Secchia Roots


From 1470 – 1479

The Secchia family's first known location was northwest of Milan, near Biella, Italy. The same home was in the Secchia family from at least 1472 until 1941. The municipal tax records of Masserano, Italy show taxes being paid to the municipality in corn and livestock in 1472. From the difficult to read olde Italian handwriting, it appears the name was then 'SEGIA'. The official municipal books say they had come over the mountains from the north and then, over the centuries, through wars, and the religious invasions, the name changed slowly to SECHIA... then later to SECCHIA.

From 1790 – 1799

The Samler family (maternal grandparents to Peter F. Secchia) was residing in Manhattan as sugar refiners, farmers and Dutch immigrants. Their youngest son was heading for Kentucky as a poor and disowned member of the wealthy family. He joined the revolutionaries while his family remained loyal to the King. Meanwhile, the Finley Victor Smith's (maternal grandfather to PFS) family left Virginia on their way west through the Cumberland Gap in the 1790s.

Pietro Secchia and Regina Occhiena (paternal grandparents) were both born in the Piemonte region of northern Italy. Regina was a niece of Margarita Occhiena. "Mamma Margarita," as she is known, is the mother of the founder of the Salesian Order of the Roman Catholic Church. There is a museum in her honor near the Cathedral of Don Bosco. Santo Giovanni Bosco was Regina's 2nd cousin. He was a BOSCO, but the son of an Occhiena. Giovanni was born in the small Village of Becchi in 1815, near a city named Castelnuovo, later changed in his honor to Castelnuovo Don Bosco.

From 1890 – 1899

Antonio Secchia (Pietro's father) was a stonemason of great skill in Masserano . . . he was so happy to have his sons home safely from the war that he built an Italian style decorative stonewall at the 'Church of the Black Madonna.' The wall is named in their honor and still stands in the churchyard of the Village of Oropa in the mountains north of Torino.

After travelling west, and marrying into the American Indian nation, several generations later, Finley V. Smith was born of the parents Sara Pierce and Henry Smith of Kentucky in 1889.

From 1900 – 1909

Early in the 20th century, Pietro worked for his father Antonio as a stonemason's helper in the village of Masserano within view of the snow-covered Alps... sometime in 1906, Michelle Occhiena (Regina's father) brought his family to NYC where he began working as a baker and grocer. Later that same year, Pietro came to the USA with two 17-year-old friends also named SECCHIA (One Secchia was his older brother, the other was not related to Pietro).

The three Secchias left Italy when they were 16 -17 years old and had only $30 left to start their new life. Soon after arriving on Ellis Island, Pietro met young Regina Occhiena of the Piemonte Region... they soon married.

From 1910 – 1919

In 1916 VALERIE MARGARET SMITH was born of Dutch, German, English, Scottish, and American Indian heritage. Her father FINLEY VICTOR SMITH was the head janitor at the local DWIGHT MORROW HIGH SCHOOL. Her mother MARGARITE SAMLER kept the family home in Englewood, N.J.

From 1920 – 1929

The Pietro and Regina Secchias bought a home and moved farther north to Demarest, New Jersey... (about 8 miles north of the George Washington bridge). There, PIETRO started his own bread, eggs, and, imported coffee business called COLOMBIA COFFEE of Demarest, NJ. He roasted imported coffee beans in the family garage and sorted eggs in our basement.

From 1930 – 1939

CESARE (Charlie) SECCHIA was too old for the WW ll draft, so he took a new bride, VALERIE MARGARET SMITH. He was working in the North Jersey area while she went to business school. In 1937 they had their first child. PETER FINLEY SECCHIA was born on April 15th. The newly married couple (Charlie and Valerie) lived upstairs with their baby boy. Pietro was in the meantime the very active bartender and manager of the VITA NUOVA CLUB ("The New Life Club" for Italian immigrants) in Tenafly, New Jersey... while C.P. Secchia (Charlie) was a bookkeeper for Duree Motors (Studebaker) in Hillsdale, NJ.

From 1940 – 1949

In March of 1940, young PFS had a new baby sister. VALERIE GAIL SECCHIA was born in New Jersey in March of 1940. Our dad bought the local candy and stationery store and the newspaper route in Demarest in 1947. He worked 6:00 AM – 10:00 PM six days a week, Sunday till 8 PM. Mom filled in at meal hour so he could come home to eat. FINLEY VICTOR SMITH served in the U.S. Navy during WWII.

From 1950 – 1959

In this decade Peter and Gail Secchia attended DEMAREST ELEMENTARY SCHOOL (grades 1-8 with about 20 students in each class). Later we both took the commercial bus for 5 cents to TENAFLY HIGH SCHOOL. Tenafly was 4 miles south of Demarest which did not have its own high school. From 1956 through 1959 Peter F. Secchia served in the United States Marine Corps, going from Private E-1 to Sergeant E-4 with two meritorious promotions. He served with NATO and the 2nd Battalion 6th Marines in Beirut, and cruised the Med with his battalion twice.

From 1960 – 1969

In his last term at MSU, PFS met Joan Peterson. He went to work with Universal Forest Products as a salesman in 1962 covering mobile home manufacturers and industrial accounts in Pennsylvania. He gradually increased his sales territory to cover Indiana, Ohio, N.C. and Pennsylvania. Joan graduated in June of '64 and took a teaching job in Rockford, Michigan. They were married in June, 1964.

From 1970 – 1979

After nine years, PFS bought controlling interest in this small forest products firm with 30 employees and sales of $11,000,000. In 1974, his good friend and local Congressman GERALD R. FORD became the President of the United States. PFS became very active in that '76 campaign for re-election and more active in local politics. In January of 1977, PFS was elected Kent County Republican Chairman.

From 1980 – 1989

As CEO and Chairman of a growing company (now $200 million) PFS was elected Republican National Committeeman, then Vice Chairman of the Republican National Committee, then appointed U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Italy by President George H. W. Bush (41). He received the highest public service award given by the Italian Republic (Cavaliere di Gran Croce/Knight of the Great Cross), and the U.S. Department of State's "Distinguished Honor Award." Ambassador Secchia returned home in 1993 to assume his role as Chairman of the Board of Universal Forest Products, Inc. For more information, see Vitae.

From 1990 – 1999

These were our years in Rome (1989-1993). We departed Rome in January of '93 after achieving good reviews for our work there. Joan was loved by all the Italians, and I received the State Department's highest medal, and the GOI awarded me the 'CAVALIERE di GRAN CROCE' (Knight of the Great Cross). Steph worked for Italian communications firms, Sandy graduated from UND and went on to teach in Catholic schools in Chicago, and then to graduate school at Stanford. Later Joel Aslanian of St. Paul, Minnesota (via Notre Dame and Stanford's MBA program) and Sandy married, Charlie married Natascia Melchiorri of Rome and took a job with LEAR corporation in Turin, Italy. Mark went off to live in China and get his MBA and then started SHANGHAI SHERPA (a delivery service). Steph came back to the USA to work in NYC for TELECOM ITALIA while getting her MBA at NYU. Charlie tried a year in the 'NYC dot-com' business and the firm he worked for went kaput! Sadly, he went back to Italy. UFP went public in '93 and continued its growth through the entire decade... the deck at the lake was expanded again.