Two different Amsterdam hair cutters from two different generations celebrate birthdays today. Art Iannuzzi was an Amsterdam institution. The folks who regularly sat in his barber chair in the shop on Market Hill were treated to much more than a haircut. Art was living proof of the American dream. He had come to this country from Italy in 1938 at the age of fifteen and just six years later was fighting for his adopted country against the German Army in France, where he won a Purple Heart. He returned home and married the love of his life, Lena Fusella. That union would last over 65 years and produce two daughters and a son who Art absolutely adored. In addition to cutting hair to take care of his growing brood, Art worked at GE for many years. Those who knew him best remember a guy with a great sense of humor and wonderful unabashed patriotism. For many years he would visit elementary classrooms in Amsterdam schools on Flag Day and talk to the students about patriotism. There were few among us more qualified or willing to do so.
Today’s second Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant certainly is a lot different than Art Iannuzzi. First of all he’s young enough to have been his grandson and unlike Art, Jeffrey Kozlowski was born right here in Amsterdam and graduated from Amsterdam High School in 1986. But he’s accomplished quite a bit in his rather young lifetime and he’s battled a few of life’s struggles along the way. I spend just twenty minutes with this young man every five weeks but so look forward to doing so because I know I will enjoy the conversation and the company. He’s almost a generation younger than me but if you listen to all the things he’s done and been through in his life, he sounds as if he’s lived at least twice as long. He was a licensed pilot, owned a chain of video stores, and holds the worlds record for most consecutive days eating a banana split. But as different as he is from Art Iannuzzi, he’s a lot like him too. He works tremendously hard, he is amazingly good at what he does, he loves his country, his family and his friends. I’m honored to be one of them.
This hero from Amsterdam’s South Side was also born on August 28.