Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Albert J. "Blue" Feliciani

My family spoke with great fondness of our cousins Jennie and Blue. Jennie was a sweet and gentle soul like her mother Lalla Genia, with a touch of red in her hair. She passed away in 2002, the last of her family which included four older brothers. Jennie’s husband Blue was just as wonderful and kind as she, I always heard it said what good people they were. We were saddened to hear that Blue passed away this past Monday, August 16.

We offer the following history in honor of Blue and Jennie.

Albert J. “Blue” Feliciani was born March 30, 1920 in the little town of Cellino Attanasio, which is located in the province of Teramo in the Abruzzo region of Italy. His parents Giuseppe & Carmella (Ragazzo) Feliciani had returned to Italy in 1919, a couple years after they married in Delaware, and Blue was born during the time when they were living back in Italy. The family returned to the United States through Ellis Island on May 1, 1921 aboard the S.S. Ferdinando Palasciano. Blue was just a year old and his name was written as “Umberto” Feliciani on the ship manifest.

A family legacy was born in the years following the Feliciani’s return to the United States. Blue’s father Giuseppe “Joseph” went to work as a gardener on the Henry Francis duPont estate “Winterthur” where his father-in-law Euplio “Abraham” Ragazzo was already employed as a carpenter. Joseph Feliciani worked on the Winterthur estate for 40 years, rising to the position of supervisor of the cutting garden. Blue followed in the steps of his father, he worked on the Winterthur estate for over 40 years, eventually taking over his father’s position of supervisor of the cutting garden. Blue’s son John continued the legacy, working on the Winterthur estate for nearly 40 years until his recent retirement.

Blue and Jennie spent 58 years of married life together, they raised a family of three children and had six grandchildren. A new kind of legacy has blossomed over the past several years with the arrival of six great-grandchildren.

Our deepest sympathies go out to Blue’s family - the kind and gentle nature of Blue and Jennie was well-known throughout the branches of your large extended family, and will not be soon forgotten.

In the picture: Cellino Attanasio, birthplace of Albert J. "Blue" Feliciani.

The Paris Shoe Repairing Co.

Giovanni Battista “Batistèn” Perrone came to Squirrel Run from Giusvalla in 1906. He was 25 years at the time and like his father “Piedrinìn,” he was a master shoemaker, so soon after his arrival he began making plans to start his own business in the city of Wilmington. He saved enough money working in the powder mills for a couple years to lease a building at 210 West 8th Street. Batistèn called his business the “Paris Shoe Repairing Co.” and hired other experienced Italians, including several of his fellow Giusvallini, to work in his shop. By the late 1910s, his business was doing very well; he had purchased the building on West 8th Street and a nice home at 3107 Monroe Street. He had a crew of many men and a secretary working for him. It is said in my family lore that his clients included various members of the DuPont family, and that he made special shoes for certain DuPonts that had particular podiatric needs.

Batistèn’s family included his wife, Josephine (Pesce), and their children Antonia (who died at birth), Paolo (who died at the age of 13 months), Alicina “Elsie,” Anne and Johnny. His three sisters, Paolina Camoirano, Katie Rosaio and Maria Baccino also came over from Giusvalla and lived in the area with their families. Around the time that they all gathered together with the other Giusvallini families in 1923 for the “Tutti i Giusvallini” reunion, Batistèn had begun to develop stomach problems. The problem got worse over the next few months, and in mid April 1924 he underwent an operation at the University of Pennsylvania hospital in Philadelphia. Later that week, Batistèn became frustrated with his recovery and left the hospital, probably prematurely. When he arrived in the city of Wilmington, he lost his balance as he was stepping off the trolley car and stumbled into the street, further injuring himself. He was brought home where he died in bed a few hours later. He was just 43 years old.

The funeral Mass for Batistèn was said at St. Patrick’s Church in Wilmington, and he was buried in St. Joseph-on-the-Brandywine Cemetery.

In the picture: The Paris Shoe Repairing Co. shop at 210 West 8th Street, Wilmington. Batistèn Perrone (owner) is on the far left. Also in this picture are Giusvallini Edgar Carozzo, Dave Bazzano and Henry Bonifacino.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Aj mei cüggèni

I was just a young kid when I became interested in our family history, I was fortunate to be exposed to so much of it growing up among a close knit legion of aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and great-grandparents – and a strong sense of the extended family. Even as a child, I had a natural curiosity in the previous generations, I listened to the conversations my elders would have about “the old days.” My father often spoke to my sister and I of Giusvalla and our family there, passing along the many stories he remembered hearing during his own childhood. With the encouragement of my Aunts Anne and Elsie, I began writing to a 2nd cousin of the same age in Giusvalla who has become like a brother over the years. Back then, there was no internet or email, and we had no computer in the house. Everything was written out by hand, and it was often many months in between each letter.

