Simon Rodia was born and raised in Serino, Italy and in 1895, age 15, he emigrated to the United States with his brother Ricardo. Rodia lived in Pennsylvania with his brother, who changed his name to "Dick Sullivan" among living in the U.S, until his brother died in a mining incident. Simon then moved to Seattle, Washington, where he married Lucia Ucci in 1902. They soon moved to Oakland, where Rodia's three children were born. Following his divorce circa 1909, he moved to Long Beach and worked at odd jobs before finally settling in Watts in 1920.
Rodia began constructing the Watts Towers in 1921, but did not complete them until 1954. They were frequently vandalized by neighbors, and Rodia gave this as the reason he moved to Martinez where his sister Angelina Rodia Colacurcio lived. He was frequently seen hanging out at his nephew's Meat Market, "Calicura Bros. in downtown Martinez, Calif. Simon or "Sam" Rodia remained in Martinez until his death in 1965. "Sam" as family called him, never returned to Watts to see his towers after moving to Martinez.
Simon Rodia at the "Watts Towers". 1950's.
Simon at the top of the shortest of the three main towers, photo is circa early 1950s.