My father, Thomas G. Sacco, was a big influence on my musical aspirations. He often told me, "The music of my era was the best". Listening to all the artists of his generation through the years has not only given me musical satisfaction, but personal satisfaction as well. He saw all the great ones at their best and prime years. For example, he saw Frank Sinatra a total of six times during his career. The first time when Sinatra was just getting his start with the Harry James Band at Eastwood Park (nowadays called Eastpointe) at 8 mile and Gratiot in 1940. He also saw Sammy Davis Jr. perform when Davis was only 10 years old in downtown Detroit. Later in the mid-1950's he would see great ones like Louie Prima perform down in New Orleans. Needless to say, my motivation to be good at my musical endeavors was fueled by not only the music, but his love of the music as well.
My Father was born in Brooklyn, New York, on October 4, 1925 and died on November 2, 2010. The third of five children of Giovanna and Gaetano Sacco, he learned to be very self sufficient at an early age. This was mainly due to his father, Gaetano, leaving the family when he was six. This left a void in not only him, but his family as well. After Gaetano left, Giovanna moved her family to the Mack and Chene area of Detroit's east-side in 1932.
When he was 8 years old he was befriended by a Detroit Times newspaper division driver named Lefty Katz, and from there he started a lifelong career in the circulation of newspapers.
Growing up in the era of the Great Depression didn't hold him down or discourage him; it only made him more motivated to make himself a better life. He often said, “You only get out of this life what you put into it." These words, as simple as they may seem, are as true as they are spoken.
By the time he was 10 or so, he was selling or "hawking" papers for all three Detroit newspapers at that time: The Detroit Times, the Detroit News, and the Detroit Free Press. He would also help out his mother, who was raising five children as a single parent, with the proceeds, and gave his younger brothers an opportunity to make a few nickels and dimes. As his younger brother John would say," We would hawk papers for him at a corner on Sundays. At the end of the day, he would give us some of his profits so we might have a little spending money of our own."
In 1943, when he was 18, he enlisted in the US Army. He was stationed in France, in Company D, as a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division. He fought in the famous "Battle of the Bulge" in the Ardennes forest from mid-December 1944, to the end of January of 1945. When the Steven Spielberg and Tom Hank's documentary Band of Brothers was released he would recall how he served with Company E members Dick Winters and Ronald Spears. From what he said, the companies fought in blocks of three. So companies A, B, and C fought together as did D, E, and F. The Band of Brothers documentary was mainly the story of "E" company. They were also referred to as "Easy Company" in that documentary. His efforts during the war were later depicted at the WWII Memorial Honorees in Washington, DC.
In 1946, he came home a decorated and proud survivor of probably one of history's greatest conflicts. He was awarded both the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. In May of 1947 he married my mother Virginia, and together they would raise a family of four and remain married for over 63 years. When my father retired from the Detroit News in March of 1990 he had nearly 55 years experience in the newspaper business.
The post WWII era was a proud time for many of us in America because we all saw great potential come to fruition in this country. This was also very well noted in Tom Brokaw's "The Greatest Generation." My memories of the life that my parents provided us not only make me very grateful, but also very proud. For the rest of my days, in life and music, my legacy belongs solely to them.
Gary Sacco - September 2011
Thomas G. Sacco's Purple Heart Ceremony from April 15,2003 in Weeki Wachee,Florida.
Thomas Sacco and Vincenzina (Virginia) Gravina (nee Alfeo) grew up in the Mack and Chene area, on the east side of Detroit. They met through family friends in 1946, fell in love and married on May 25, 1947. Tom and “Dolly” (nicknamed by her mother, who thought she looked like a doll) later moved to East Detroit (now Eastpointe) in 1954, where they raised their four children. Once on their own again, they became "snow birds" and lived part-time in Weeki Wachee, Florida, between 1992 and 2005. They were happily married for 64 years.