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ARI SHAPRIO, HOST:
Today's StoryCorps remembers an Italian immigrant who led the carving of Mount Rushmore. Luigi Del Bianco worked there for most of the 14 years it took to complete the project. He was responsible for many of the finer details on Lincoln's face. At StoryCorps, Luigi's youngest daughter Gloria and her nephew Lou shared memories of him.
GLORIA DEL BIANCO: I remember when he got older, he had dust in the lungs from carving, and he would have to go to the hospital. And they'd have to put my father on the stretcher, because he couldn't breathe. He'd stop them. Just a minute, he used to say to the guys. Just a minute.
He wanted his slippers, and he wasn't leaving until he had them. And my brother Vincent would go to pick him up, and the lady at the hospital would say: Mr. Del Bianco's not here. He left. My brother would say, what do you, mean he left? He wasn't discharged. Oh, well that doesn't matter. Your father, when he was ready to leave, he just got up and left. That was it.
And they did an autopsy on my father, and they looked at his lungs. And the doctors were amazed that he lived as long as he lived, because the dust in his lungs was like a rock.
LOU DEL BIANCO: I remember him almost leaning on me, as a little kid, for support, he was so - he was so tired. And then he would always say the same thing, and I remember it like it was yesterday. He would say, I am Luigi, you are Luigi. So there was just this unmistakable bond.
And I just remember in second grade, my mother - she's the one that said, oh, Grandpa carved Lincoln's eyes.
BIANCO: No, my father did not talk about Mount Rushmore that much. He was a very modest man. And when I was little, my father wanted to carve me, but being the rambunctious, impatient child that I was, I wouldn't sit for him. And my mother would say, please go sit for your father. He won't keep you long, just a little bit.
Of course, I regret it terribly today. I would have loved to have had a bust. You know, I didn't realize the importance of my father's work on Mount Rushmore till I was much older.
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ARI SHAPIRO: That's Gloria Del Bianco with her nephew Lou, remembering Luigi Del Bianco at StoryCorps in New York. Luigi and the other carvers finished their work on Mount Rushmore 70 years ago next week. StoryCorps conversations are archived at the American Folk Life Center at the Library of Congress.
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