I've always been proud of my family history, on both sides. My mother's father, John Cunningham, was a colonel in the air force as well as the sole designer of the F-15 Eagle fighter jet, as well as a big part of the design team for the F-18, Phantom, and other military planes that are still in use today. He fought in WWII and on the beaches of Normandy. He was a brilliant man, and even15 years after his death, my mother is still trying to organize his endless notebooks and design portfolios.
I never met my grandfather on my dad's side, who served in the U.S. Navy. But I have lots of memories of my great grandmother, FilomenaYaccovelli, to cherish. In 1919, she came over from Italy with her husband, Jack, and opened Yacovelli's restaurant. Decades later, in a strange twist of fate, my grandpa Cunningham would become on of it's frequent patrons.
When I was little, going to "the restaurant" was almost a weekly event. Nana (great grandma) would join us at our usual table. While we waited for our food to come, my dad would take me to the bar. I sipped on a Shirley Temple while he chatted with great Uncle Dewey or who ever was working that night. Once the food came, my sisters and I would stuff ourselves on salad, bread, pasta, and shrimp and fuss until we got ice cream. The night always ended with a tummy ache and me curled up in my father's lap.
To this day, Yacovelli's is St. Louis's oldest Italian restaurant. They soon will close their doors forever, but not before I host my book's release party on December 20th.
I cannot tell you what this means to me; the memories of countless weddings, wakes, and family parties. I am so blessed to be a part of this family and history. I only wish Nana was here to meet my baby girl and celebrate with me.