Family Stories: The Ambrosi’s
My name is Narcisso Dominick Ambrosi. I was born in Carisolo (Carisol), Italy in March 1930. I was named after my twin brother and sister who died about two years before I was born. His name was Narcisso and her name was Dominica thus my name. Today, everyone calls me Nick. My father and mother brought me to America in 1932 with my two older brothers. I believe it was on the SS Roma. My father, Guido had been herein America from about 1915, working as a knife grinder or moleta. All four of my father’s brothers were also moletas. I am also one of five brothers and together our first initials spell out G-R-I-N-D (Gus, Remo, Italo, Nick and Dino). I don’t know if my parents planned it out that way but it is somewhat funny how that worked out! We made several trips back and forth between Italy and America when I was growing up. In 1939, my mother and two younger brothers and I all went back to Italy on the Rex. I won the bobbing for apples contest and earned the title of “Biggest Mouth”! We stayed with my Grandma Virginia Maestri when we got there and saw firsthand how the war was affecting families.
My grandfather was in England under arrest because he was an Austrian born in Carisol. We were to come back in September but Hitler invaded Poland and no ships were leaving so we stayed until November. During the war, my brother Bill served in the Pacific and my brother Gus served in Europe. Even though I was a young boy, my uncle and I had to take over their knife grinding delivery routes while they were away. Eventually, I met and got married to my wonderful wife Cynthia . She was from Mount Vernon, New York. I got drafted into the Army and did my boot camp at Camp Chafee in Fort Smith, Arkansas which is long way from the Bronx! During the Korean War, I served as a forward observer and then chief switch board operator. I left the 69 Field Artillery in 1953 with the Korean Service Metal W/3 Bronze Service Star.
My wife, Cynthia and I settled down in northern New Jersey. I opened a little shop in Denville where I repaired lawn mowers, sharpened saws and of course carried on the moleta tradition and had a knife grinding route. I also learned the locksmithing trade which added to my successful small business. In 1962, I had a two story building constructed that had my shop/store on the first floor called Master Grinding and Security, and a spacious three bedroom apartment upstairs. This is where Cynthia and I happily raised our five children, Gerard,Michael, James, Christopher and Catherine. Many years have gone by and I have since retired from business. One of my sons did carry on the family business of locksmithing and even is a fourth generation moleta with a small knife grinding route. I have had the pleasure of traveling back to the old country over the years. One memorable trip and the most recent, was in 1993 when my wife and I went with two of our sons and their wives to Europe. We were fortunate to travel to Carisol and visit with relatives there. They loved seeing the beautiful country there and the warm friendly faces. It was a great opportunity to have my grown children see where their roots come from. I have enjoyed recalling my Italian heritage and how it has influenced my life and family in so many ways. Thank you for letting me share it with you.
Written by Narcisio Ambrosi, Denville, NJ.
Family Stories: The Andreatta’s
According to the tattered old document I found, in March of 1894 Maria Pinamonti made her first communion in Tasullo, in Valdi Non. About a month later, across the River Noce in Coredo, Emma Zandron was born. Years later these two women would become friends in America.Emma’s oldest son, Leno Andreatta (pronounced like Lino) married Maria’s youngest daughter, Grace Kerschbaumer. Those children were my parents.
Maria Pinamonti married Annibale Kerschbaumer in 1903 in Tassulo. My cousins in Italy, Claudio and Maria Letizia Kersbamer traced their family history back to Jacob Kerschbamer, born in 1648 in an unknown place,but probably the part of Trentino where German was the primary language. My grandfather’s grandfather, Francesco Kirschbaumer, was tutor to the children of Count Spaur and lived in Castel Valer overlooking Tassulo. Annibale came to America immediately after marrying Maria, and went to Uhrichsville, Ohio where his older sister lived. He went by William in America and worked as a coal miner.
The Zandron family was in Coredo for a long time. In 2008 the local priest put together a book with the family trees of the old families of Coredo. It traces the Zandron family back to Andrea Zandron, born about 1520. The book is full of family names that are still common around Uhrichsville. On my visit to Italy in 2011, I got a copy of this wonderful book. I also was introduced to the current Count Spaur, a very friendly man who speaks excellent English, and he took my cousins and me on a tour of his castle.
Emma Zandron arrived at Ellis Island on August 15,1913 and went to Superior, Wyoming, where her older brother, Adolfo, had a saloon. There, she met Corrado Andreatta, who was a coal miner from the Val di Cembra. According to the family story, their accents were so different that they could barely talk to each other, but they married in 1914.
Union trouble caused my grandfather to lose his job, so my grandparents headed east toward Pennsylvania.Getting off the train in Ohio to stretch his legs, my grandfather heard people speaking the dialect and asked if there were jobs in that area. He was told, “Yes, there are jobs in the mines,” so they got off the train and my grandfather got a job in a coal mine, where he met my other grandfather.
My parents’ families were friends from the time my parents were children. In the photo, taken about 1926, my parents are both about 9, and all my grandparents are in the photo. Grandpa Kerschbaumer suffered terribly from arthritis in his later years. When he visited my father’s family they called him “Uncle Billy”, but he could not sit, he had to lean against a wall. Grandpa Andreatta would sometimes massage his hands to try to bring some relief.
My brother and I grew up close to both sides of the family. Family gatherings were numerous, and usually included polenta. Grandpa Andreatta became foreman of the mine, my father became a Lieutenant in the army in WW II, and then superintendent of his company. Uncle Fred Andreatta was the first of our nationality in town to go to college, becoming a ceramic engineer. Homemade wine and large gardens were yearly events. More than anything, both sides of the family demonstrated the value of thrift and steady work, bettering their lives slowly but steadily.
Written by Dale Andreatta
Dale Andreatta volunteers to develop stoves for developing countries as chronicled in three documentaries.
Family Stories: The Anselmi’s
My father, Felice Anselmi, was born 1891 in the lovely village of Arsio-Brez in the Valdi Non, in what was then the Austrian Empire in the Palazzo di Arsio-Brez and hence, had probably some noble lineage. For sure, he was always special to me. Like so many Nonesi, he immigrated along with his special friends from his village, the brothers Joe and Mike Rauzi to Rock Springs, Wyoming in 1910 to work. There he found some of his brothers’ family and fellow paesani that had preceded him. Like so many of the Tyrolean immigrants, my father boarded fora time at the home of Peter and Angela Menghini on Rugby Ave. He sent money to his mother regularly. His fellow paesani found him work with an area employer,the Union Pacific Coal Company who was notorious for their dangerous mines and working conditions. In fact, my father started to write in a ledger in 1912 about the many problems facing the coal miners. They received very low wages, suffered unsafe working conditions, and had no health benefits. He recalled in his ledger that the Tyrolean miners were sent into depths of the mine shafts for coal exposing them to the danger of methane gas explosions. He witnessed his friend John Corazza get killed, trying to stop a runaway coal car with a spike bar into the tracks, but the car came faster and he was killed.
