Emilia (Emily) Zecchino was born in Bari, Italy, in 1928 in the middle of a rampant depression. Her dad, looking for any kind of work, moved the family to Rome, then Trieste in Northern Italy, and finally in 1937 to Ethiopia in East Africa when it became an Italian colony. The few years of peace and prosperity the family enjoyed in that fabulous land were suddenly overtaken by the brutality and horrors of the beginning of World War II as it made its way across the continent.

In 1941, her dad was taken prisoner of war and spent five years in a concentration camp in Kenya while the rest of the family of five, leaving all their belongings behind, were also taken prisoner and sent back to Italy, in 1942, aboard one of the famous International Red Cross-sponsored "Navi Bianche"—a trip of 40 days that began in Mogadishou, rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and finally ended in Naples, Italy, while the war was raging in the Atlantic. 

It was during the American troop’s occupation of Italy that Emily met her G.I. husband and came to America as a War Bride in 1947. Landing first in New York City, she helped her husband run a grocery store in Flushing, Queens, for 20 years. She became a widow at 43 and moved with her 3 children to Hollywood, Florida, in 1972.

After a few attempts with business partners, at the ripe age of 55, and with an investment of only $1,000, Emily ventured on her own and opened “Holiday Caterers.” A few years later, she saw her company slowly evolve into a wholesale frozen food enterprise. She renamed the company “Holiday Foods” and risking losing even her own house, she seized the opportunity to apply for a $275,000 Small Business Loan and build a U.S.D.A. plant, manufacturing an upscale line of hors d’oeuvres, canapés, and center of the plate specialties, that she sold to several hotel chains, famous country clubs, and cruise lines through renowned distributors around the United States. At the new location the business expanded rapidly, and again, Emily applied for another $300,000 S.B.A. Loan. In peak seasons, Emily had as many as 200 employees on her payroll.

After 23 years of hard work and sacrifices (her daily routine required a 12 hour schedule, almost 6 days a week), Emily sold her company to the well-known Schwan Food Co. at a very “substantial” profit and retired at the “young” age of 78. Emily worked on her memoir for three years and now resides in Plantation, Florida, with her daughter Linda.

This is her story...