Stafano Guazzo said, “Among all the abuses of the world . . . there is none worse than a negligent father”. The scriptures say, “The sins of the father go down to the third and fourth generation”. When fathers go right, families go right. When fathers go wrong families go wrong. The results can be devastating.
Author Philip Carlo has written a book called ‘The Ice Man – Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer’ ©2007 St Martins Griffin. It was made into a movie. The following extract gives a glimpse into a childhood that produced a man thought to have killed more than 200 people on behalf of US gangsters.
As far back as Richard Kuklinski could remember, his father was beating him. He once related: “When my father – father, that’s a joke – came home and I said hello, he’d say hello by slapping me across the face.”
Stanley Kuklinski, a railway brakeman who had been born in Warsaw, Poland, drank whisky with beer chasers: boilermakers. When he drank, his violence grew indiscriminate. He took to wrapping his garrison belt around his hard-knuckled fist and punching his sons with it. It was like being struck by a two-by-four. He was fond of hitting his children in the head and often knocked Florian and Richard unconscious.
Little by little Stanley was, in effect, beating the very necessary human elements of compassion and empathy out of his second-born, clearly delineating the path Richard’s life would take.
Finally, Stanley did the unspeakable: he murdered his son Florian with one of his beatings. He hit the frail boy on the back of the head one too many times, knocking him to the floor. The boy never got back up. Stanley made his beautiful wife Anna, who had once wanted to be a nun, tell family, friends and the authorities that Florian died after falling down the stairs and striking his head. No one questioned the story, and Florian was laid out in the Kuklinski living room, just down the block from St Mary’s Church, Jersey City, where this ill-matched couple had been wed.
Richard was just five when his brother was killed. Anna told Richard that Florian had been hit by a car. Richard had no conception of death; he just knew that Florian lay in a cheap wooden coffin that smelled of pine in the living room. It was as if Florian was asleep, but he would not wake up.
After Florian’s murder, Stanley let up on Richard for a while, but it wasn’t long before he went back to his old ways. The beatings became even more brutal and frequent. Stanley seemed to blame Richard for everything unjust that had ever happened to him, for all the curveballs life threw him.
Anna’s answer was to attend church and silently ask God for help. She took to facing a wall and praying fervently as Stanley beat the young boy. Richard often went to sleep with bruises; sometimes, he was so covered with eggplant coloured welts that he couldn’t go outside or to school.
Richard grew into a painfully shy, awkward child with little confidence in himself. He viewed the world as a brutal, violent place filled with pain and turmoil. Richard had been very close to Florian; he had held him tight when his father beat their mother and smashed the family’s meagre possessions.
Now Florian was gone and Richard had to face his father alone. He was a thin, frail boy and it didn’t take long for neighbourhood toughs to start picking on him, which only compounded his feelings of isolation and resentment. His anxieties mounted.
Two Irish brothers who lived on the block regularly accosted Richard. One Saturday morning they gave him a particularly severe beating. Richard managed to escape the attack and run home. Stanley, home that day, watched the attack from the front window.
When Richard arrived home, Stanley took off his belt and beat the boy, demanding that he go back downstairs and fight the brothers. “No kid ‘a mine’s gonna be a chicken sh*t,” he bellowed, striking Richard across the face with his belt. Confused, his face burning, a red welt forming,
Richard hurried back to the street. “Go get ’em,” Stanley ordered from the window, and Richard did exactly what he was told. With newfound ferocity and pent-up hostility, he laid into the brothers, giving them both a terrific beating.
Their father, a tall, gangly Irishman named O’Brian, came out of the house and roughly pushed Richard away. Amazed, Richard watched as Stanley leapt out of the second-story window, landed squarely on his feet, and stormed across Third Street.
He slapped O’Brian across the face, saying: “When your kids beat up my kid, you watched and did nothing. When my kid fought back, you stopped it.” Stanley then hit O’Brian so hard that he knocked him out right there on the sidewalk in front of everyone.
Richard learned that day that might was right. He often wondered why his father and mother didn’t like him, what he had done to deserve their indifference and violence. He drew further into himself, was always alone, couldn’t seem to make friends and a seething fiery rage slowly grew inside the small boy.
Edited extract from The Ice Man: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer by Philip Carlo, Harper Collins.
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Fathers do make an impact. Your influence reaches down through the generations. That’s why you receive this newsletter every week. Keep up the great work!