Farewell to Guy Cecchini, a great man

Oct 29, 2020 495

BY: Joyce Mariani - Executive Director - Italian Cultural Garden Foundation

When people we love and admire pass from this earth, invariably we remember first how they were as a person, the lives they touched, and not the worldly things they've amassed. How can I adequately describe this special human being; selfless, humble, wise, quiet man of a few words who had a passion for helping others. A generous heart, never seeking adulation or honors; motivated by pure giving including his devotion to his beloved Italian culture.

Someone sagaciously described him as an “absolute philanthropist at heart.” Guy Cecchini, whether you know it or not, you share a special place in my heart for the inspiration you gave me in a difficult moment when I was so frustrated and ready to give up my dream of the large restoration of the Italian Cultural Garden. You were one of those little miracles that have dotted my work over 12 years. Miracles have no sense or reason when they happen, and yours appeared when least expected.

The Italian Cultural Garden at that time was minimally known in Cleveland and donors hard to come by. One frustrating day thinking of giving up, I came upon your name on the internet, but saw you were in Canton. I battled with myself to even call, feeling why would someone in Canton be interested in this little known public space in Cleveland.

Because of your gentle, kind nature, when I called, you immediately offered a $2000 donation - without knowing me, and never having heard of the cultural monument. In the weeks that followed, I felt so indebted I wanted to show you the place to which you so generously gave, and you kept saying, “I trust you. There's no need to see it." I kept asking though, and one day your secretary called.

I rushed to the garden to meet you and gave you and your secretary a tour explaining it's history. You didn’t utter a single word. I felt so embarrassed, thinking you were disappointed. In this awkward silence, you stood silently in deep thought, and turning to your secretary said: “Write her a check for $10,000 to restore the large lower fountain.” I burst out in tears which left you quite flummoxed. You then asked how much the restoration was and I replied, “$250,000.” You wisely said, “You think this restoration is a Maserati, but it will end up being a Ferrari.”

And so it did end up a Ferrari - a $1.5 million restoration to complete the original plans of 1930. In the succeeding years your continued support for projects brought such joy to the Cleveland public, and each time making me promise to always list you in our annual program for donors as "Anonymous." I know with your great humility, you would be very uncomfortable with this public tribute.

But it’s just one small piece in the beautifully designed mosaic of your life that helped so many, where you placed each tiny, shimmering glass piece, in your quiet unassuming way, with great care and love. Thank You

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