This I Believe

Kelly - New York, New York
Entered on June 12, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

The Story of A Century

I believe in living to reach 100 years of age and taking care of your family always. I believe in my Great Uncle Johnny Bettelli who was born on June 25, 1907 on Baxter Street in New York City. He was born the second of five children and the only boy. Soon after birth, his family moved to Redhook Brooklyn where he and his sisters, spent the majority of their childhood. As the only son, Uncle Johnny embraced the role of “protector” at a very young age. From listening to his stories over the years, it is known that the days of the early 1900’s were filled with much fun and laughter but were also without many of the luxuries we now take for granted. He is part of a special breed of people who defined work ethic, were the pioneers of the “Traditional Generation” and who exemplified doing more with less.

After elementary school, Uncle Johnny began to work to help support his family. He began to work with electricians at age 14 and this would remain his life long career to which he was extremely dedicated. He started as an apprentice and, rumor has it, he knew a guy who knew a guy who knew a guy who was able to get him into the world famous Local 3 Union of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. At this time, he decided to really perfect his trade and enrolled in night school to begin working toward obtaining the Electrical Engineering Certification that he holds until today.

In 1940, Uncle Johnny was faced with a terrible tragedy. His father was suddenly killed while working in construction in Coney Island. From that day on, he became the major supporter of his mother as the City decided to award her only $3 per week as compensation for the loss of her husband. Uncle Johnny and his sisters all worked to ensure their mother was taken care of always. As time went on, his sisters began to marry and leave home but Uncle Johnny remained home with his mom to hold the fort down as best he could. In 1942 he was asked to serve his country in World War II and so he left to serve as part of the United States 33rd Battalion of the Navy Sea Bees. After serving his time bravely and admirably, he thankfully returned home safe and sound.

As an electrician, Uncle Johnny strongly impacted his industry and his peers. As a staunch Union man, he was a long time Secretary of the 33rd Sea Bees Association. He was also one of the founders of the Credit Union for Local 3 which offered Union members another vehicle through which to borrow money. He was an intricate part of its success as he attended meetings religiously and fulfilled any responsibilities bestowed upon him. Today, he remains the last chartered member alive.

In 1966, the Port Authority of N.Y. and N.J. set out to build two towers that became known to us as the World Trade Center. It was no surprise that uncle Johnny was one of the men chosen to work on that project ensuring the electrical work for the two tallest buildings in the world would be first class. He worked extremely hard in a dangerous environment and became a part of the history of New York City as a proud member of the group of people who helped build the towers.

At age 75, Uncle Johnny was still working as part of Local 3, and, during this year 1982, the Union was facing some hard times. They made it clear that they wanted Uncle Johnny to retire from a life long legacy of work that he was still more than capable of performing. Second only to the passing of his parents and his sister, this was the single most devastating occurrence in his life. He was happy and more then able to continue working, but, as a loyal Union man, did what was asked of him although it was not his choice.

I am proud to be the niece of a man who dedicated his life to taking care of his family and working hard always to keep food on the table. Happy 100th Birthday Uncle Johnny Bettelli.