Romance and history: Cerasani holds signing of ‘Rushmore’ on Sunday

“Darling if God ever made a lonesome man — one whose very heart is breaking — he made me … Now I realize what you meant. Nature with its beauty cannot replace the hunger for human life.”

Thus wrote Arthur Cerasani, a Rochester native and sculptor, who was recruited to work on Mount Rushmore in 1940. This letter, among others, was recently found by his son Richard Cerasani, who published his father’s words in a book titled Love Letters from Mount Rushmore.

Now, Cerasani is taking this book on the road — including to Chautauqua Institution, for a book signing at noon Sunday in the Author’s Alcove.

Cerasani originally found the letters in a trunk in the attic of his family home by accident, while searching for a Daughters of the American Revolution flag.

“Everything was in this trunk — my jaw dropped open,” Cerasani said.

He found not only correspondence, but busts of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt, and even original negatives of his father perched on a president’s nose as he surveyed the mountain.

Cerasani had no experience as an author and is still reluctant to call himself a writer. He had a successful career as an actor and was content with that.

But after working with a Special Studies instructor for two summers at Chautauqua, he decided to collect these letters and photographs into a book for publication.

“The letters show not only romance, but a history of our country,” Cerasani said.

The book was published last year, and has already acquired the Mom’s Choice Gold Award and the Independent Publisher Book Award. Cerasani has traveled as far as Japan to promote it and was even asked to join the President’s Prayer Breakfast.

Despite these accolades, Cerasani insisted he just got a lucky break in finding the correspondence.

“I acted as a detective, as does anyone who reads it,” he said.

The books allows readers to learn the story of Cerasani’s parents, and piece together the broader picture of American history from the Great Depression through World War II.

“All that stuff is there, through their letters,” Cerasani said.

Indeed, he found more content than he could use in the book, including references to his mother’s experience living back in Rochester.

“I could also write Love Letters to Mount Rushmore,” he said.

Cerasani is happy to be returning to Chautauqua after a break of some years.

“For me, Chautauqua is the ideal community,” he said.