “I am here because of you, Dad.” He looked at me perplexed. I said, “Because of the shop, I became an engineer to help you, but landed here.” He had tears in his eyes.
My father left us with memories of his passion, kindness, friendship, generosity, and especially his smile. His example taught me that we will be remembered not for the big accomplishments in life, but the little things, the times spent together, how we made a person feel, and the small thoughtful gestures amongst family and friends. Rest well, Dad, and may you enjoy the soccer games in heaven. I love you. spt