By: Rich Tarrant
Just out of idle curiosity I began doing some research into the life of late Vermilionite Lewis Cicco. Some readers will recognize the name because Mr. Cicco once had a popular restaurant near the lake on West Lake Road just a mile or so from town. The place was destroyed in a spectacular nighttime fire in December 1958. At the time it was being renovated into a private residence. Cicco had sold the place two years earlier. Until I began researching I was under the (wrong) impression that it was still a restaurant.
In any case Cicco was, if I may be so bold, the “real deal”. Born in Italy on April 5, 1902 by 1908 he was living in Lorain, Ohio with his father Pietro and mother Mary. His father worked in the steel mill. By the time he was 17 he had joined his dad at the mill. But by the time he reached his 28th birthday he was working at the Lorain shipyards (i.e. the American Shipbuilding Co.) Some sources indicate that he worked for American Ship for 30 years. If that is true he may have continued working for them after he purchased, and was operating, his restaurant in Vermilion.
Here is another bit of information that I was unaware of until I began my research: In 1928 he was a member of Lorain’s Prohibition Enforcement Squad. On September 27 of that year he fired 3 shots at an auto he thought to be operated by bootleggers on the East 31st Street Bridge. One of the bullets evidently ricocheted and struck a passenger in the back seat. It was a 22 year-old girl named Betty Heywood. The incident was widely criticized and publicized. As a result Cicco was charged for the shooting and immediately suspended from his law enforcement job. After a jury trial he was fined $5 and costs for the infraction. Though he eventually got his job back he resigned.
Described by some as a big, friendly guy with a knack for making friends and cooking. Those traits made him a “natural” for the restaurant business. Thus it was no big surprise when he opened a place he called Cicco’s Edgewater Restaurant just outside Vermilion proper in 1938. The eatery did rather well, quickly earning a reputation as a great dining spot especially for its spaghetti & fish dinners. The restaurant also catered dinners for local social and civic organizations.
In 1956, after almost 20 years in the business, Mr. C. sold the property to a Lorain man named John Kochan. Then, in late December of 1958, as plumbers were in the process of repairing the heating system for residential occupation, the place went up in flames. Although volunteer firemen from Vermilion, Huron and Berlin Heights worked tirelessly to stop the fire, inclement weather made the task impossible.
Several months thereafter, while at work at the Vogue Room Restaurant on Colorado Avenue in Lorain he fell ill; and two weeks later, on April 15,1959 – ironically his 57th birthday – Lewis Cicco died. He was laid to rest at Maple Grove Cemetery near Vermilion, O. He left behind his wife, Edith, and two children Harriet and Richard. Edith died in Oberlin in 1973. Son Richard followed in 1985. Harriet (aka) Ketti, Kettiluigina Maria died in 2014.
Although I never knew Mr. Cicco or his wife I did know both Richard and Ketti quite well. Both were extremely interesting persons. In short, they both lived their lives at what I can only describe as being “full speed ahead.” When Ketti died she left an epitaph that I believe speaks quite well for her as well as both her brother and father: “I was here, I made my mark, and now am gone.”
God bless them every one.
Vermilion resident Rich Tarrant has agreed to share many of the photos and stories he has acquired from the former Vermilion News and other local sources with the readers of the Photojournal. Rich is the youngest son and a grandson of the late proprietors of The Vermilion News (1897-1964). Readers may email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org