Homeless Vietnam Vet To Get Hero’s Send-Off, Burial

Brett Blume (@brettblumekmox)


ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – He died without a home, but one local Vietnam veteran is going to get a hero’s send-off nonetheless.

John Beard, 67, had served a three-year stint in Vietnam with the U.S. Air Force, but he’d been homeless for at least the past couple of years.

When he recently passed away from cancer, AMVETS started a fundraiser to underwrite Beard’s funeral.

That’s when Calvin and Chris Whitaker, the husband-and-wife owners of Michel Funeral Home (5930 Southwest Ave.) got wind of the situation, and offered to host Beard’s funeral, free-of-charge.

AMVETS offered to give the Whitakers the money they’d collected to that point to help cover expenses.

“I didn’t even pay attention to how much they had collected,” funeral home co-owner Calvin Whitaker told KMOX News. “I gave it back to them and told them to give it to the ‘Veterans In Need’ program.”

Whitaker even had a chance to meet with Beard prior to his death to discuss funeral arrangements.

“I told John, ‘I could not be here doing what I do if it wasn’t for guys like you doing what you did to make our country safe,’” he said.

michel2 Homeless Vietnam Vet To Get Heros Send Off, Burial

(KMOX/Brett Blume)

The public has the chance to get involved in sending John Beard to his final resting place with the love and respect he earned by serving his country.

Everyone’s invited to come out and line the route the funeral procession will take around mid-morning Tuesday.

“We have the Patriot Guard riders, I know we have AMVET and American Legion riders, and we have some other motorcycle riders from other clubs in our area who are going to meet here,” Whitaker said, estimating that some 200 riders could be in the final procession.

It will leave Whitaker Funeral Home at Southwest and Hampton avenues beginning at 9:45 a.m. Tuesday.

The procession will head south on Hampton on a route that will also include Morganford, Union, Reavis Barracks and finally Telegraph.

There, Vietnam vet John Beard will be buried with full military honors, despite the fact he didn’t have a cent to his name at the time of his death.

“He served and protected our country,” Calvin Whitaker said. “Me and my wife did not serve our country, so we thought this was a small way we could give back.”

For more information, contact Michel Funeral Home at (314) 645-4241.

Please follow and like us:



Italy Atlas of PrejudiceIn Italy, stereotypes are rampant, not only of foreigners but also of Italians.  Every time I travel to Italy, I discover another stereotype about a person from a specific Italian region.

As a fun exercise, I asked a handful of Italian friends from different parts of Italy, including Florence, Naples, Rome & Sicily, to elaborate on the different Italian regional stereotypes. Surely as Americans, for example, we know of our own stereotypes we have for people from different states, and in reality we often know they are just plain ignorant, but they do exist and oftentimes they are quite comical.  Stereotypes are prolific in Italy, and for an Italian Enthusiast, it is worthwhile to discover them, because to truly be immersed in Italian culture, it is necessary to understand all aspects of Italian culture, including its stereotypes.

Here is a summary below!

Italy is divided into two main stereotypes: POLENTONI and TERRONI.

The people living in the northern regions of Italy are called “polentoni”, which comes from the food “polenta”.  Polenta has historically been one of the most popular foods consumed in northern Italy, and if a southern Italian wants to say something derogatory to a northern Italian, he would say (among other things) “Mangia Polenta!”, which means “Go Eat Polenta!”

People living in southern Italy, on the other hand, are called “terroni” because while northern Italy experienced prosperous economic development in the past century, the southern Italian economy relied on agriculture.  “La terra” indicates fields to be cultivated, and “terroni” are people cultivating the fields.  Both “polentoni” and “terroni” are derogatory terms.

PolentaIn addition to these two general stereotypes, Italy does not stop there.  Stereotypes are also broken down and directed at the various regions and cities of Italy.  A list (in no particular order) is below.  WARNING – the list is not meant to offend, only to have some fun!

Lombardy (Milan): Unfriendly, cold, workaholics, snobs.  They only eat polenta.

Piedmont: Courteous, but fake and insincere.

Liguria: Very cheap and frugal.  In Italian, we say loro hanno le braccia corte, which means, they have short arms (too short to reach into their pockets for the money).  Also, gossipy and inhospitable.