Then when I started high school, I began researching our family history in earnest – that was almost 23 years ago now. There was still no such thing as the internet or email at that time. To trace your family tree you had to write letters to town halls, archives, courthouses and the like and wait for someone to look up the information for you, copy it and mail it back. Or go in person and look up the records yourself, sifting through drawers of dusty documents or carefully going line by line through bound copies of property deeds or probate records - hoping to find what you were searching for. If the records were microfilmed, you might spend hours in front of the microfilm reader, carefully reading each frame until your eyes went bleary. There were no instant answers "online," every step of the process required great pazienza. It has been quite a journey into the past.

I’ve met some really wonderful people along the way, various cousins that the family has lost touch with over the years and other people who simply share my interest. Some cousins I’ve written to never write back, some fade away again after awhile and others I’ve become very close with over the years. The capacity of some people’s generosity is what is most memorable to me. Folks that I hardly know – some of them not even related – who have sent me the nicest letters or even treasured family pictures and the like – and those who have never had email or a computer but continue to write or call.

How lucky I am to know such wonderful people, I am happy to call many of them “cousin.”

A nù nent parole per ringrazié aj mei cüggèni … che brovi ch’ishtei. Tanci grazie a tùcci!

In the picture: The Rosaio & Perrone cousins gather for Grandmom’s birthday, July 23, 1966.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Great Day for a Tomato Sandwich..

August is always a time of the year when tomato crops are in full harvest in virtually any Italian’s garden- I remember as a boy, hearing my Grandpop Salvo and my parents talking about having a “tomato sandwich” during this time of year and, as I’ve expressed in prior articles here, how hearing something like that as a child would simply blow me away.

Growing up in America in the 1970s and 80s, anyone who watched TV for at least one hour during that era would be familiar with the variety of commercials pertaining to fast food. Every hamburger, for the most part, would always be topped with some kind of cheese, lettuce, and yes…. Tomato. If you went out to eat at any other kind of restaurant, a sandwich would most likely be served with lettuce, tomato, and a pickle (or something to that effect).

So, having grown up in a world where tomato was the garnish of the sandwich, it amazed me that one could make a sandwich containing nothing other than…. Tomato!

Nevertheless, since that time in my youth, I’ve had many a tomato sandwich, including the ones I ate today, which prompted this article. If your family indulges in this hidden treasure of simple Italian cuisine, please post a comment in response to this article. It’s always great hearing the feedback we receive from our reading community!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Ra shtoria d’ra Piazza Anselmi

Visitors to Giusvalla may be surprised by the quiet rusticity of the little village they encounter. To reach Giusvalla from any direction, one must travel through areas of dense forest that open to areas of vast green countryside among the hills. The occasional stone farmhouses, most in various stages of dilapidation, leave no doubt about Giusvalla’s purely agrarian past. The main road by which one arrives at the tiny centro storico of Giusvalla is the strada provinciale (provincial road 542). If you enter from the west (from Dego) you are welcomed to the center of Giusvalla by the unforgettable sight of the twin rows of twisted and gnarled locust trees that line the strada .... “zû dar gazìe.” According to tradition, the trees were planted by the French who occupied Giusvalla during the first Napoleonic campaign in the late 1790s.

The tiny center of Giusvalla is composed of little more than the parish church of San Maté and the little town hall. Across from the town hall is a modern looking one-story structure that was built as the community center “la Croce Bianca” in the early 1990s. There is a small memorial with the names of the men from Giusvalla who fought in the First and Second World Wars, then just a bit further down the strada one reaches the Piazza Anselmi which boasts a small produce shop and the Cavallo Bianco restaurant. After one passes the brief outcropping of buildings that comprise the tiny “center” of Giusvalla, the strada almost immediately disappears again into the countryside as one makes their way past località Perroni and on to the town of Pontinvrea.

The “Piazza Anselmi” was so named after a Giusvalla native named Pio Felice Anselmi (1819-1869), who fought for Italian independence and unification under Giuseppe Garibaldi, and his brother Don Giovanni Battista Anselmi (1802-1885), who was the pastor of the church of San Maté in Giusvalla for many years. The Anselmi family came to Giusvalla in 1764 from a town in Piemonte called Strevi. On July 11th of that year, brothers Giuseppe and Michele Anselmi of Strevi leased the mill owned by Antonio Maria Buschiazzo at località Mulino in Giusvalla. The mill and the attached property were gradually acquired by the descendants of the Anselmi family, and remained in the family until the late 19th century when it was leased to the Zunino brothers.

A small handful of descendants of the Anselmi family remain in Giusvalla and the surrounding towns, though none carry the family name, and many descendants now live in South America and France. I am proud to be related to the Anselmi family through both of my paternal grandparents.

In the picture: View of the center of Giusvalla and the Piazza Anselmi, circa 1945