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A man of the people

| Tuesday, March 15, 2022

During spring break, I was lucky to be able to spend some time with my grandfather, George Dargati, or Poppy, as I call him. After some long conversations and many laughs over meals with him and some of my family, I learned many invaluable lessons that are especially applicable to the Notre Dame community.

George Dargati was born to Romanian immigrants and grew up in tenement housing in Thompson, Connecticut. He had next to no money, but he didn’t allow that to affect him. His primary love growing up was basketball and despite his small size, he excelled on the court. His high school, Tourtellotte, had a total enrollment of 95. Despite such a small pool of players, George carried his team to two state titles, leading the state in scoring in 1950 and earning the nickname, “The Jet.” He then went on to play basketball at UConn, but he joined the army during his second season.

In the army, George and his comrades were unsure if they would be sent to Korea or not. Luckily for them, they were instead moved to Germany, where George had the opportunity to play even more basketball. He competed against some of the best players in the world and ended up making All-League over Division I All-Americans. While in the service, Dayton and Gonzaga offered him spots to play basketball for his remaining years of college eligibility. However, he opted to come home and attend Eastern Connecticut State, a small teachers college. He still holds the single-season scoring average record and career scoring average record at the school. Soon after finishing his final season, George married his wife, my late grandmother, Betty, and began teaching in Connecticut. He has three children and seven grandchildren and has lived in the same home in Tolland to this day.

When recounting the life of my grandfather, it is easy to harp on his youth. Even in my description above, I captured only bits and pieces of his unique young life. I failed to mention that he signed a minor league baseball deal with the New York Giants or decided to never drink another drop of alcohol after tasting a disgusting, warm beer while in Amsterdam in the service. With that said, of everything that Poppy has experienced in his life, the most meaningful to him is blandly captured in the last two sentences of the paragraph above. His wife, his family and his home. This past week, he claimed, as he always does, he could not have been luckier to end up with his wife, children and grandchildren. While many would drive themselves crazy over the missed opportunities to play basketball at Dayton or Gonzaga, my grandfather sleeps peacefully at night knowing he has all the people he will ever need.

As a sophomore at the Mendoza College of Business, everyone I know seems to be going through the recruitment process. I’ve noticed myself and many others focus heavily on potential salaries and firm prestige. This hyper-focus can turn into an obsession for many. While I understand the value of a good salary and a reputable company, I think it’s important to remind yourself of what really matters. At the end of the day, no amount of money or position will make you a genuinely happy individual. This isn’t a revolutionary idea by any means, but it’s fact that many of us forget as we dive into our futures. Messing up an interview or not getting the big job sucks. However, I’d rather do that than neglect my friends and family in the pursuit of a high-status job. Take it from my grandfather. He turned down huge opportunities to come back home and be with his family, and I don’t know anyone as happy with his life as my grandfather. In the end, I believe that your happiness will come from the people in your life and those you’ve been blessed to positively impact. My grandfather understood the importance of prioritizing people over accomplishments or prestige. Even when chatting about his playing career with me, he spends most of the time talking about his father-like coaches and the lifelong friends he met along the way. In a world full of unhappy people, I think it’s important to take note and learn when you see a secure, happy individual. In my grandfather’s case, it’s all about the people. I hope you can take this lesson from my grandfather’s life and apply it to yours.

Mikey Colgan is a sophomore from Boston, Massachusetts, studying finance and Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics (ACMS). He is an avid college basketball fan and resides in Morrissey Hall. He can be reached at [email protected] or @Mikeycolgs15 on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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