Joseph Ascione was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY in 1949. Born of Sicilian & Neapolitan second-generation Italian parents. My Fathers parents were from Caserta, Campania Italy and my Mothers parents from Milazzo, Messina Sicily. Being raised in a Sicilian/Neapolitan family was a great experience with very strong family ties and the drive to better us through hard work and education. I feel fortunate to have had my upbringing and would not change it for anything. I graduated from St. John's University with a BS degree in business management and went to work at Merrill Lynch. I was with Merrill Lynch for five years mainly balancing customer stock and bond accounts. Seeing better chances for advancement and a passion for travel I went to work for American Express and stayed for the next 35 years. At American express I worked in all facets of travel agency accounting, automation and management for both vacation and business travel.
I was involved in projects to automate the labor-intensive manual front office travel agent process with installing automation systems from American and United Airlines. Once the front office was automated we developed the back-office accounting systems. Our team was then responsible for rolling out to all our 225 US offices. I was responsible for managing this rollout. I traveled extensively throughout the US managing and installing the new systems. Next step for the team was automating and rolling out the American Express credit card services. Once these projects were completed I became the manager of our flagship travel office at the American Express headquarters in New York. In this position I was caught in the 9/11 bombing of the World Trade Center as I was in the lobby of the WTC when the first plane hit. Luckily I made it through that day but lost my office to the bombing and had to wait another 1 1/2 years to get my office back.
Once we were back in business our office was a showcase for the American Express Company. We had great customer relations and many American Express executives booked their travel through our office. We exceeded our budget goals the three years I was manager of the office. Unfortunately I was caught in corporate downsizing in which I was offered retirement and took the package in 2005.
Looking for something to keep me busy in retirement my wife and I started a home based Ebay business selling Native American jewelry, arts and crafts. This was another passion of ours having traveled extensively throughout the American Southwest for many years. We have now rented a home in Santa Fe, New Mexico and divide our time between New Jersey and New Mexico.
I found Alfred two years ago and he changed my life by giving back to me my Sicilian/Italian roots. His four books had a great impact on my life and I believe in what Alfred and Eszter are doing for Sicily. At this stage of my life I am looking for a project that can help children, and The Sicilian Project fits the bill.
I have visited Italy three times and Sicily twice. I am planning a fourth trip in the fall of this year.