His parents named him Guido. Of course. His father Dante was an Italian immigrant. His mother Jean was the daughter of Italian immigrants. They were in America, but they gave birth to an Italian baby. Little Guido Bonacci.
Back in the Southern Colorado coal mining camp where they were to raise little Guido, they befriended a young accordion player, Leo Spazziani. They liked him. So they re-named their son after him. There was no paperwork. They just decided he was now “Leo,” and so he was.
He always said that the Good Lord looked out for him throughout his life. He looked out for him in the rough and tumble world of the coal mining camps where he grew up. He looked out for him when his father broke his back in a mine cave-in, and young Leo prayed to have his father “just a few more years.” (He lived an additional 54.) He looked out for him when he graduated high school a year early and received a scholarship to CU Boulder, making him one of the few mining camp kids to go on to higher education. And he looked out for him when Uncle Sam called during World War II. Leo served in the European Theater. He missed the Battle of the Bulge by a day, and was ready to ship out to the Pacific when Japan surrendered. He came home alive and healthy. He was always thankful for that, and mindful of the many who were not so fortunate.
His enlistment also brought “Guido“ back. The U.S. Army had no interest in informal childhood name changes. So he served the Combat Engineers as Corporal Guido Bonacci. Immediately upon his return, he legally became Leo Guido Bonacci. Which sounds a little like the lunch special at an Italian restaurant.
But Leo G Bonacci was a good, distinguished name for an up and coming executive.
He earned his MBA and his CPA, and worked in the oil and gas industry through the 1950’s. And then he thought the Good Lord was calling him to the priesthood. He entered a delayed vocations seminary in Massachusetts. But a year later, “the girl he left behind” wrote him a letter telling him she was engaged. Realizing that the Good Lord had other plans for him, he immediately resigned the seminary, returned to Colorado and proposed to a woman who was already engaged to another man. That same Good Lord was definitely looking out for him when Lavina Stumpf said “yes.”
When he became a family man, he became a family man. He didn’t go to bars, or hang out with his buddies, or do anything else that would take him away from the family he had waited so long to start. If he wasn’t at work, he was at home with his beloved wife and kids. That was the only place he wanted to be.
If you look up the phrase “unconditional love” in the dictionary, you will find his picture. (Well, if you don’t, you should.) Mary Beth, Paul, David and Julie grew up knowing that his love for them was absolutely unshakeable. Right or wrong, agree or disagree, he was head over heels in love with his kids. And he let them know it. All the time. He never ended a conversation without telling them he loved them. And he wouldn’t say it just once. “Love you, love you, love you.” Each time with fervor, like he had never said it before.
He didn’t become a grandfather until he was 80 years old. But he poured the same love into his relationships with Anna, Brian, Audrey, Leo and Ava. Absolute, unconditional love.
He always wanted to teach. He remained in the oil and gas industry because it offered a better way to provide for his family, and send his kids to college. But when he turned 65 and became eligible for retirement, he decided to finally pursue his dream. He began teaching at a small private school. Over his tenure there, he taught all ages and all grades. He was a fabulous, naturally gifted teacher. Like he was born for it. In fact, when he was 82, they made him principal. He finally retired in his late 80’s.
There was nothing “cool” about him. He didn’t care about nice clothes, fancy houses or expensive cars. He was living this life for the next. He had his eye on the finish line all his life. He told his kids “I don’t care if you grow up to be ditch diggers, as long as you save your soul.” (No offense to ditch digging, which he clearly regarded as an honorable profession.) He loved Jesus his savior, and loved his Catholic faith. God came first in his life. Always.
In the final years of his life, he was completely resigned to the will of God. He never complained. Never. His trust in his Good Lord was absolute. As the end came, he had no fear. His last words were “Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of death, amen.” He looked forward to spending eternity with his Savior, and with his beloved late wife Lavina.
Rest in peace, Dad. We love you, love you, love you.