In 1920, he returned to Arsio-Brez to see his sick mother. He met for the first time Maria Cologna, my mother,from Castelfondo of the Val di Non. They fell in love and were married in the church St. Nicolo, Castelfondo, Austria in 1921. They returned to the USA to Rock Springs, Wyoming. After some time, my father went to work in the coal mines in Reliance, Wyoming.
For years after my father sought to inspire his fellow workers to strive to become part of a union to obtain proper working conditions and health care for his fellow miners. Having witnessed the tragic death of his friend, John Corazza, my father and mother decided to leave Reliance and took a trip through California, to Idaho and Utah only to settle in Ogden Utah with paesani. In 1931,my father with his family and Zio Fortunato Cologna bought a farm in Weber County, Ogden, Utah with paesani. Leno Anselmi was born in 1922 and I, Mary Anselmi in 1924. We enjoyed a very loving comfortable home. My mother was a very special person to us as well as to all her friends. She left a very special legacy. We were inspired to read and to pursue education. Returning
to the Val di Non, my father was to be given a special gift for my mother, Maria, from Angela Marchetti Menghini,a sister to my nonna, my mother Maria’s mother. She asked if Felice would take a gift of a gold locket on a chain to me in the USA, her niece Maria in. He did…and I wear this locket today. Yet more precious and special are the memories of our family life, our traditional Tyrolean values and the wonderful memories of our origins.
My mother learned to speak English and when my father died at the age of 59, she became the farmer, amazing all the neighborhood farmers. She managed to buy and sell cattle at the local auction.
Felix Anselmi was a Sachem of the order of the Redmen Organization formed to help families in need. My father was instrumental in forming the Friendly Club in 1937.In 1987, the children of the Tyroleans had a golden anniversary, honoring our heritage. Leno Anselmi with our Tyrolean paesani later formed the Trentini Italians of Utah. He was the founder and First President. I, Mary Anselmi Ravarino, graduated from the University of Utah. I received the American Association of University’s Distinguished Women award in 2010. Leno Anselmi graduated from Utah State University with honors and a scholarship to Cornell. I am very proud of my family and my Tyrolean Heritage.
Written by Mary Anselmi Ravarino
Family Stories: Antonioni
When my father, Arturo Olivo Antonioni, one of five children, was born in San Bernardo in the Valle di Rabbi in Trentino on March 23, 1908, the area was part of what was then Austria-Hungary. Although the area was Austro-Hungarian, they spoke the Tyrolean dialect of Italian. He was born in the large house in this picture. His house is no longer standing but the house on the left in the foreground is still there. Now the area is a tourist destination with the famous “Bagni di Rabbi.” When my father lived there his family suffered through WWI. I recall he would often speak of “la miseria” when he had only turnips to eat for a year, my grandmother looked in garbage cans for food and dead soldiers surrounded them on the ground. My grandfather, Giuseppe Maria Albino Antonioni, had become ill and had died earlier. My father’s two other sisters also died in childhood. (Before my grandfather married my grandmother Romana he was a dancer in Paris. This picture of him was taken in France). The area was given to Italy after WWI but my father and his family never considered themselves Italian – they were “Tirolesi” to the core.
My father (age 12), grandmother (age 40) and aunt Gemma (age 9) arrived at Ellis Island on December 20, 1920, after spending three weeks on the ship, the Rè d’Italia, having been sponsored by my grandmother’s brother, Graziano Rossi. Graziano had earlier immigrated to Vineland, NJ, where there is still a Tyrolean population. My uncle Carlo (age 13)did not come to America because he was a deaf-mute and the U.S. was not accepting individuals with disabilities. He died in Trentino a year later.
My father, grandmother and aunt settled in Sheppton, PA, nine miles south of Hazleton in the Anthracite coal mining area. Hazleton had Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, the only church listed in the National Catholic Directory of the U.S. I recall hearing the name of Father Luchi mentioned many times. The church closed in 2009.
My father could not speak any English so he was put into the First Grade at age 12 in Sheppton, PA. The teachers hit him because he could not speak English. At age 15 he had to quit school and work in the coal mines to help support the family. Many Tyroleans who settled in that area went to work in the mines. Later he was in a mine cave in and by the time he was rescued he said the water was up to his neck. He later lived in Brooklyn with his sister Gemma and helped build the New York subways.During WWII he served in the U.S. Army. In 1944 he married my mother, Leona Rossi, an Abruzzese Italian from Atlas, Pa. I was born in Hazleton in 1945. Wemoved to the Lehigh Valley in PA, in 1956. He worked at Bethlehem Steel for 10 years.My father died in 1982 at the age of 74 and is buried in Pa. By working in the coal mines, helping to build New York subways and working at Bethlehem Steel, he definitely contributed to the development of the US for which I am very proud. He also instilled all of the solid Tyrolean moral and family values in me, such as a strong will in the face of reality, a love of work, a natural dignity, and above all, a strong faith in God… for which I am and always will be grateful.
Ramona Antonioni-Krausnick, Dublin, CA, Circolo Trentino di San Francisco
Family Stories: The Benigni’s
The Benigni family odyssey begins in Trentino, what is now the northern region of Italy. They came from the villages of Seo and Cavrasto in the Val di Giudicarie. The ten Benignis – including six brothers and four sisters – came to America beginning in the late 1800s. They did not arrive at the same time, as money was scarce. The voyages were made as money was saved and sent over from America from family members who had already arrived.Luigi was the first Benigni to arrive in America, in 1887.He was followed by Purificata in 1888, my great-grandfather Valante in 1889, Silvio also in 1889, Virginia, 1890; Bonifacio, 1892; Atillo, 1894; Otilla, 1896; Louisa, 1899 and Stansilo in 1911. The Benignis settled in the mining towns of Confer, Ramsey town and Brockway in Jefferson County and Brandy Camp in nearby Elk County. Here in America,they joined many of the people from their previous surrounding villages of Trentino. It was here that they married people that they had become reacquainted with from their old country.
Generations of the Benigni family followed their fathers and grandfathers into coal mines at a very young age. Upon completion of the 8th grade and the age of 13,one was qualified to work in the mines. Valanate’s son, Canzio, only completed a few grades of school, but was very good with numbers. He was assigned the mining site job of keeping track of the miner’s hours. He did not know all their names, but he would assign each miner a number to keep track of their hours. Being the oldest sibling in a family of seven and wanting to help provide for the family, my father John Armanini (Valante’s grandson) changed his baptism record so he could start working the mines at age 12. Not all of the Benignis were miners. Others opened small shops and businesses in the mining towns. Examples of these businesses include a meat market, a grocery store, and a pool hall (owned by my great grandfather).