Tuscany (Florence/Pisa/Siena): High usage of profanity, especially using God and the Virgin Mary’s name in vain.  Snobish, Arrogant.  They believe they speak pure Italian, unlike everyone else from other regions.  Also, people from Florence do not generally like the people from Pisa, and vice versa.

Lazio (Rome): Lazy, messy and the people rarely work.  Not elegant.  Exhibitionists.  Scoundrels.  Don’t follow the law.  Also, people living in Rome are called “burini” because as a result of their dialect, when they pronounce the word “burro” (butter), it sounds as if they are pronouncing the word “buro”.  To Americans it may not sound different, but saying “buro” instead of “burro” in Italian is an immediate sign that you are from Rome, and therefore, a “burini”.

Campania (Naples): Thieves, swindlers, superstitious.  They believe in things like the cornacornetto, and malocchio. The corna is an upside down University of Texas Hook ’em Horns, and it is used in an equivalent fashion to when Americans would “knock on wood”.  The cornetto is a horn-shaped good luck symbol, and the malocchio is equivalent to the evil-eye.Superstitions

Calabria: Mafia, stubborn, proud.  Strange dialect.  There is an Italian radio show that mocks the extreme dialect from Calabria.

Sicily (Palermo): Mafia, passionate, jealous, possessive, eat like pigs.  All Sicilians have names that end in terms of endearment, like “Nunziatina and Pinuccio”.

Abruzzo: Kind and strong, but stubborn.  Eat a lot of meat.

Marche: There is a saying in Italy – “It is better to have a dead person inside the home than have a person from Marche at the front door.” (meglio un morto in casa che un marchigiano dietro la porta).  The reason for this saying is that years ago, the people from Marche were the tax collectors and they went door to door collecting taxes for the Pope.  Many people became angry over this and hence they never wanted people from Marche to come to their home.

Emilia Romagna: Communist, excellent at ballroom dancing, eat too much lasagna.

Veneto (Venice): Workaholics, alcoholics, and they eat cats.  Always drive drunk, even after lunch when their cars zig zag all over the place.  People from Venice also believe they are better than people from other towns in the Veneto region.  People from Treviso are perfectionists and disciplined.  There is a saying in Veneto as follows, “Veneziani gran signori, Padovani gran dottori, Vicentini magna gati, Veronesi tuti mati, Trevisani pan e tripe, Rovigoti baco e pipe, Belunesi pochi sesti” and this refers to people of the many cities of the Veneto region.

Trentino-Alto Adige: Precise and rigid, like German people.  Wannabe Germans.  They prefer Germans over Italians.  Very particular.

Sardinia: Stubborn, and short in stature.  Overbearing.  Jealous and proud.

Friuli Venezia Giulia: Cold and close-minded.

Basilicata: A forgotten region.

Puglia: They all live in homes called “trullo”, which is an Italian version of a tee-pee.Trullo

Aosta Valley:  Close-minded.  Impossible to understand when they talk because they speak a strange dialect which includes a mixture of Italian and French.  Mountain people.

Molise:  Superstitious, and emphasize the importance of the female role.

Umbria: Close-minded and modest.  Mountain people.

I welcome all contributions to add to the list.  If you know of a stereotype that differs from the above, please share (as well as your source)!!

Lastly, the first photo I’ve included on this post of the map of Italy was created by an artist named Yanko Tsvetkov.  He’s created many humorous maps of the world depicting prejudice from various perspectives.  If you like the map, you can visit his site at: www.atlasofprejudice.com for more.  While I cannot confirm whether or not the map is an accurate depiction of Italian stereotypes (i.e., the Ethiopia and Somalia reference), I can confirm the existence of a famous saying that northern Italians say, “dal po in giù l’Italia non c’è più,” which means basically that south of the River Po, Italy is no more.  Interestingly, since the River Po is in fact way up north, if this were true, then only about 1/5 of Italy would in fact be considered Italy by the northerners.


Please follow and like us:

An Italian’s Take on the Power of Pasta

This entertainment CEO knows two things: good music and great pasta.

The following article, written by Ron Onesti, appears on DailyHerald.com.

Ron Onesti: The power of pasta

If by chance I have made your acquaintance, or maybe we have crossed paths on Facebook or somewhere else, you would know I am an Italian-American. With red sauce running through my veins and olive oil on my skin, I love my pasta as much as anyone.

