Dome Magazine, 7/16/10
Sundays weren’t exactly the day of rest in the Bernero household.
Virginia’s tomato sauce would be bubbling on the stove as her five kids — Vickie, Tina, Victor, Vince and Virgil — scampered throughout their four-bedroom Pontiac home. Soon they’d be joined by 20 or 30 of their closest relatives for dinner.
“My family — it was a loud Italian family,” laughs Virg Bernero, still known as “Virgil” to those closest to him. “…My mother was the loudest voice. She was the disciplinarian. My father was quiet — a man of few words. I had to fight to be heard at the table.”
It was there that the youngest of the brood tasted politics for the first time. Most of the clan voted Democratic (a picture of Soapy Williams hung in Felice Quality Market, his grandfather’s store) and his dad, Giulio, was a proud UAW worker.
“After dinner, when the dessert and coffee and the Italian cookies came out, the day would really pick up,” Bernero recalls. “You’d have uncles, aunts, godfathers, godparents. And the kids would go out to play sometimes, but I would often stay right at the table.
“First I would listen and then I would get in on it. They would debate the issues of the day; they’d debate everything. Most of these were immigrants, people who came to this country for a better life. They were proud Italians, but they were proud Americans, who chose to come here and they loved this country. But they’d have vociferous debates. And I kind of grew up in that.”