Like many families from Trentino, the Benignis followed their heritage and traditions. They tried to instill their family traditions into their children. I remember going to the grocery store with my father and meeting many people who had come here from the same area. They would greet and converse with each other in their native dialect. At least once a week, my father or my aunt would make polenta. My father made veal gravy, and my aunt made red sauce. They perfected this dish without ever measuring ingredients. My aunt always told me this was a recipe from our homeland, a fact proven to me more recently in the first Filò magazine.
The members of the Benigni family can be very proud of their origins. Past generations worked very hard so that future generations could prosper. Some of the newer generations of the Benignis have moved to different parts of the United States, but the majority still reside where their ancestors made their homes over a century ago. The members of the Benigni clan can be found in every working endeavor in the American market place. From the mining origins, descendants today include doctors, lawyers, engineers, psychologists and teachers. The family has branched out in many vocations while never forgetting their heritage and sacrifices made by their grandparents and great-grandparents who originally came to America assuring a better life for future generations.
Written by Mary Kay Sheley
The Odyssey of a Tyrolean Immigrant
History and Nature combined to create an economic depression for the Trentino that became the cause for emigration. Agriculture, practiced in the traditional was the fundamental activity in 1850 for 70% of 314,770 inhabitants of the province. Farmers were frustrated and without hope. Their children automatically followed them into farming. Real estate was divided into small parcels and was owned by few landlords. Commodities and food had to be imported from the Trentino’s neighboring provinces, the Veneto and Lombardy. Their economic conditions worsened when their traditional trading partners became part of Italy. The new borders created custom barriers, taxation and duties on imports and exports. In those years, nature further complicated the depression with deceases to their vines, silkworms, and their potato crop. Rather than further detailing the hardships of the Trentino, what follows is a profile of one such emigrant who was certainly affected by the forces of nature…and by history both in the Trentino and in the United States.
Angelo Berasi was born in 1870 in Marazzone, Bleggio Superiore in the Val di Giudicarie. Following the typical and usual traditions, he worked as a peasant farmer and while we have no recollection of his motivations, it can be presumed that he followed the then current pattern of escaping poverty and raise his standard of living which diluted the pain of departure. Like fellow emigrants, America acted as a magnet beckoning them as a real adventure with the flavor of a mystery. In 1890, Angelo Berasi followed the pattern, left for Trento where he took a train to Le Havre, France and embarked for New York, with its strange language, traditions and jobs. But Angelo did not stay with the Trentino colony in New York but took a train and traveled for five days to Walsenburg, Colorado. There, although a farmer, Angelo like his paesani, was forced to work in the coal mines. Mining was dangerous and difficult work. Coal miners in Colorado were at constant risk for explosion, suffocation, and collapsing mine walls.
Between 1884 and 1912, mining accidents claimed the lives of more than 1,700 Coloradans. In 1913 alone, “104 men would die in Colorado’s mines, and 6 in the mine workings on the surface, in accidents that widowed 51 and left 108 children fatherless. The high death was due in part to Colorado’s unique geology, but also due to poor enforcement of safety regulations. In 1914, the United States House Committee on Mines and Mining attributed the high fatality rate to the management of its coal mines. Angelo worked in these mines for 15 years adding prospecting for gold as well as he searched for alternatives to the mines. He came in contact with two relatives of mine, Carlo and Giuseppe Brunelli who originated from Rango of the same Bleggio Superiore. Giuseppe and Carlo, coming earlier than Angelo, had ventured beyond the mines purchasing land, raising cattle and even opening a hotel or boarding house for the miners of Walsenberg .in 1902, Angelo is made a naturalized citizen. In1905, he returns to the Trentino where he seeks out the unmarried niece of Giuseppe and Carlo, Teresa. They are wed and after a time, he returns to Colorado to follow yet another pattern of those emigrants. He precedes Teresa who is now with child and in September 1907 with her new born, Lino, Teresa makes the long ocean voyage to New York and then the 5 day train ride to Wallsenberg, Colorado. Angelo, properly inspired by the entrepreneurship of Carlo and Giuseppe and possibly aided by some of their capital, opens us the Star Saloon. Such an enterprise was singular for our Trentini emigrants but Angelo was a confident, enterprising person and was not averse to taking risks. More children arrived in quick succession. Angelina in 1908, Rosa in 1909, Maria in 1911, Cora in 1913, and Adele in 1914.
History again touches the lives of the Berasi family. While they lived in the town of Walsenburg, the ensuing turmoil with the mines would engulf everyone. In 1913-1914, there ensued the 14-month southern Colorado Coal trike, itself the deadliest strike in the history of the United States. The strike was organized by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) against coal mining companies in Colorado. The miners resided in company towns, in which all land, real estate, and amenities were owned by the mine operator, and which were expressly designed to inculcate loyalty and squelch dissent. When the miners go out on strike, their families were evicted and went to live in a tent city. On April 20, 1914, the Colorado National Guard attacked the tent colony of 1,200 striking coal miners and their families at Ludlow, Colorado shooting through the tents with a machine gun mounted on an armored car causing the violent deaths of 19 people. This was to be known as the Ludlow Massacre. In response, the miners armed themselves and attacked dozens of mines, destroying property and engaging in several skirmishes with the Colorado National Guard causing the death of yet another fifty.
Violence permeated Wallsenberg and Teresa Brunelli Berasi was so terrified for her family that she gave her husband no peace saying in our dialect: Se stagho chi, mi moro…If I remain here, I will die…and so will the children. So history again affects his life; this time American history. Angelo, despite his successful American enterprise, packs up his American family…all the children were no American citizens…moves them on the long fie day train trip across the country to New York and sets sail for La Havre, France retracing his original route and arrives at the Austrian border to the consternation of the Austrian officials who ask him: Why are you returning now, war is about to break out…and it did. Angelo, a successful American businessman had now returned to his farming and the simple life of the village. He was conscripted into the Austrian army as were hundreds of other Trentini. Many of which became the crack squad, Tiroler Kaiserjaegger, the Tyrolean hunters of the Czar. They fought in Russia and then returned to the Trentino to combat the Italian forces Angelo served as a cook strangely enough on the entrenchments on the peaks of mountains of Val Marcia, the mountain range that stares down at his very own village. Two more children arrived: Amalia and Bruno. After the war, he returned to Colorado alone in the hope of resuming his enterprise but his oldest son, Lino, was simply too traumatized by the violence that he experienced in Walsenburg and refused to return and this concluded his American odyssey. He returned permanently to his village and like Giannini in San Francisco he assisted his cash poor paesani offering them small loans to pay their taxes. Two of his daughters, Maria and Adele returned to USA, their country of origins as spouses to yet other emigrants. Angelo Berasi is truly a Tyrolean pioneer and a genuine hero.
