Two men died in Tucson in January – both well-known, both family men, both important to Tucson.
One was 76; the other would have been 76 in November.
Both were married to their wives for more than 50 years. Both had children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
The Tucson Citizen headline announcing the death of Salvatore “Bill” Bonanno called this the “passing of an era,” while the one for José Canchola noted that he “left a legacy of giving.” Both true statements.
When we moved to Tucson in 1979, I was surprised to discover that Joe “Crazy Joe Bananas” Bonanno lived here.
Having been born in Manhattan and raised in a family that read the New York Daily News, I was constantly inundated during childhood with front-page photographs of the latest mob killings.
There was usually a body sprawled in a barber chair or on the sidewalk in front of an Italian restaurant.
In those days, thankfully, the pictures were in black and white, but you could tell which dark spots were blood.
Should I worry that the Bonanno family lived fairly close to my neighborhood? Would that sort of thing happen here in Tucson also?
I needn’t have worried. Aside from the occasional blurb about the Bonanno family in the newspaper, we might have been living on different planets.
In fact, when Bill Bonanno died, the article in the Citizen concerned itself mostly with his father, Joe.
There was a brief mention of Bill living under surveillance, and that “Bill had a ready smile . . . convincing everybody that he was really an easygoing, pleasant man.”
José Canchola “was seen as something of an icon in Nogales.”
Aside from owning and operating several McDonald’s, he was noted for hosting children’s Christmas parties for 31 years.
It is estimated that more than 50,000 children received food, clothing and gifts as a result of these parties.
Bill Bonanno once wrote, “Nothing can exceed the joy of Christmas when a father and a mother and their children and the children’s children come together in a conscious awareness of Christmas’ true meaning.”
Canchola co-founded the Ronald McDonald House and once was mayor of Nogales.
He was also the recipient of many honors: the Crystal Apple Lifetime Achievement for his work in education, a Lifetime Achievement award from Hispanic Magazine and, in 1992, he was appointed by President H.W. Bush to the National Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans.
Bonanno “was a gifted writer and produced many works about his family life and business.” He also served two prison terms and was targeted by assassins.
As different as night and day were these two men – or were they?
Longtime U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe said, “There was never anybody who came to Joe (Canchola) for something and didn’t get help one way or another.”
Bill Bonanno’s neighbor, Loretta Lazzatti, stated that, “Bill dropped everything and took me to the (doctor’s) appointment, waited with me there and brought me home. That is the kind of man he was.”
There is a difference between grieving and mourning. Grieving is defined as having feelings of great sorrow, while mourning means to express those feelings of grief.
Which man do you grieve for and which do you mourn?
Valerie Golembiewski is a Tucson wife, mother, grandmother and New York transplant. E:mail: firstname.lastname@example.org