A Bent For Building, From Father To Daughter

Dec 12, 2008

In some families, a specific talent seems to be passed down through the generations. That could be the case for Ledo Lucietto and his daughter Anne, who share a passion for mechanical engineering.

The Luciettos owned a tool and die shop in Illinois for 50 years. Ledo's father was a mechanical engineer who emigrated from Italy. Their shop was called the Byron-Lambert Co.; they made wire forms and metal stampings.

And as a little girl, Anne was a regular in that shop, asking her grandfather, Luigi, what he was doing as he made parts.

Talking about Anne's childhood recently, the pair recalled how she asked her father an important question when she was just 5 years old.

"Can a girl be an engineer?" she asked her father. His answer: There was no reason she couldn't.

"We would go to the zoo, and the zoo was not quite the thing for you," Ledo said. "You wanted to go to the Science and Industry Museum."

And at home, Anne loved to take her things apart. It was mostly her toys — until the day she took a clock apart and spread its contents out.

When her father asked what had happened, his daughter answered, "Oh, I took it apart. Daddy fix."

And as her dad put things back together, Anne would sit by, watching intently to see how things were made.

"Did you ever notice that I always followed you around the shop, watching?" Anne asked Ledo.

"I thought there was a magnet hooked up to me and to you."

"Do you realize I walk like you, too?"

"Yeah, I know," her father said as he laughed.

"Those are memories," Ledo said. "I really like every one of them. It was fun."

Ledo also has no regrets about sending his daughter to college — despite all the people who told him not to.

And now, he said, "I'm very happy."

"So you don't worry about me anymore."

"No, I do worry about you. You're my buddy."

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And now we have another story of normal life in America. It's Friday morning, which means it's time for StoryCorps. Loved ones are recording conversations with each other - loved ones, like the father and daughter we will hear from today. Ledo Lucietto is 80 years old and part of a family that traces its line and its profession back to Italy. The Luciettos have been mechanical engineers for generations. Ledo ran a metal-stamping shop in this country for decades, and he spoke with his daughter Anne about how the family's talents have been passed on.

Mr. LEDO LUCIETTO: My father's name is Luigi. We used to call him Louie or Louis.

Ms. ANNE LUCIETTO: And when I was a little kid, he came and hung out with you guys at the shop, and I was there some of the time, wasn't I?

Mr. LUCIETTO: You were there many, many times. You'd go and say, hey, Nonno - that means Grandpa - what is that? What are you doing? And how they make it? That was great.

Ms. LUCIETTO: It was, wasn't it?

(Soundbite of laughter)


Ms. LUCIETTO: So, tell me when you first thought that I should be an engineer.

Mr. LUCIETTO: Well, I have to say it was right around when you were probably five years old. You started to ask me many, many questions. First, it was, can a girl be an engineer? And I said there's no question why they should not be. And we'd go to the zoo, and the zoo was not quite the thing for you. You wanted to go to the Science and Industry Museum.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LUCIETTO: And we had to drive a good hour in order to get to it, but we went there as many times as we could. And you were interested in taking stuff apart.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LUCIETTO: So, what did I take apart?

Mr. LUCIETTO: Oh, little toys, little things. It was very elementary. And then one day, you started looking at a clock, and you wanted to take it apart. Sometimes you'd take something apart, and I'd sit there and wonder what in the world, did you do here? And then I'd talk to you and say, oh, I took it apart. Daddy fix. You remember that phrase?

Ms. LUCIETTO: Yeah, but did you ever watch, when you fixed it, what I was doing?

Mr. LUCIETTO: Oh, you were watching every move.

Ms. LUCIETTO: I was watching real careful so I could put it together myself next time.

Mr. LUCIETTO: Right.

Ms. LUCIETTO: Did you ever notice that I always followed you around the shop, watching?

Mr. LUCIETTO: I thought there was a magnet hooked up to me and you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LUCIETTO: You followed my footsteps, and I thought it was great.

Ms. LUCIETTO: Did you ever realize that I copied you in just about everything you did?

Mr. LUCIETTO: Everything.

Ms. LUCIETTO: And do you realize that I walk like you, too?

Mr. LUCIETTO: Yeah, I know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LUCIETTO: I mean, it's a laughing thing because when I remember back, those are memories, I really like every one of them. It was fun.

Ms. LUCIETTO: So, when you laugh, what are you thinking of?

Mr. LUCIETTO: When I laugh, what I think is the results.


Mr. LUCIETTO: You became an engineer. And you know how many people said to me, what do you want to send her to college for? She's only a girl; they're only good for making babies. But I always told them, it's my money and I'm going to worry about it.

Ms. LUCIETTO: That's right. So, you don't worry about me anymore, huh?

Mr. LUCIETTO: No, I do worry about you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LUCIETTO: You're my buddy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: Ledo Lucietto and his daughter Anne at StoryCorps in Baltimore, Maryland. The StoryCorps book, "Listening Is an Act of Love," is now out in paperback, and you can listen to more of these conversations at npr.org.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.