All these details of this family was compiled by Danny Caliari of Queens, NY, a grandson of Angelo Berasi, who in 1980 was determined to discover his roots and his family`s odyssey. Well before the Internet, he would go every day on his lunch time to the Main Library on Fifth Ave and search what records he could find. He wrote and made trips to the National Archives. He interviewed whoever might provide information about his family. His work spanned 30 years. He is to be saluted for his passion and diligence. In subsequent issues, we hope to have him give us some tips and instruction of how to conduct family research.
Tyrolean Adventurers . . .
Every Tyrolean departing from his or her valleys were pursuing an adventure, a necessary one to escape the poverty and hardship but one that involved feats of courage and determination. But there is no greater adventure than the one experienced by the Boldrini Brothers, whose story could have been scripted by Jack London and made into a five part mini-series.
The Boldrini Brothers, Silvio and Clemente, were ordinary contadini born in the Swiss Canton of Grigioni… Munster to be precise in 1859 and 1863. They left Prezzo of the Val delle Giudicarie…also referred to as the Val di Chiese to follow fellow paesani from the Val di Giudicarie in 1890 to the city of Solvay, NY at the outskirts of the city of Syracuse, NY and the site of large manufacturing factories. They could indeed have settled there and enjoyed possibly a very predictable life in the company …dei nossi…our or their people…After a few years, these two enterprising brothers, now certified Tyrolean Americans, were finding their jobs mundane and less stimulating for their tastes. There was economic recession as well as the exaggerated headlines of the local newspapers about a bonanza awaiting the courageous in the Canadian territories of the Yukon. In 1898, there occurred the Gold Rush in the Klondike of Alaska.
Many from everywhere in the world rushed to seek their fortune prospecting for gold. In April of that year,Silvio and Clemente along with their “paesano”, Gusto Scaialeave Solvay for an arduous 6 day train trip to Vancouver, British Columbia where they take the steamship Tees and where Silviobegins to chronicle their adventures in his colorful journal. Hereis an excerpt….What can I say! The journey was torture with no home comforts and such a large crowd of gold seekers that it was even difficult to walk without bumping into each other. And sleeping, or even tryo stretch out on the ground was impossible, the weather was cold and wet and the only shelter on the ship had to offer was together with the horses under a big canvas…Gianna and Lou
After four more days and 500 miles, …On April 12, 1898, we arrived in Skagway; seeing the faces of those rough-looking characters we got scared, going out in the town after dark was impossible, for fear of being attacked and robbed…They begin the arduous trek into the interior to reach the inland waterways where they move from lake to lake using steam boats, canoes, rafts, traversed difficult passes with horses and dog sleds, faced avalanches, were capsized, fell through the ice, faced bitter cold and scorching heat and thirst, built a boat, lost their equipment, suffered hunger, fatigue. Their journey starting in Syracuse, took them to Seattle, Vancouver, Fort Wrangell, Skagway, Lake Bennett, Paradise Camp, Lake Linderman, Chillkhoot Pass, Yukon River, Log Cabin, Lake Miles River, Big Salmon River, Little Salmon River, Five Finger Rapids, Ring Rapids, White River, McQuestion River, Dawson, Indian River, Klondike, Domino Creek and finally arrive in Nome, Alaska. The episodes are heroic, the very stuff for a Jack London adventure. Parts of the manuscript of Silvio’s Boldrini’s journal can be found on our website.
Silvio’s son relates that they returned with almost $100,000.In partnership with others, Silvio founded the Seattle Tool and Die Company. The two brothers managed several factories including the Boldrin Company, Boldrin Refectograf. They produced the Boldrin Electric Oven as well as amusement park horses on wheels seen for years in Steeplechase Park in historic Coney Island, in Brooklyn, New York. Silvio died at the age of 55 in the 1918 and his brother died two days later.
Several years ago, a booklet was published by the Province regarding the Boldirini brothers. It was entitled: GOLD and it presented the entire diary of their travels and adventures. We have the entire manuscript posted on our website or our readers to enjoy.
Family Stories: I Nonni Croce
If a book were written about “Love Stories from Val di Fiemme,” the lives of Maria (Pallaver) and Arcangelo Croce, my material grandparents(Nonna and Nonno) would be prominently rep-resented. Theirs is a love story for the ages. At a young age, Nonna’s parents arranged for her future marriage to the son of a middle class couple in Castelfondo (Val di Non). What custom and the two families did not anticipate, however, was that Nonna had a mind of her own. When she became “of age” she met Arcangelo, a hard- working stonemason from Predazzo in the Val di Fiemme. Family legend has it that, while working in Castelfondo, Arcangelo secretly watched Maria as she washed clothes in the town square. He obviously liked what he saw, and one thing led to another. Love is rarely bound by contracts made for someone by others. Thus it was with Maria.
One the eve of her arranged marriage, she and Arcangelo eloped in 1914 across the Alps to Stengen, Austria, where they were married in St. Martin’s Catholic Church. They settled in the Alpine beauty of Predazzo. When World War I began, Arcangelo was inducted into the army of Austria-Hungary and went off to war, attaining the rank of colonel. He and Maria were separated for the duration of the war, a test of their young love. Arcangelo and his unit, forced to surrender to the Russians, spent time on a prison farm in Ukraine as a forced laborer on a family farm until the war ended in1918. Upon his return to Predazzo, he and Maria resumed their lives together, and had three children including my Uncle Eugenio, Aunt Pia (Buffone), and my mother Clementine (Flaim). Severe economic conditions and no work forced Arcangelo to leave his Alpine village and his family for the United States, where he found work in the coal mines near Hazleton, Pa. In 1928, Maria and her three young children boarded the S.S. Saturnia for the long trip to join Nonno in the United States. They settled in Fern Glen, a small village near Hazleton, where they lived the rest of their lives. Their fourth child, my Uncle Albert, was born in the United States.
Nonna and Nonno were devoted to one another and shared a love that was palpable and obvious to anyone who knew them. Their family was the center of their very simple lives. They never owned or drove an auto-mobile or flew in an airplane, nor did they have an indoor bathroom until I was a teenager. They were gifted with a television in 1964, the year of the Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, close to the town in which they were married. Via the miracle of television, their lives seemed to have come full circle. Shortly after their 50th Anniversary that year, Nonna suffered a stroke and she passed away at age 80 in September. Holding his arm as we both said our final goodbyes over her grave, Nonno looked at the casket with tears streaming down his cheeks and said (in Tyrolean) “Goodbye Maria. I will be with you by Christmas.” That evening he spoke of their lives together: their meeting, the challenges they faced, their love for one another and their family, and the “Old Country,” Val di Fiemme, which they never fully left behind. Over the next several months, Nonno’s health declined as life without his lifelong love must have seemed without meaning to him. His vow to Maria to be with her by Christmas nearly became a reality, as he rapidly declined, taking his final breath on December 29, 1964, at age 83. Yes, the love story of Maria and Arcangelo Croce is truly a love story for the ages.