Through the years, as I grew my career in music, I took with me as much of the backstage “pasta and meatball” experience as I could. What started with my grandmother in Chicago’s Little Italy on Taylor Street where I was born, has turned into a part of my rock ‘n’ roll business model.

Ironically (and gravely unfortunately), I never met my grandparents. My Nonna Sabina came over from Naples in 1911 to start a new life in America. She died two weeks before I was born, trying so desperately to hang on just to see the first offspring of her son, my dad Alberto, who was the youngest of six kids.

But what she left behind were old-world culinary traditions, and hundreds of warm recollections shared with me from aunts, uncles, cousins and my own parents. So even though she passed on before I met her, I learned a great deal about my heritage and the passion surrounding it from her. Continue reading at DailyHerald.com.

Please follow and like us:

What makes Vivaldi unique among composers? He was a priest.

Antonio Vivaldi at the International Museum and Library of Music of Bologna. Public Domain.
Antonio Vivaldi at the International Museum and Library of Music of Bologna. Public Domain.

.- While Antonio Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” echoes in concert halls and elevators around the world, for some, his greatest masterpieces are not the scores resonating spring, summer, fall and winter, but rather his sacred music.

Although less known, Vivaldi’s sacred music compositions, according to a researcher and expert on the musician’s life, is probably his greatest contribution to music – featuring an altogether unprecedented combination of deep spirituality and the contemporary trends of the time.

And this profound personal spirituality was rooted in what is likely a little-known fact for many: Antonio Vivaldi was a Catholic priest.

“I’m going to give you the most bizarre idea. Think of the Pope, who represents priests, spiritual things, and then you’ve got Jimi Hendrix, a superb guitarist. You put them together and you’ve got Vivaldi,” British researcher Micky White told CNA Aug. 1.

It’s a combination altogether “bizarre,” she said. “Vivaldi the priest, deeply spiritual, comes out in his music. Jimmy Hendrix Vivaldi you’ve heard in the Four Seasons; it’s the most bizarre piece of music.”

“It’s timely, a priest wrote it,” and it’s meshed with the modern style of the day –  a combination of two things that are essentially “polls apart,” she said. “That’s what makes him stand out among anybody. Bach wasn’t a priest, Mozart wasn’t a priest, nor was Beethoven, but Vivaldi was.

In listening to Vivaldi, it’s obvious that he was a very faith-filled man, she said, “you hear it in his music, you listen to it.”

White, who left a thriving greeting card company in England and moved to Venice to pursue an increasing interest in researching Vivaldi’s life, has become an expert and point of reference on the musician.

Not only has she published a book, “Antonio Vivaldi: A Life in Documents,” as the fruit of her research, but she was a consultant for a new display on his life called “Viva Vivaldi: The Four Seasons Mystery.”

The exhibit, located just behind St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, provides attendees with an indoor video-mapping show done with immersive HD images, surround sound and scent special effects such as scent and wind. It opened to the public May 13 at the Diocesan Museum, and will stay open during 2018.

One of the most famous Baroque composers, Antonio Lucio Vivaldi, affectionately known by many in his time as “the Red Priest” due to his auburn locks, was born in Venice in 1678.

His father, who was an instrumental figure in his life (pun intended), was a professional violinist, and taught his son how to play as a young child. The two then went on tour together throughout Venice, giving Vivaldi an extensive knowledge and even mastery of the violin from a young age.

In 1693, at the age of 15, he began studying for the priesthood. He was ordained in 1703 at the age of 25, and shortly after was appointed chaplain and Violin Master at a local orphanage called the Pio Ospedale della Pieta, or the Devout Hospital of Mercy.

The orphanage, called the “Pieta,” was founded in 1492 by a poor friar as a home for abandoned babies. Young children were typically raised by older girls already at the center, and while the boys were taught a specific trade and ousted at the age of 15, the girls were trained as musicians if they had the ability. If not, they were taught a different trade, such as reading or sewing.

The most talented of the girls stayed on and became members of the hospitals renown orchestra and choir. Vivaldi worked at the hospital from 1703-1715, when he was voted off the faculty. He was voted back in 1723, and remained until 1740, composing some of his most famous works during that time.

