Legacy of an Immigrant: Four Generations of Flying by Maria Vezzetti Matson

Review by Tyler R. Tichelaar

In Legacy of an Immigrant: Four Generations of Flying, Maria Vezzetti Matson shares the story of her incredible pioneer Italian-American family. This book, although based on Maria’s family history, is written as historical fiction. Maria takes some small license with the past and present to tell the story of Eugene Vezzetti, her brother, who became a pilot himself.

The story opens in the summer of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic has everyone worried and keeping their distance from each other. Eugene is spending the summer at his family camp in the U.P. with his three teenage grandchildren, who have flown in to visit him. When Eugene gets a strange call, he finds himself uncomfortable with the personal questions the caller asks. The caller begins by questioning Eugene about his flying experiences and his memories of his grandfather, Caesar Lucchesi, who was a pioneer pilot in the Copper Country area and flew out of the Sands airport. Eugene is surprised someone would be so interested in his aviation career, and he also feels the caller gets a bit too personal when they ask about his feelings on the day of his grandfather’s funeral. Eugene begins to suspect the caller is some kind of jokester and that his grandchildren are in on the joke, but regardless, he agrees to meet the caller later that day.

After the phone call ends, Matson takes us into the second part of the novel where the strange phone call triggers Eugene to think back to the day of his grandfather’s funeral in 1957 and his memories of Caesar Lucchesi. Caesar was a true pioneer in the U.P. He came to the Upper Peninsula from Italy as a young man in the late 1800s and eventually owned several businesses, including gas stations in the Copper Country, but Eugene’s strongest connection to his grandfather was their shared love of airplanes and flying. As Matson details the day of Caesar’s funeral through Eugene’s eyes, we get a close look at how the family deals with grief and we come to appreciate not only Caesar’s legacy as a businessman and aviation pioneer, but also the special moments he spent with his grandfather.

The third section of the novel returns us to the present day as Eugene continues to wonder about and anxiously anticipate his meeting with the strange caller, but the day is still filled with time spent with grandchildren and also relatives—fully masked—stopping by to visit. In this section, we learn more about Eugene’s own pilot experiences and hear some wonderful stories about World War II and his experiences being involved in the recent 75th anniversary celebrations of the D-Day invasion in Normandy and the amazing people he met. Finally, the identity of the mysterious caller is revealed at their unusual meeting site.

Matson does a superb job throughout the book of not solely giving us information but weaving the history and aviation details into the story and the dialogue. The family scenes at the Lucchesi home following Caesar’s funeral are especially heartfelt and well done as we see the adults grieving through thirteen-year-old Eugene’s eyes while at the same time remembering Caesar’s greatest moments and telling their own stories of their aviation experiences and those of others they knew.

Legacy of an Immigrant: Four Generations of Flying has something for everyone. Young adult readers will be able to relate to Eugene as a thirteen-year-old boy. Older readers will be able to relate to Eugene as a grandfather in his mid-seventies. Aviation buffs will relish the stories, facts, and the private collection of photographs featured on the Wall of Fade. Plus, historical fiction lovers will experience a time-travel journey back to 1957 when Elvis Presley filled the airwaves and gas station attendants would still fill up your tank and shoot the breeze for you. I applaud Maria Vezzetti Matson for capturing these poignant moments in the history of her Italian-American family. Readers of this book will, no doubt, want to read her other books about her family and Copper Country history as well.

For more information about Maria Vezzetti Matson and Legacy of an Immigrant, visit www.MariaVezzettiMatsonAuthor.com.

— Tyler R. Tichelaar, PhD and award-winning author of My Marquette and When Teddy Came to Town

Legacy of an Immigrant: Four Generations of Flying by Maria Vezzetti Matson
Polenta Publishing (2022)
ISBN: 978-0-983990-5-2

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