Family Stories: The Leonardi’s
The end of the nineteenth century was a time of emigration from the European countries to the Americas. This was especially evident in the rural regions of Eastern Pennsylvania where many people moved from their original home-lands to seek work in the factories, farms and mines of the Coal Region. Many Tyrolean families sought work in the mines of the area. My great-grandfather Francesco Dallago, his wife Maria and their daughters Rosina, Amalia, and Maria left Tuenno, in the Val di Non, booked passage to America, and took up residence in the town of Atlas, near Mount Carmel, in Northumberland County, PA. In 1894, another daughter, my grandmother Bianca, was born, followed by a fourth daughter Ludwina, in 1896. At nearly the same time, in New Boston, a town near Mahanoy City, in Schuylkill County, PA, my other great-grandfather, Ferdinand Leonardi, his wife Assunta, and their sons Frederick and David took up residence. They had also emigrated from Tuenno.
Father and sons were soon working in the local collieries. In 1891, my grandfather, Isadore, was born, followed by a daughter, Albina, in 1894, and another son, Francisco in 1896. In 1900, disaster struck the colliery at Buck Mountain, in the form of a methane gas explosion. Ten miners died, among them my great-grandfather Ferdinand and his son, David. Shortly thereafter, great-grandmother Assunta returned to Tuenno with my grandfather Isadore and his brother Frank. Their brother, Frederick, remained behind in America. At roughly the same time, in Atlas, PA, my Dallago grandparents elected to return to Tuenno with their family. Both families grew through the early part of the twentieth century, leading happy lives amid the familiar surroundings of the beautiful Val di Non. This pleasant environment underwent a seismic shift with the advent of World War I. Val di Non was then a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1915, Italy entered the war on the side of the allies, opposing the Empire. This posed considerable anxiety to the Dallago family, since my grandmother Bianca was serving as governess to children of a wealthy family in Venice.
The Venetian family treated her very well, but communications across the border to Tuenno were not possible because of the war. Grandmother Bianca’s family had no idea of her whereabouts or her conditions. Eventually, Bianca was able to return to Tuenno by traveling first to Switzerland and then to the Val di Non to reunite with her family. At the same time, Grandfather Isadore was inducted into the Austrian army despite his protestations of being an American citizen. His unit was dispatched to the Balkans. At the time of the armistice in 1918, Grandfather Isadore was in Sarajevo. In the turmoil of that time, there was no transportation to return the troops to their homes, so he walked from Sarajevo to Tuenno, surviving by digging potatoes from fields along the way. In 1923, Grandparents Bianca and Isadore returned to America. After marrying, they settled in Minersville, PA, not far from their respective birthplaces. In 1924, they were joined by Bianca’s younger sister, Ludwina, and Isadore’s younger brother, Francisco. Sadly, Francisco would die only one week after taking a job at the nearby Lytle Colliery. In 1926, Grandmother Bianca gave birth to their only child, my mother, Dora.
Grandfather Isadore worked as a carpenter, but the effects of the Great Depression were being felt throughout the nation. They then opened a corner grocery store to supplement their income when carpentry work would be difficult to comedy. Over the years, the store prospered and they made a successful life for themselves. They returned to visit their families in Tuenno for a few months in 1956. They experienced a lifetime which saw the horse as a common means of transportation in their youth and space flight and man visiting the moon in their later years. Grandparents Isadore and Bianca went to God in 1972 and 1978. They left behind their legacy of hard work, determination, resiliency in the face of adversity, and an unflagging belief in God, surely a testament to those who follow in their footsteps.
Written by Grandson, David Dando, Galloway, New Jersey
Family Stories: Nella Litterini
I remember Mamma…Twinkly, deep crystal blue eyes, a brilliant smile, petite (5’2”) immaculate, a great dresser, an amazing homemaker (you could eat off the floor) and totally dedicated to her children – that was Nella Maffei as she was known to the Trentini of New York. She was born Cornelia Litterini in 1913 in the little village of Villa Banale over-looking the sweet, small valley of Val Giudicarie. Mamma, one of three sisters, never forgot her father’s reply when the teachers urged him to send them to Trento to further their education, “We don’t have the money and besides, they’re girls. They’ll only end up married”. She would often say: “An education is the one thing no one can take away from you.”
Nella started working at 13 washing bed linen by hand at the Terme di Comano. She later worked at some of the best hotels in the area. One Italian colonel during the war suggested that she think of going to Cinecittà – Italy’s own Hollywood. Never in her wildest dreams did she ever imagine herself living in America. Nella was 35 when she came to America as the wife of her brother-in-law and mother to two teenage girls. Toni Maffei had left Stenico at 18 to work in the coalmines of Pennsylvania. In 1929, he married Margherita, the oldest Litterini sister, who died very young, leaving him two young daughters to raise. In 1948 Toni returned to Stenico with Nora and Mary and that is where “il destino” took over. Life in America began in a small 4-room apartment by Prospect Park, where Poppy worked as a building superintendent. Nella first worked in an embroidery sweatshop in NYC. The job was short-lived because the land-lord expected two for the price of one! Shortly thereafter I and my brother, Walter, arrived and Mary and Nora married wonderful husbands. For the next 40 years Toni and Nella worked side by side. They spent Sundays in the park with other Trentini in their own version of Filò: The men playing cards and singing; the women chatting, watching the children and sharing news from home. The annual “Tyrolean Ball” in Ridgewood Queens was the highlight of their year.
Mamma’s letters were famous. She corresponded with Padre Bonifacio Bolognani, who wrote about the Trentino emigrant experience in America. Mamma taught herself English and kept up with current events, letting Governor Cuomo and Mayor Giuliani how proud she was of them. While her English was heavily accented, when she had something to say, the words flowed eloquently. Family always came first. She and Poppy took in my cousin, Carla Bazzoli from Val Rendena, and later her brother Riccardo lived with us until they got on their feet. Mamma was famous for her canederli` and coteghino and crauti. No visitor ever went away hungry. Mamma and Poppy returned to the Trentino as often as they could and we fell in love with the valley I call Shangri-La. Mamma went on to live another 25 years after Poppy. She died at the age of 97 in 2011.Both their spirits remain alive in all four of us in the traditions and values they imparted. Written by Tulia Maffei Lynch.
