Family is Cornerstone to Builder's Success
Nacy Panzica was born in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania, a coal mining town, in 1927. He had five sisters but was the only son of Anthony and Mary Panzica.
His birth name is Ignatius but he has been called Nacy all his life. "Now remember, it's not Nancy with an "N" - it's Nacy." The way he laughs when he says this you know he has clarified this many times through the years.
Nacy Panzica at Panzica Construction
This is a man of deep faith and conviction. He learned his values and principles from his parents and grandparents at a very early age. His family is from Sicily. "Of course people still associate Sicily with the mob - but you know what? I don't care. People are people. Good people are good people. I worked hard all my life - like my parents - and we earned everything we have."
He graduated from high school in 1945 and enlisted in the Navy and was immediately sent overseas.
Nacy Panzica at work
When he returned from the Navy, Nacy stayed with his sister and attended Cleveland College (now Cleveland State University.)
In 1950 both of his parents died in a tragic car accident. Nacy went to work for Forest City doing carpentry work. By 1952 he was married to Rosemary and had two of his four children, Anthony and Tim. Marybeth (Link) and Laura (King) followed soon after. Many years later he now has 16 grandchildren as well.
Nacy had know Rosemary since he was very young. "She was my best friend from the time she was 6 years old. Can you imagine?"
Nacy and Rosemary Panzica with 15 of the 16 grandkids in June 1999
In 1956 he placed a $3.50 ad in the community paper advertising 'Nacy Panzica, handyman'. He received a lot of calls to do a little bit of everything, but all little jobs. Little by little the word about the quality of his work got out.
From this start on small carpentry jobs Nacy went on to build a prominent contracting company whose work is familiar to everyone in the area. The company, Panzica Construction Company, has been in business for 56 years.
He says it wasn't always easy growing up but "who says it was supposed to be easy?" "We learned everything about construction and hard work by doing it and watching family members and friends do it. We learned the right way to do things - not the cut corners way. We had pride in our work. Still do."
He has very clear opinions on what is and is not important. Education, for example, is paramount, but he thinks the education system is failing. "We are doing a disservice to our young people by not insisting on a better education system. These young people are the future and we are not preparing them for what is ahead."
Nacy Panzica with son Anthony (Tony)
One will often hear him quoting his father in familiar phrases he has come to call "Nacyisms". He says he heard them so many times growing up that they became second nature to him. Of course he repeated them to his children as well. Here are some of them:
- If you're afraid to lose, you'll never win.
- Commitment beats talent every time.
- It's not that I'm so smart; it's just that I stay with problems longer.
- We make a living by what we get - we make a life by what we give.
- Learning starts with failure. The first failure is the beginning of education.
- A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.
- The only rock I know that stays sturdy, the only institution I know that works is the family.
- It doesn't matter who my mother was; it matters who I remember she was.
- You don't raise heroes, you raise sons and daughters. And, if you treat them like sons and daughters, they'll turn out to be heroes even if it is in your own eyes.
- There is nothing like having grandchildren to restore your faith in heredity
Some of the honors for Nacy Panzica
Nacy has been recognized by many organizations for his charitable contributions and his character. One of the many awards Nacy has earned was established in 1999 to honor the John Carroll alumnus and Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Cleveland, Anthony M. Pilla. The Anthony M. Pilla Program in Italian American Studies is unlike any other in the nation. It stands out as the only program of its kind in the U.S. that "focuses on an interdisciplinary undergraduate liberal arts approach, which emphasizes an understanding of the meaning of family, its heritage, and the role of spirituality in one's life".
Nacy Panzica with President George W. Bush
Nacy's beloved wife, Rosemary, suffered greatly from Rheumatoid Arthritis before she died in 2001. As a result he has focused much of his benevolent activities on the Arthritis Foundation and in fact was named "Community Leader of the Year" in 2002 by the Northeastern Chapter of The Arthritis Foundation.
Rosemary and Nacy Panzica
He ardently supports Catholic Charities, Help for the Retarded, Inc., Cuyahoga Community College, St. Augustine Manor and numerous other organizations.
The Engineering Society named him "Man of the Year" in 2000.
Gov. Sarah Palin and Nacy Panzica
Another major accomplishment is his receiving the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. Along with other such Cleveland area notables as Margaret Wong, Alex Machaskee, Jeanette Graselli Brown and August Pust to name a few.
Alex Machaskee, Umberto Fedeli and Nacy Panzica
Every year on March 19th, the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, Nacy hosts a huge party. "It started out small but has grown tremendously." He says honoring a saint who is patron to working families is appropriate. "That's what we are - a working family. And St. Joseph watches out for us."
Nacy Panzica with son Tim
Panzica would like people to remember him as a person who was always willing to work hard to achieve things even when "maybe at times I knew I couldn't do it. It was always important to try." He is not afraid to succeed and achieve the goals he sets for himself, regardless of the cost.
He quickly and repeatedly points out how he has been blessed. "I am so blessed - my life has been a blessing. My family is a blessing. Everything. Just everything. I have truly been blessed."
Nacy Panzica and Gov. Chris Christie
He wrote a book in 1978 called Our Family Vines - Nostra famiglia alberi describing his life and ancestry. The dedication is a movie title which touched him deeply and describes his one regret, "I Never Sang For My Father."
Nacy misses his parents and the times they could have shared had they lived longer. He hopes his father would be proud.
Anyone who has had the opportunity to get to know Nacy Panzica knows this is not an issue. His family, living and deceased, are definitely proud. He is a man of honor and pride and he can rest easy knowing his father has heard him "sing" and smiled at the life his son has lived.
Profiled by Debbie Hanson - October 2012
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