For years, Ottawa’s Frank Restagno did my hair. At Rinaldo’s Hair Salon in the ByWard Market we talked about our kids, about being an only child and about the weather. Our superficial interactions are proof that you never really know what someone has endured.
Popular and hard working, Restagno worked his way up to be a part-owner in Rinaldo’s and then left to invest his time and energy at Altitude Gym in Kanata.
Then one night he received a Facebook message that changed his life.
Restagno had grown up without his biological parents. They were just not capable of raising him. Eventually, a family member took him in. With no involved parents and no siblings, he set about making a successful life for himself alone.
In Rochester, N.Y., another Frank — Frank Puglissi — had heard stories about his biological father, who he thought had died. After his mother’s death, he decided to try to find out about him. He only knew the last name of the man. It was Restagno.
“I had a strong gut feeling when my cousin Marisa showed me my brother’s Facebook picture as there was a strong resemblance,” Puglissi says. “Between that and sending my father’s picture, which was the first time I had ever seen what he looked like, I just knew.”
Despite the resemblance to each other and their father, the brothers did have DNA tests to confirm their relation.
“In my case, so many mixed feelings and emotions came after reflecting and processing the whole thing,” Restagno says. “First and foremost, (there was) great joy and happiness to now know that I actually have a brother and that I’m no longer alone.”
Restagno met the love of his life in high school, whom he calls his anchor, and they have three children, but something had been missing.
“Surreal is the first thing that comes to mind,” he says. “I keep saying that this is the type of story that you expect to see on TV until you become the story. I’m so happy and grateful they did take a chance to reach out.”
Restagno’s mother recently confirmed he knew about the brother, but he isn’t bitter about being kept in the dark.
“In the end, the past is irrelevant to me,” he says, “and I’m extremely fortunate to have such a wonderful and loving family, and now to explore this whole other side.
“I am really looking forward to this next chapter of our lives.”
While their travel plans have not been made yet, Puglissi turns 47 in October and is apparently getting a 42-year-old brother for his birthday. He has other siblings — they share a mother, but have a different father — who have greeted the news with excitement. Restagno isn’t getting just one brother, but a big Italian and Latin American family.
Puglissi says one of his other brothers said: “I am so happy for you and you have my support. Hopefully things open up to something beautiful and the connection between you two will be great. I love you no matter how many new brothers we find out we have.”
Purely coincidentally, during our interview, I mentioned to Restagno that I had recently had an appointment with Kevin Crawley at Fluid Colour Concept Salon. That’s when he told me about the dramatic impact Crawley had on his life.
When he was an inexperienced young hair designer, he said, Crawley went out of his way to train him. Restagno said it was the first time in his life someone took him under their wing and showed him so much support.
I told Crawley the story and he was deeply touched that his generosity was remembered decades later.
You just never know how you can impact a life with kindness.