Family Stories: The Poli’s
When my grandfather Rodolfo Poli, a member of the Tiroler Kaiser Jaegger, was released from a Russian prison at the end of World War I, the prisoners told to get home any way they could. He walked. It took him six months until he reached his tiny village in the Val di Non. Nine months later, my father Tullio Poli was born. My father was the first in our family born under Italian rule. Until 1918, this area of the Tyrol was part of Austria. Tullio was one of eight children born to Anna and Rodolfo Poli in the village of Sfruz, a tiny village best known for agriculture, primarily apples and potatoes. Dating from pre-Roman times, Sfruz is famous for the ancient production of “le stufe,” beautiful and decorative ceramic stoves used for heating. With only a few surnames in the village families with the same surname were identified by their dialect nicknames. Our family was “le Coz,” the stubborn, which continues today. My father left the village at age 15 to begin training as a master watchmaker by monks at a monastery in Pavia, Italy. It was common at the time for young boys to be sent away early to learn a trade, many to foreign lands, never to return home. My father’s journey to America is an interesting and sometimes humorous one, brought on by World War II, and his marriage to my mother Beatrice Rose O’Brien.
During World War II, my father was conscripted into Mussolini’s army. As a corporal, he was captured in North Africa by General Montgomery’s forces at the battle of Tobruk. He was taken to England as a prisoner of war where he remained until the end of the war in Europe. Upon Italy’s surrender, the Italian prisoners were given menial or desk jobs. During this time Italian prisoners had opportunities to mingle with the English troops. My mother was in the British Royal Navy and her job was packing parachutes. In Britain, unlike in America, everyone was expected to serve and there no exceptions for the rich. During the war, my mother became best friends with an heiress to the Royal Dutch Shell Oil fortune, Lydia Deterding, daughter of Sir Henri Deterding. Lydia arrived for active duty in her own private train car. There was to be a Halloween party. A lot of the Italian prisoners were attending and it was rumored that an heiress would be there. My father decided that the best chance of spotting the heiress was to wait by the door and see who put down the most expensive purse. My mother and Lydia arrived together and Lydia put down a plain black silk purse, while my mother put down a fancy purse, borrowed from her sister Kate. So we jokingly say my father made a play for my mother, thinking she was the heiress! This is how they met, but not the reason they chose each other.
After the war, my father went back to Sfruz and he and my mother continued to write. My parents were married in the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua and honeymooned in Venice. They lived for the next six months in Sfruz, and then moved back to Halifax, England where I and two brothers were born. Because England had been so hard hit by the war, they decided to immigrate to America for better economic and educational opportunities. My grandmother, Anna Biasi (Poli), had two brothers who left for America years earlier. Giuseppe and Angelo Biasi moved to St. Louis, Missouri. Giuseppe’s widow Rosa rented out rooms in her home, as was common for many widows at the time. We arrived in the US in January 1954 and we lived with our father’s cousins for our first few years in St. Louis. My father began work in his chosen trade and became, who many considered to be, one of the finest watchmakers in the United States. Two more sons were added to our family and we are honored to know our heritage in the Trentino / Val di Non region and remain close to our extended family. Through continued contract and pride in his village and community, with its gentle and traditional ways, my father has passed on a love of “his mountains” to his five children, for which we are eternally grateful and blessed. We are duty bound to continue the tradition with our children and grandchildren.
Written by Janet Poli Seavitte
Family Stories: The Povinelli’s
Matteo Povinelli, my grandfather, first came to the US in 1903 from Carisolo. He was 18 and had already experienced more than most. At the age of 12 he had been sent off with an older man to Innsbruck to learn a trade. After a short period of time he ran away from his master and walked back to Carisolo. In order to cross the Brenner Pass without being picked up by authorities guarding the pass, he took the rim of a wagon wheel and used a stick to roll it as if he was playing with a hoop. By the time he came to America he had become a moleti or grinder. Settling in the NY area, he acquired a mola, the traditional grinder’s push cart, and began plying his trade in Hoboken and Weehauken, NJ. Between 1903 and 1921 he made another 2 trips back to Carisolo. In 1912 he married Maria Vanzo in Carisolo. In 1922 my grand-mother was finally able to join her husband in the US, and in 1922 she arrived in NY with their three children, Theresa (8), Lena (my mother 2), and Louis (an infant).Many years later it was determined that the kind man who carried Lena down the gangplank off the ship that day turned out to be my paternal grandfather, Pietro Christe, who came to America on the same voyage. The Povinellis settled in West New York, NJ and had 4 more children, Raymond, Inez, Anne, and Marie. Growing up and surviving the Depression was difficult, but grandpop always provided and frequently brought food home that was given to him in payment for grinding services. He was a generous man and often sent Louis with a package of food to the large family across the street. Once, when a son asked Louis about this story, he responded with, “Of course we helped them; what the hell do you think we’d do; the Povinellis are good people.”
The seven Povinelli children all married in America. Theresa married Alex Maganzini, a grinder and master locksmith from Giustino. Lena married Mariano Christe, an accountant from Lasino. Louis married Ruth Carter, a nurse from Brooklyn. Raymond married Ada Turri, whose family was from Pinzolo. Inez married Henry Cristoferetti, a grinder whose family was from Avio.
Anne married Rudolph Maffei, a grinder whose family was from Carisolo. Marie married Herbert Haas, a police chief from West New York. In all, the seven Povinelli children had 24 children. Among these grandchildren the following occupations were embraced: grinders, teachers, business owners, entrepreneurs, home makers, army officers, school superintendents, bankers, TV directors, dental technicians, designers, photographers, emergency medical techs, and firefighters. We all are still immensely proud of our heritage and remember the many family gatherings for polenta dinners with canederlie, venison stews, and all the fixings of our people. The men singing the old Tyrolean songs was always a highlight of those events.
I should note here that 110 years after my grandfather Matteo began his grinding business from a pushcart, then to horse and wagon, then to truck, M. Povinelli and Sonsis still a viable business being run by Louis’s sons, Matthew and Paul. Rudolph’s son, Michael Maffei still runs the grinding business begun by his father, and Jeff Di Simone still runs the grinding business begun by his father in law Henry Cristoferetti. Though I did not become a professional grinder, many happy hours were spent working summers and spending vacations at my uncles’ shop learning about the cutlery business and being taught mechanic’s skills by my Uncle Raymond. My cousins and I frequently talk about how brave our grandparents were to embark on a new life in a new country. We also never fail to remember the wonderful experience it was to grow up in a family with such a history. The Tyrolean heritage is unique and wonderful. Tobe part of it is a source of pride, an honor, and a blessing enjoyed by few. The Povinelli story demonstrates a beautiful and rich success story.
