We Knew Dad Fuller

FootinDoorAmazonYou may know Alfred C. Fuller as the founder of the Fuller Brush Company and the original Fuller Brush man. Those who lived in Hartford, CT, and had the fortune to work for his company, knew him as Dad Fuller.

My father, Ralph Donofrio, had many family members who worked there beginning with his own father Vincent (Jimmie) Donofrio. Jimmie worked for the company in the 1930s which early on was called The Capital Brush Co. when it was located at Union Place/Church Street near the bus depot in Hartford.

Years later after the brick Fuller Brush building shown above was open, my father’s brothers and sisters, and an uncle or two all worked there. It was at this building at 3580 Main Street where my father and mother met working in the production brush department.

Although their meeting was a miracle in my own life, the reason why Dad Fuller built his brush business in Hartford, CT, is a greater miracle. At the front of the Bible Alfred Fuller’s mother gave him when he left Nova Scotia, he noticed that it had been published in Hartford, CT. When picking a place to open a brush manufacturing and sales business, he chose that city.

Dad Fuller was a generous man to whom my family and many others including Billy Graham (a former salesman), owe much gratitude…for financial help and in my case, even my existence. His nephew, Harvey Fuller, also presented me with a scholarship to college in 1962.

Listen to Ralph Donofrio talking of his experiences with the Fuller Brush Company:

  • Family and Fuller Brush
  • Brush Making

Autobiography of Alfred C. Fuller’s life, A Foot in the Door, is available from Amazon used only


Miracle of How Private Property Saved Plymouth

A well-meaning debate about the relative value of capitalism versus socialism is ongoing in this country. But few know the details of what happened in the spring of 1622 in Plymouth Colony that determined America’s financial direction. William Bradford was elected governor on the death of the first governor. A young man in his 30s, Bradford was left to make decisions that would impact the success of the small colony.

Ships at Sunset
Ships at Sunset

One issue was how to get more food supplies. New colonists arrived by the dozens, but none brought supplies. And Bradford was ordered by the man back in England who had funded the expedition, to feed and house any new arrivals without  additional support forthcoming. Most of these latter arrivals would eventually move north toward what would become Boston. They would compete for the animal skins that would be sent to England to pay the colony’s debt.

Living through two dire years, Bradford felt sure that one problem with their inadequate food harvest was inherent in the system that required all to work for the general good. With no incentive to earn more than an allotted share, some worked less while others worked more. To remedy that, Bradford made a radical decision. He gave each household a few shares of private property to plant as they saw fit. Here in his own words, complete with old English spelling, was the result:

“This had very good success; for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corne was planted then other waise would have bene by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deall of trouble, and gave farr better contente.”*

Bradford set the financial principle that would define America down through the centuries. Times have changed, but people have not. Free enterprise offers incentives that free handouts never could.

*To learn more about the Pilgrims read:
William Bradford: Plymouth’s Faithful Pilgrim, by Gary D. Schmidt, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 1999


My Mini Christmas Miracle


You may not consider what happened to me near the close of the 1990s a miracle. But looking back, I do. How else would you describe the turning of a modern day Scrooge into a Christmas angel?

My transformation began while reading a magazine article as the holidays approached…

Christmas had never provided me with the warm and fuzzy feelings others have for this day. My father and mother had married on Christmas eve, but the company party was always that same day. My father came home drunk and only after the stores closed. My mother cried; they argued. We kids kept the tears inside knowing the only Christmas presents we would get would be bought at day-after sales.

This article’s author was describing how to get over a case of Christmas blahs. I needed more help than that, but for some reason kept on reading. She wrote that the answer was as simple as buying yourself a Christmas present.

Absurd, of course. And what would I even want for a present? I’m not impressed by diamond and sapphire jewelry, like my sister had just received. Flowers are lovely and OK for birthdays. But what would I actually want that I could buy myself for Christmas?

An idea occurred. Bill Cosby had just given away millions to a college. I would love to give away money like that to help others. So I decided to give $75; not a lot. And it would have to go to someone I knew who would not be expecting a gift from me. A Santa Claus gift indeed.

Our new company secretary was becoming a good friend. I could see she needed a new winter coat and spotted a bright red dress version on sale. Her surprise was hardly more than my own at the joy I received from giving this gift.

I kept up this annual practice for many years. Once I gave a co-worker $100 so he could buy his daughter her first new bicycle for the holidays. Years after he left the company to work elsewhere, he inquired about me and mentioned to that co-worker about the gift.

Yes, indeed. A modern day miracle that has changed me forever. An article written by an author, like myself. Miraculous.

Miracle of the Tithe – Improving Financial Future

Butterfly and Me
Butterfly Buddy

Often I tell portions of my experience with tithing. Here is the complete story which covers a period of thirty years…and includes several miracles along the way.

We were living in northern VT where most families were at poverty level. Why were we there? One reason was because I wanted to escape from the materialism I disliked in CT. We became poor beyond my wildest dreams.

Our family included my husband (steadily employed at a bank), myself (running a free used clothes room in church building) and our four children attending a rural grade school. In-laws helped us buy a small house formerly used as a summer camp. The mortgage and car payments precluded eating out at restaurants, buying new clothes (grandparent’s gift got new undies for school), or vacations unless someone offered us a place to stay free. Buying food for six meant cutting a pound of hamburg into three portions. Even our garden refused to yield little in the short growing season except scruffy carrots and a poem I wrote about honking geese flying south overhead. I provided after school care for a friend’s daughter, cooked at the school, and then tried selling religious books and Shaklee vitamins.

These things did little to help our finances. That is when I read or heard about tithing…I don’t remember which. But Bible verses promised: “Bring all the tithes into My storehouse; see if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing”, also “Give and it shall be given to you, heaped up, pressed down and running over.” Did we really have any choice?

