Michael Diaz-Piedra III

Michael  Diaz-Piedra III
World Trade Center

Playing Soldier

He called his basement the war room and filled it with an array of military uniforms from around the world. He kept about 30 on mannequins; there were another 100 on racks, but they didn't just sit there. Michael A. Diaz-Piedra III loved to wear them, whether at an elaborate Halloween masquerade party or birthday parties for his son Michael, now 6.

"The uniforms called attention to him, and he liked that," said his wife, Kelly. The plumes and swords also gave Mr. Diaz- Piedra an opening to talk about the historic periods that so fascinated him.

In fact, he was crazy about all kinds of vintage things, Mrs. Diaz-Piedra said, including old cars. This gave him a kind of Old World romanticism that fit his background as son of a wealthy Cuban plantation owner exiled after the Castro revolution. "Once for my birthday, Mike rented a vintage Jaguar and picked me up at work," Mrs. Diaz-Piedra said. "He hired some violinists to play while we had dinner. Then he asked me to marry him."

Although he came to the United States from Cuba when he was 8, Mr. Diaz-Piedra maintained strong ties with the food and culture of his homeland. "Mike was not a ravenous, anti-Castro Cuban," said his brother, George, but he said he had prepared a claim to recover the family's property in Cuba when Castro's regime ended.

Mr. Diaz-Piedra, 49, was a vice president with the Bank of New York in charge of disaster recovery planning. But he was happiest when the planning he did was for a mock battle of the soldiers in his collection. "Some people may have thought of Mike as eccentric," Mrs. Diaz-Piedra said. "But he was just a big kid at heart."

Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on January 13, 2002.

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