Written by Ronald Christe` Easton. Maryland Maria and Matteo Povinelli
Family Stories: The Preti’s
Getting to know my grandfather, Guido Preti, was no simple matter. It had nothing to do with distance. He lived and is buried in Glenwood Springs, CO, my home for the first 49 years of my life. It had nothing to do with language. He had been living in the United States for 12 years before marrying my grandmother, Marie Wisek, in 1905. By then he had mastered the English language, both written and spoken. Instead, the difficulty was one of chronology. Guido died of black lung disease in 1928, 20 years prior to my birth. Had he lived into his mid-80’s, as was the case with my father, Joseph Pretti, I would have known that he arrived in America at age 16 on July 3, 1893, passing through the great immigration hall at Ellis Island. I would have known that he was bound for Hazelton, PA where his father (and sponsor) was working in coal mines that helped fuel Andrew Carnegie’s steel mills. But more importantly yet, I would have known that he was from Cagno, a small Trentino village in the upper end of the Val di Non. What little my father knew about his father’s Tyrolean history was scant. Guido’s life in Cagno had been one of poverty, and his emigration was more out of necessity than choice. It was a difficult part of his life that he had left behind and not a time for fond reminiscence. Of this much I was certain: Guido was the third of four brothers to emigrate, that he arrived carrying an Austrian passport, that he was Tyrolean and not Italian, and that his oldest brother, Benched returned to the “old country” immediately prior to WWI. My father had no recollection of being told of Ben’s fate once he returned to the Sud Tyrol.
It was not until 1983 that the details of my Trentini ancestry began to fall into place. It was then that I came across Fr. Bonifacio Bolognani’s book, “A Courageous People from the Dolomites.” In reading the book, I learned that Cagno was the “well spring” for virtually every Trentini emigrant carrying the surname of Preti. The next piece of the puzzle came in 1987 when a first cousin of my father, Leon, made a chance visit to Glenwood Springs. Leon and my father had not seen each other in over 60 years. Their reunion was made possible only by Leon’s penchant for calling on anyone named Pretti during his travels, this time returning to his home in Washington. As Leon later explained. “I struck pay dirt when I found ten Pretti’s listed in the local phone book.”
From Leon, my father and I learned that Uncle Ben (Benedetto) had returned to Cagno, married at the age of 45, and started a family. The youngest child, also named Benedetto, lived in Cagno with his wife and immediate family.
But it was not until 2002 that my wife and I visited Cagno and were able to finally meet the closest of my Trentini relatives. It was uncanny to see that Benedettoso closely resembled my father that they could have been twin brothers. And to see that a few rows of chard, my father’s favorite vegetable, were growing in the family garden. But it was also a bittersweet occasion, made so by my father’s death in 1994. I have no doubt he would have enjoyed this reunion immensely. So while I never had the occasion to spend time with Guido, I have no doubt that his spirit played a large role in gaining a far better understanding and appreciation of my Trentino heritage. And as I fill a bag with the same wild mush-rooms Guido picked eighty years prior, I always pay tribute to his ethereal presence. With a full bag of King Boletus (Porcini), I certainly have ample reason to do so.
Dennis Pretti is one of three Trentini descendants who served as Mayor in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. He is now retired and resides in Grand Junction, Colorado where he and his wife, Peggy, have resided for the past 15 years. He returns to Glenwood Springs annually to organize and celebrate the Amici d’Italia Picnic in the Park, which dates back to 1995.
Written by Dennis Pretti. Grand Junction, Colorado
Family Stories: Scaia’s Mountain
Throughout the years, throughout my growing up to present, there has been a black-and- white photograph that has hung in my parents’ kitchen. The landscape, the mountain range landscape sticks out among the other pictures and decorations distinctively. That picture is of Scaia Mountain, which resides in the Canadian province of British Columbia, has been a conversation piece for family and friends.
One doesn’t truly appreciate ancestry when they are children. All I knew about my maternal side of the family was that we came from the northern part of Italy, which was once a part of Austria before the time of war. As years passed, after my family immigrated to the United States, the historical knowledge of my family was more compact. My asking about that picture, why we had a two-toned, framed landscape hanging in the kitchen, always had the same response: that’s Scaia Mountain. My ears perked up with interest, and I asked if it was named after our family.
The five Scaia brothers emigrated from Tyrol region of Austria that is now northern Italy. They left their serene village of Prezzo and ventured to England before settling in Solvay, New York. Unlike many who immigrated to Solvay, individuals who settled in the village worked at the soda ash plant, Solvay Process, the Scaia brothers left Solvay in different directions. Domenico, my great-great-grandfather returned to Tyrol to live. Adam and Louis traveled to the Canadian province, British Columbia, in 1893. Adam has a mountain named after him located in the Arrow Lake country near Nakusp, British Columbia. Barto joined his two brothers in 1911.
While living in British Columbia, the three brothers farmed and mined for gold. Gusto ventured to Alaska to mine the gold fields in 1989; he made money mining, but lost most of what he had made in his ventures. He remained in Alaska as a small store owner, postmaster, and justice of the peace
It’s fascinating and heartwarming that these brothers were born and raised in the Condine Valley area in Tyrol. The area is made up of beautiful mountains, deep valleys, and crystal blue bodies of water. To say the landscape is breathtaking does not do it justice. Having visited Condine three years ago, I can only imagine the difficulty behind deciding to leave for the United States and Canada. Although, the Scaia brothers settled in different regions around the world, generating some stir and unanswered questions as to why they did not return to Solvay, New York, there was legitimate rationale behind their decision. Being in Alaska and British Columbia, the scenic views are comparable to Tyrol—the hills and mountains overlooking pristine bodies of water. It was said that those who traveled this far had a difficult time returning to where they came from. It was clear: this was a home away from home.
Written by Christopher Scaia Malone
Family Stories: Eleonor Pia Valentini
The following is a record of the life story of Eleonor Pia Valentini, as excerpted from her conversations with her son Lawrence and daughter Mary Moresco. Eleonor has been living in Chicago at the Resurrection Retirement Community since 2010.
I was born on March 21, 1910 in Ohio. My parents were born in the Tirolo Province of Austria (which after WW I became part of Italy), before moving to the United States in the late 1800’s. While in Europe, my father, your Nonno, worked as a farmer in the town of Cles, Val di Non, but upon moving to America began working in the coal mines of Ohio. My mother, your Nonna, was at home caring for her 8 children. Your nonni (Gabos) raised us children strictly, teaching us to obey and to be sincere. The most valuable lessons I learned from my parents were how to pray and the basics of the Catholic faith.” “When I was four our family moved back to Europe for my father’s health. Due to working in the coal mines, Nonno needed to purify himself from the harmful things he had been exposed to and resumed his farming in Cles. As I grew up, my family and I enjoyed working on the farm together and helping out around the house especially with my younger sister Viola. I attended school for 8 years, but afterwards did not pursue further education. As a teenager, I loved to sing. I would run down the hills near our home singing, so as to hear my echo. Every time someone heard the me singing they knew that “la Pia” was coming.” “Like every person, I experienced some troubles in my life. Upon our family’s return to Italy, World War I had started in 1914. The war had a huge effect on our family. Though they were American citizens, my eldest brother Joe and father Ferdinando were forced into the Austrian army. I did not see my brother Joe and Silvio and father Ferdinando for four years, until after the war when he turned up in Cles after many adventures through Asia as an American soldier! I remember at one point during the war, how my mother Maria saved the life of a soldier who had been tied to a tree in our yard to be executed. Because of this, I believe everyone should trust God and help their neighbors. My family raised me to be Catholic, and to this day I pray every day and trust in God.”
