Six Degrees, Capone, and me

February 15th, 2008  |  Published in General  |  Bookmark on

A bit off the usual topic of this blog, but yesterday being Valentine’s Day and all, late in the evening I was busy doing what no doubt a whole lot of other people were also doing: watching the documentary of “The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” on The History Channel. The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre is, of course, the name given to the event in 1929 in which members of Al Capone‘s gang murdered seven people either in or associated with Bugs Moran‘s gang.

The phrase “six degrees” in the blog title refers to “Six Degrees of Separation,” which is the idea that each person on the planet is separated from everyone else by an average of only six steps. Each person you know is one degree away, each one they know but you don’t is two degrees away, etc.

During the show, a picture flashed on the screen that reminded me of how many degrees of separation there are between the infamous Al Capone and me: only two. The picture was that of his older brother Ralph, whom I met as a child. Ralph lived in the Sky View Nursing Center in Hurley, WI near where I grew up in Upper Michigan. The mother of one of my teachers also lived there, so that teacher would occasionally take the whole class over to visit the elderly people in the center, bring them small gifts we’d make in class, have us sing songs to them, and have each of us visit with one of them individually. By sheer luck I was assigned to visit Ralph Capone. I don’t recall him saying much, but when I saw his picture in the documentary last night, I wished that I knew then what I know now. Think of the questions I could have asked him!

He died in 1974, not too long after my visits with him, and my mom cut out his obituary from the Milwaukee Sentinel and gave it to me. I still have it in a scrapbook.

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