When the teenaged Carlo Piacentini stepped off of the S.S. France at New York on August 16, 1913, he was on his way to join his brother Angelo in Portland. A decade later, working in Portland as a stonemason and laborer, he proposed marriage to Margaret Colistro (1904-1999). She turned him down because he didn't own his own home. In 1926 he bought a small house on SE 42nd Avenue north of Division Street, and a month or two later they were married. They lived there the rest of their lives. Along the way they had three sons, naming one for family (Carl, in 1928), one for the church (John Baptist, in 1930) and one for the state (Franklin Delano Roosevelt, born on his namesake's 52nd birthday, in 1934). Carlo had little formal education, and wanted more for his children. He and Margaret sent each to college, and to different parts of the American dream: one in public education, one in business, and one in the professions. Carl taught in the public schools (universal free public education was one of the forces behind the American dream), becoming a Portland school principal. John worked his way up to become a Safeway store manager before he was 30, then went into business for himself, starting the Plaid Pantry chain of convenience stores. (His mother worked there as a bookkeeper well into her 80s.) Frank went to dental school, earned a graduate degree in orthodontics, and became one of the city's two leading orthodontists as well as a prominent real estate developer. All three sons also offered themselves to community service: Carl on the school board and Portland planning commission, and as an unsuccessful candidate for the city council; John as an early proponent of Oregon's bottle bill and (more quirkily) as the Republican nominee against Robert B. Duncan for the heavily Democratic seat now held by Earl Blumenauer; and Frank as a board member and volunteer for St. Mary's Academy, St. Vincent Hospital, and the Portland Japanese Garden.
John Piacentini died in 1988, a few months after he sold the Plaid Pantry chain to a group of venture capitalists. Carl Piacentini, already ill himself when John died, succumbed a few months later. This past Tuesday, the legacy of Carlo Piacentini's American dream closed when Frank Piacentini died, ninety-eight years to the day after his father set foot on Ellis Island.