Local Man Follows the Path of Leonardo

The Rennaisance Man of Cape Charles: Ettore Zuccarino (with wife Carol reflected in mirror). (Wave photo)

Cape Charles Wave

August 14, 2012

Italy has Leonardo da Vinci.

The United States has Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.

And the Eastern Shore has Ettore Zuccarino.

All are “renaissance men” – individuals who excel in a wide variety of fields. And anyone who knows Zuccarino would agree that he fits the renaissance definition to a “T.”

Zuccarino and his wife, Carol, live across Old Plantation Creek from the golf course area of Cape Charles – a very short way as the crow flies, but several miles’ drive on dry land. But the couple are very plugged in to the Town, and we rightly claim them as our own.

I first heard of Zuccarino through a little advertisement he ran last winter in Joan Natali’s Cape Charles Happenings:

Quo Vadis Workshops: Where are you going? Try to Google the words “We can’t go on like this.” The hits are in the millions. Wonder why? To facilitate the understanding of this paradigm shift, a series of 12 workshops is offered at the Cape Charles Public Library during which we’ll explore together various wisdom traditions. . . .

I was intrigued. What kind of workshops would I find at the little Cape Charles library – and more importantly, whom would we meet? My wife and I signed up. The course was thought-provoking, but what lingers most in my memory is the person who planned it, advertised it, and conducted it with discipline and humor: Ettore Zuccarino.

Zuccarino is a young man in some ways, exhibited by his qualities of inquisitiveness and eagerness. But only an old man could tell this story:

“It was my first visit to America – 1947. I had just stepped off the boat and was walking around the downtown streets of Norfolk. I knew nobody, and not a word of English. But to my absolute astonishment came a call from down the street: Ciao Zuccarino! Come stai? It was a childhood friend who had grown up with me in our Italian village. From that time I have realized that we live in a very small world.”

How Ettore and Carol came to live on the Eastern Shore is another story for another time. They met as missionaries in South America. Before that, Ettore was a missionary in New Guinea, and before that he was a master captain in the merchant marine.

Drive past the houses on Custis Tomb Road, and you will notice that one of them has an observatory on the roof. Yes, that would be the Zuccarino residence – probably the only home observatory on the Eastern Shore. But Zuccarino will tell you that he no longer studies the heavens from a telescope – he is too busy with his metaphysical studies, aided by the Internet. A typical Zuccarino email received yesterday by friends is the following:

Dear ____,
if you have time, go to: and peruse what the site has to offer. I find the course in consciousness worth the effort to read. As always, nothing appears to me as the Holy Grail, but from each I glean precious bits and pieces — all concurring to the conclusion that I perhaps live within a colossal illusion. As to the “God” concept, it is comforting that nothing brings me any closer to see the Truth as I will undoubtedly see it the instant I will pass from this space-time continuum.

Enter the Zuccarinos’ home and you will be offered a comfortable chair in the living room. Every piece of furniture in the room is unique – crafted by Ettore’s own hand. Another hobby.

As an engineer, Zuccarino strives for energy efficiency. Solar panels heat their water. And, on my recent visit, Carol was making chicken soup in the back yard in Ettore’s newly constructed solar oven. And that is the purpose of this story, as Ettore wishes to share his design with anyone who might be interested. (Benjamin Franklin also had no interest in patents.) Below are the plans, in his own words:

Ettore’s Solar Cooker

In these days when green is high priority, the idea of putting to use the free energy of Nature’s atomic furnace is becoming most attractive. The advantages are:

— Save energy.

— Lessen the electrical bill.

— Lessen the heat produced inside the house by using conventional stoves.

Here is the description of the solar oven I came up with:

Outside measures 22” x 22” x 17” in back and 12” in front.

Construction: Outside box ¼” plywood. Inside box is ¼” cement board laminated with heavy aluminum foil on the inside. In between inner and outer boxes are two ½” insulating boards.

Cover is made with ¼” Lexan. The seal is provided by very soft ¼” silicon foam.

To increase the amount of energy inside the oven, the cooker has four reflector-hinged panels that can be adjusted to project the sun’s energy inside the oven. Each panel is made with 1/8” plywood laminated with 0.002” mirror Mylar.

The entire assembly is hinged so that it can be tilted forward as well as rotated on a lazy susan to line up with the position of the sun in the sky. I found the trickiest part is to make effective flex joints in the arms sustaining the reflectors. I tried Velcro and magnets without success. So I made my own, and it takes a bit of doing since the device must be very thin so it does not interfere with the folding down of the panels when the cooker is not in use.

For best results, adjusting the alignment is recommended — especially around midday when the sun azimuth changes quickly.

On a sunny day the temperature inside the oven is around 325 degrees, which is sufficient for most cooking. What we like is that we can put the food inside in the morning and remove it sometime in the afternoon. There seems to be no danger of burning anything, and we have cooked all kinds of food with excellent results.

If you are handy and willing to try making one, do contact me and I will provide information about where to procure relatively inexpensively the costly items like reflective Mylar, silicon foam rubber, and Lexan sheet (no sense in reinventing the wheel, right?)

Ettore’s Solar Cooker, operated by Carol. Remember to wear gloves! (Wave photo)



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