However, after just a year of being a priest, Vivaldi requested a dispensation form celebrating Mass due to his poor health. From birth he had been afflicted with a serious, unknown, health condition thought to be a form of asthma.

All that is known about the mysterious illness comes from the letter Vivaldi wrote asking for the dispensation, in which he referred to it as a “tightness of the chest.”

According to White, “it would have been very hard for Vivaldi to give up saying Mass. It would have been his own decision, a decision of nobody but himself, and he also gave up a good salary.”

She pointed to rumors alleging that he had been kicked out of the priesthood or even excommunicated, saying they “are so ignorant and so stupid,” because if one actually looks to the facts, the rumors are “not proven.”

She also addressed rumors that Vivaldi had abused the choir girls as the reason he was kicked off the Pieta faculty in 1715. These rumors, she said, “not only are they not true, they’re impossible.”

Not only would Vivaldi have never been welcomed back in 1723, but many of the girls who remained in the orchestra stayed until they were 70 or even 80 years old. The hospital was also overseen by several governors, so had there been abuse, Vivaldi would have been kicked out right away, “so that doesn’t add up,” White said.

People often make assumptions about the past or judge by their opinions, telling others that “’it must be like this’ or ‘so and so said that,’” White said, adding that when this happens “you go from bad to worse.”

But when she first started digging into her research on Vivaldi and putting the information into context,  “then everything made sense,” she said, because “research is a matter of fact, it’s not a matter of opinion, and it’s not a matter of ideas, it’s fact.”

She insisted that his priesthood was likely an essential element of his music. Even after stepping down from his liturgical duties, Vivaldi never stopped being a priest, White said. “Once a priest always a priest.”

“He was ordained, he was a priest his whole life (and) his spirituality comes out in his music, all you have to do is listen and you’ll hear it.”

Although in poor health, Vivaldi made great strides in his musical career. He continued to write a variety of compositions, and received many commissions from all over Italy and Europe, for which he traveled frequently.

During one jaunt in 1722, Vivaldi moved to Rome, where he was invited to play for Pope Benedict XIII before moving back to Venice in 1725.

The various pieces he wrote throughout his career include several different types of concertos – from violin to orchestra – arias, sonatas, operas and sacred music.

But according to White, while the Four Seasons, written around 1721, and his many operas are what made Vivaldi rise to fame in his day, “sacred music is on another plane compared all the other compositions. It’s the empire of composition itself that comes from faith.”

Among the sacred scores written by Vivaldi are the Gloria, the Credo, the Stabat Mater, the Magnificat, Dixit Dominus and Laetatus sum, among others. The “Laetatus sum,” specifically, was written by Vivaldi at the age of 13 in 1691.

White said that while these are the known liturgical and sacred works, “there’s a lot, lot missing.”

Given his 38 year career at the hospital, there are likely many, many works of Vivaldi that have never been discovered, she said. For example, “I’m sure that he wrote full Masses, absolutely positive,” but they are likely all lost.

Despite the success he enjoyed during his career, Vivaldi died in poverty in Vienna July 28, 1741. He had moved to the Austrian country after meeting Emperor Charles VI, to whom he had dedicated his Opus 9 work, in 1728.

The emperor was so impressed with Vivaldi’s work that he gave the musician the title of Knight, a gold medal and an invitation to Vienna. However, the emperor died shortly after Vivaldi’s arrival several years later, and with no royal connection or steady income, Vivaldi became impoverished and died from an infection at the age of 63.

According to White, the greatest legacy that Vivaldi left can be summed up in one word: “music.”

“Music comes out of him, it doesn’t come out of his brain, it just pours out of him. It’s like a waterfall,” she said.

While his sacred and classical music might seem outdated in a society enthralled with artists such as Beyonce, Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber, White said Vivaldi is so versatile in his style that he can mesh with well with contemporary music as well as the older

“Vivaldi could do a rock concert quite easily, and Vivaldi can appeal to everyone,” she said. “Vivaldi, he’s alone, he’s absolutely unique. You talk about the Baroque style, and the romantic style…Vivaldi cuts that whole suede.”

With the “tremendous energy” present in his music, Vivaldi is truly one of a kind and is difficult to imitate, she said. “He doesn’t fit anywhere, and he fits everywhere.”

Please follow and like us: