Al Cavagnaro

IL CENACOLO MAN OF THE YEAR    
December 4, 2015

Al has been married to Ebe (his Italian-born “Little Honey”) for 17 years. The spouses, mainly Al, have a number of offspring, but this marriage has only one, namely a feline with (naturally) an Italian name, “Grigino” (meaning the “nice little grey tomcat.”) 

Al and four other members of Il Cenacolo entered the world in 1931. They often brag about being “hardy little guys” for having been born during the depths of the depression. But Al was actually born into a rather comfortable Italian American (mainly Genovese) family. His father was the co-owner and senior partner of a factory in the industrial city of Harrison, New Jersey, which had a second location in New York City. The business manufactured diverse lines but in the beginning had a major line of macaroni machines made for export to Italy. 

Al’s family had deep roots on the West Coast. His grandfather, the founder of the family business, was very well-connected in San Francisco, having been childhood friends in Italy with a number of prominent citizens. When Al’s grandfather visited San Francisco in 1902, Marco Fontana, the founder of Del Monte Products, went to Los Angeles to meet him, introduce him around, and accompany him by train to San Francisco. There Grandfather received star treatment in both the Italian community and the community at large. Also, Al’s uncle, James F. Cavagnaro, who would have a major impact on Al’s life, was cultivated by A.P. Giannini to be A.P.’s successor, and, in fact, became the Chairman of the Board of Transamerica after A.P.’s death. (Incidentally, both A.P. Giannini and Al’s Uncle Jim Cavagnaro were members of Il Cenacolo.) 

After having been a child in New Jersey, and having started his college education in a five-year program at Cornell, Al temporarily gave up college after two years to pursue other activities. He eventually joined the Air Force, married his first wife Rosemarie, and settled in California, where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Finance and a Master’s degree in Accounting at UCLA, followed by a Law degree at USF. Along the way, he also became a CPA. He practiced law for well over 40 years in San Francisco, and was honored by the local bar association for devoting numerous services to the poor. 

During the years, Al and Rosemarie had a number of children, of whom he is totally proud. But in a terrible time of tragedy for him, Al lost his talented and beloved 20-year-old daughter Cynthia in a bicycle accident in 1978. One of his sons, Steven, is autistic and lives in a home for the developmentally disabled in San Jose. Al and Ebe visit him often. Al’s daughter Barbara works for a financial planner in Princeton, NJ. Jeff is an administrator who now lives in suburban Dayton, Ohio, after having completed tours of military duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Al’s other sons (Robert, Al, Jr. and Ken), all of whom have been to meetings of Il Cenacolo, and Al’s other daughter, Diane, are all gainfully employed in various parts of the United States, and are “remarkable kids,” as many may see. Al considers his kids (and Ebe) beautiful validations of his life. 

Al is a member of St. Brendan’s Catholic Church, where he is a member of the choir. He is also an avid bridge player, playing with a passion both here and in Italy. He presently spends his life caring for Ebe, and devoting substantial amounts of time to Italian readings and studies.