Self-taught artist enjoys golden years

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Tony Faiella says he can draw pretty much anything. A self-taught artist, Faiella, 83, once recreated the scene outside his hotel window when he and his wife Jean were staying on the beach in Hawaii in 1987.

“When we looked out the window of the hotel, we saw Diamond Head. It was so beautiful. The water looked like it had diamonds in it,” he said.

Months later, a relative of his who worked in a bank gave him a calendar that contained a picture of Diamond Head. She suggested that Tony and Jean frame the picture.

“But I said to her, ‘We don’t need to do that. I can draw it.’ And I did. It took a lot of work. I had to get all the details right. The beach on the other side was lined with hotels. I had to get them right. The picture came out nice,” Faiella said.

Faiella has drawn pictures for most of his life.

“I started when I was six or seven. I started with coloring pencils,” he said. “It’s a gift. It’s not something I learned in school.”

Faiella, who is a member of the Bay Ridge Center, said he enjoys coming to the senior citizens club on Ovington Avenue every day.

“Everyone is really friendly here. They really look after you. It’s like a big family,” he said.

On Monday, Faiella gave one of his drawings, a Hawaiian beach scene, to Stella Tedesco, a worker at the center. She was touched by the gesture.

“Oh, Tony… It’s beautiful!” she told him.

Faiella, a retired department store worker, said he likes to keep busy. In addition to his membership at the Bay Ridge Center and his artwork, he is active in the Catholic Church.

“I’m a Eucharistic minister in my parish,” he said. He is a parishioner of Saint Francis de Chantal in Borough Park.

“I also like to walk a lot. I think it’s good to walk, especially at my age,” he said. “People tell me I look younger than my age.”

Faiella is also a member of the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic fraternal organization.

“I used to be more active than I am now. I was a fourth-degree knight. That’s the highest you can go. The knights do a lot of marching in parades. They also have a very important function. They protect the bishop. If some nut tries to get to him, the knights won’t let him get too close. It’s like being in the secret service. And during mass, when the priest holds up the host [Communion], the knights raise their swords in salute,” he said.

Family also keeps him going, he said.

“My family is always all together on the holidays,” he said.

His wife Jean died in 1996. The Faiellas did not have children.

“We were always so close to our nieces and nephews. It was like having children,” he said.

Faiella worked for 41 years in department stores, first for Gimbels and then for Bergdorf Goodman.

“I worked for Gimbels for 36 years. I didn’t work on the sales floor. My job was to help unload the deliveries. I worked for five years at Bergdorf Goodman. I retired in 1992,” he said.

Faiella was born in Boston. His family moved to Brooklyn when he was four.

“My father worked in the shipyards in Boston and he heard that there were jobs on the Brooklyn waterfront. We moved here and he got a job at the Brooklyn Navy. I was so young when we moved to Brooklyn that I never had any trace of a Boston accent,” Faeilla said.

“My parents were from the other side,” he said, referring to Italy. “They spoke Italian to each other, but not to us. So, we didn’t get to know the language too much. I can speak a little Italian, but not much.”

As a child, Faiella said he was too sickly to attend school. But, just as he would later teach himself how to be an artist, he also instructed himself in schoolwork.

“I taught myself to read. I got books and slowly learned to read,” he said.

August 16, 2012 - 2:00pm



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