We began tithing 10%, most coming from my husband’s earnings. Was there immediate improvement? That would be a miracle, right? Not in God’s economy. Seed sown must be patiently waited for.

So what did happen? My husband was forced into quitting his job, meaning there was no unemployment income. We had to take the money our kids earned helping their grandparents in order to buy milk and put gas in the car. We both had to work part-time temporary jobs, delivering newspapers, stocking shelves, selling phones, and once working three months on third shift an hour’s drive from our house. Did we stop tithing? Thankfully, no.

But I did get some financial wisdom from the marketing and sales tapes my Shaklee supervisor sent. One speaker said to check your financial earnings over the past 5 years. He bet the figures plateaued at the same point each year…he was right. No matter what weird combination of jobs we had held or which state we lived in, we earned exactly $22K each year. EXACTLY! That meant, without some miracle nothing would ever change.

I firmly believe our miracle finally came from insights gained due to tithing…my husband’s parents saw a job listing in their CT paper and offered to let us stay with them. Both of us got decent jobs, and our income finally jumped that plateau for the first time. We got an apartment. Our kids found after-school and summer jobs, too. An inheritance paid off our credit card debt.  My husband got steady employment with the post office. After two bad renters, we let his old bank take back the VT house.

Even after a divorce and living alone in a studio apartment, I kept tithing. My salary doubled in less than ten years. When I was forced to retire, my income doubled for that one year…a miraculous repayment of all I had given away.

Whenever financial doubt creeps in, I remind myself out loud: “I always have enough to meet my needs and give to others.” Then once a month, I get out my checkbook and give back to the Lord.

Location: VT: 1970-1980s
Type: Provision

Miracle at Plymouth

The plans of those aboard the Mayflower were thwarted repeatedly. A sister vessel leaked so badly they had to turn back soon after setting sail from England. The Pilgrims had to regroup and restock leaving behind people and resources. Their charter was for what is now New York, but they hit land north of Cape Cod in what is Massachusetts. Instead of arriving in summer, they arrived late in the fall. Those familiar with New England weather patterns will realize the seriousness of this mistake.

Explorations on shore revealed evidence of a native population. Would those they called Indians attack the Pilgrims? Especially since they took the stock of Indian seed corn found buried in a sand dune. The Pilgrim’s had few supplies left by the time they arrived – they needed seed to plant if they survived until spring.

The Pilgrim men debated what to do next. No one wanted to chance going out to sea in November to locate their charter land. They would have to plant a colony here. But where?

They investigated an island in Cape Code harbor. Finally they ventured on shore and up the hill above the bay. What they found were the remnants of an Indian village – land cleared, fields ready to plant. But no sign of recent activity. Did they dare build here? Did they really have another choice in November with winter blowing in?

The men reassembled on-board the Mayflower and wrote a compact for governing their colony. They elected a governor. They prayed for protection and guidance.


And they moved on shore. It was now too late for the Mayflower to leave, so the crew would help to build seven cabins and all the souls moved in to survive the winter. Only half of the Pilgrim population lived…the other half dying of scurvy and sickness. But when spring arrived, the group had survived. And the Mayflower sailed back to England.

One day an Indian named Samoset, who spoke broken English, came into their camp. He left returning with Squanto who spoke English well. Squanto’s own story was of capture, prisoner in England, and escape back to this shore. Here he learned that his tribe the Pawtuxets, had been wiped out by a European disease. The tribe had lived on this very spot – now called Plymouth*. The surrounding tribes left the area vacant for fear of catching the disease, too.

That is why it was ready and prepared for the Pilgrims when they arrived – in the wrong place, at the wrong time – but depending on a miracle from their God.

Location and Time:  Plymouth, MA 1620
Type of Miracle: provision, guidance.

*To learn more about the Pilgrims read:
William Bradford: Plymouth’s Faithful Pilgrim, by Gary D. Schmidt, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 1999

My Books on the Shelf

Sea shore
Sea shore

We walked out of the small conference room where my interview for a technical writer position just concluded. The interviewer lead me back past several cubicles. He pointed to one that was empty and said that would be mine, if I was hired for the job.

Not exactly sure of how the interview had gone, I was surprised at his casual remark. Glancing toward that cubicle, what I saw was even more surprising.  On the overhead shelf I caught the briefest glimpse of my own thesaurus, dictionary and English Simplified standing upright.

Knowing at that moment the job would be mine, little did I realize that the vision was guiding me to a career in technical writing that would last for over 20 years.

CT, 1987
Guidance, Vision

The St. Johnsbury Bride

Winter Sunrise
Winter Sunrise

Just before six a.m. on a Saturday morning, I woke up to a strange voice, or was it a thought, in my head. A woman asked “What is it like on this my wedding day?” Automatically, I glanced toward the window and saw the sun peaking in on a bright Vermont day in January.

Where had that thought come from? I was married for over eleven years and my husband was beside me. He and our four children were still asleep. It was that weird type of experience you wish to quickly forget, but that refuses to fade from your thoughts completely.

To distract myself, I considered our plans for the day. We would take a 25-minute ride north to St. Johnsbury to have lunch at a quaint Victorian inn. Their restaurant prepared custom orders for your meals. My husband and I had enjoyed a surprisingly pleasant lunch there last summer.

Our family of six arrived in St. Johnsbury before noon to find that the Inn was closed for the season. The town wasn’t noted for a lot of restaurants. Since everyone was hungry, we drove around and found one that was open. As we pulled into the parking lot around noon, I saw her entering the building. Dressed in a white gown with her veil trailing across her shoulders in the wind, was a bride. Not just any bride.

I can not prove it, but I’m almost positive I heard this young lady’s first thoughts on her wedding day.

VT 1977