January 10, 2005
Rags to riches story ends with
generous bequest to UCSC
By Jennifer McNulty
For more than 30 years, Federico and Rena Perlino operated
a chicken-processing plant on Front Street in Santa Cruz. They
lived modestly and worked hard, raising vegetables in their
backyard and rarely dining out.
Federico and Rena Perlino were
"very, very frugal," said friend and financial
consultant John R. Biondi. Photo courtesy UCSC Special Collections
If youd met them, youd never have thought
they had any money, said family friend and financial consultant
John R. Biondi, who recently distributed more than $4.2 million
from the estate to local charities and organizations after the
Perlinos passed away.
The University of California is among the beneficiaries of
the Perlinos estate, which allocated nearly $420,000 to
The funds will support UCSC graduate students in psychology
who are working with deaf or hearing-impaired individuals.
The Perlinos, who had no children of their own, wanted their
money to be used locally and also gave generously to the Doran
Resource Center for the Blind, Cabrillo College, Goodwill, the
Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County, and other organizations,
Federico was born in Italy and immigrated to the United States
as a teenager. Rena, who was born locally, married Federico
at the age of 16; she never learned to drive. They raised
chickens in their backyard until they bought the property on
Front Street, said Biondi.
In the 1960s, anticipating their retirement, the Perlinos asked
Biondi to invest and manage their life savings of $25,000. At
the height of the stock market, their nest egg peaked at a value
of $5.3 million, said Biondi.
Federico died in the 1980s, and Rena passed away in 2003.
To start with a small amount and grow it to millions--its
everyones dream come true, said Biondi, who grew
up in the Perlinos neighborhood and remembers everyone
calling Rena Perlino the chicken lady for her work
in the poultry-processing shop.
When I was a kid, wed go duck hunting twice a week
in Los Banos, and wed take our ducks down to the Perlinos
shop for plucking, recalled Biondi. We paid five
cents apiece. Wed drop them off on Sunday, and if we were
lucky, wed have more for her when we went to pick them
up on Wednesday.
They were very, very frugal. I think they went back to
the old country once, said Biondi, who retired from Smith
Barney in 1996 and whose son, Richard, continued to manage the
money until Renas death. Rena would have a big birthday
party every year--that was her big extravagance. Shed
invite all her lady friends--I was the only man who was ever
there--and wed play bocci ball in the backyard. Shed
serve champagne--the same inexpensive kind she gave me every
Christmas. They were not extravagant people.
Although planned giving is becoming more popular today, individuals
typically notify the benefiting institutions of their intentions.
"Getting a call and hearing that someone we've never met
has left the university $400,000 is remarkable," said John
Leopold, director of development for the Social Sciences Division
at UCSC. "The Perlinos will never know how many lives their
extraordinary generosity will touch."
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