“At age 18, I returned to the states with my family and began living with my parents and Viola in Brooklyn, New York. Deciding not to go back to school, I went with my sister to work at a factory sewing coats. I met your father, Angelo and at age 21 we were married. Then you, Lawrence were born in 1933 and Mary in 1935. Now I am blessed to have three granddaughters and two great-granddaughters and two great-grandsons whom I love to see. I believe that raising children was the best time in my life, and I was rewarded because you were good children, obedient and always interested in stories about our family, our culture, language, songs. etc.”
“Being 103 years old, there have been many new inventions and changes that I have seen in my lifetime. I remember when your nonno first saw a radio, and ran all around the house and outside looking for the “per-son” who was talking. I also remember when I was four or five in the Trentino, seeing a military airplane for the first time. But for me most notable of the world’s advancements was the medical surgery that saved me from requiring a leg amputation.” “Looking back on my life, I am happy with it. I have a wonderful family, beautiful children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. I feel that life couldn’t be any better, and wouldn’t change anything. I only regret that I did not continue with my schooling. I want to tell young people to study, because no one can take an education away from you. And I wish you all believe in yourselves, be proud of your roots, pray and have faith.”
Written by Lawrence Valentini, Chicago, Illinois
Family Stories: The Zanella’s
My father was born in San Paolo Brazil. His father, Joseph and mother Maria went to Brazil to earn the money needed to begin their future back in Covelo di Terlago Austria. Prior to their return my grandparents added my Zia’s Giusepina, Maria and Adelina and after they returned came Zio Atillio and Zia Esther. Covelo is North West of Trento in the Valle Di Laghi, a very small town made up of farms and a small but vibrant dairy industry (cheese and milk producing). Covelo is a beautiful town and to this day a strong presence of Zanella’s and other families who can trace their origin to a Zanella remains. My mother was Pierina Paoli also of Covelo and her parents were Anna and Francesco. Just before World War II they moved to Rovereto. During the First World War both my father and his father served in the Austrian army in the Tiroler Kaiser Jaegger. Both returned with 2 orphan cows in tow – I guess this was their idea of rightful compensation for serving since there was no other payment. These 2 cows were the actual start of that dairy business and Monte Gazza which was the location of their summer grazing and milking operation. In 1960 when I was 11 years old I had the great pleasure of helping to move the cows along with my Zio Atillio, cousins Renata and Giuliano from the hot summer fields to the cool grazing on Monte. Gazza. It was a 6 hour trek up small winding road and at the top we slept, ate and lived for a week in a small house made of stone and mud, an experience never to be forgotten.
My father came to the United States in 1920 where he found work digging the subways in New York City. He returned to Covelo and then returned to the States in 1923 and in 1929 married my mother and came to the U.S. for good. They settled in Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania along with his sister, Zia Beppina and her husband Zio Paolo. The first generations Americans had already begun with the birth of my cousin and godfather Albert, followed by my sister Theresa, my cousin Joseph and then me, Victor. My father worked as a coal miner for 38 years. He was best known for his constant state of tranquility, his strength and complete dedication to his family. He was a tall man of great strength and had the compassion of a priest. He had the green thumb of a true Trentino farmer and loved to grow his garden. He could end a conversation justly raising his hand and saying basta and never having or wanting to raise his voice. My mother was a short woman 5-ft. tall, strong of character, a lover of politics and without a doubt a chef’s chef. There were no medals for her culinary ability’s but to this day many of my friends in Mt. Carmel still talk about the meals she prepared. She worked for many years at the local Elks club as the chief cook, bottle washer and cleaning lady. There were weekends when she would be cooking for a wedding one day and a reunion another along with the daily dinners. She was not as calm as my dad but it was her job to run the house and with me and my sister running around someone had to be the bad guy. What I remember most about her was she was always there taking care of us all and anyone else that needed to be cared for.
We have been fortunate to have longevity of life in our family and this continues today as this year, 2013, we will celebrate my cousin and godfather Al’s 90th birthday, he is the first of the first generation Americans who served in the navy in World War II and still continues to reside in Mt. Carmel Pa. We will also be looking forward to our Zia Esther’s, the last of my father’s siblings, 100th birth-day and being with her in Covelo to celebrate that grand occasion, con vino, polenta e coniglio. Both my parents are deceased as well as my sister but the spirit of their lives, work ethic, family values and love of the Trentino food and culture continue to stay with us. The sturdy Trentini stock is what continues to make us better citizens of the United States of America. On behalf of my cousins Al, Joe and I would like to thank you for the opportunity to tell you about this family we call the Covelo Di Terlago Zanella’s.
Written by Victor Zanella, Hampstead, MD
Family Stories: Giorgina Zeni
My great-grandmother, Giorgina “Jennie” Zeni came to the US in 1896 from Panchia, Val di Fiemme. Her family has long roots in Val di Fiemme and Val di Fassa. Her grandfather, Giorgio Zeni, moved to the area in the early 19th century from Faedo, a small village to the south overlooking the Val d’Adige. Many Zeni families still live in Faedo. We surmise that it was Giorgio who established himself in the family home that still stands on Via Nazionale, though nothing remains of the historic interior. Giorgio had 10 children, including a priest, a midwife and an engineer, my great-great-grandfather Valentino Zeni. He is known for abridge in Panchia that still stands today and has weathered many storms. The Fiemme was a relatively prosperous area at the time of my great-grandmother’s birth in 1870, evidenced by oil portraits of her parents and her grandmother, Candida Trettel, which have descended in various family lines. Sadly, her mother, Lucia Delugan, died not long after her younger sister, Lucia, was born.
Valentino remarried and had ten more children. Giorgina went to school in Merano for a time; she supposedly immigrated to the US because she was “in love with a cousin” but one wonders if the bur-den of caring of 10 much younger siblings under the watchful eye of a stepmother was sufficient motivation. Old family letters suggest discord among Giorgina, her half-siblings and her full brother, Attilio, who also immigrated to the US. Her sister, Lucia, never left and many descendants still live in Val di Fiemme and Rome.
Giorgina married in Pittsburgh in 1898 to Federico Trentini, who came from Val di Giudicarie. He left to avoid the Austrian army and poverty. Federico dug tunnels throughout the Eastern US – backbreaking work – though he made little more than subsistence wages. Georgina was a homemaker and took in boarders. There was no money. My grandmother, Flora, recalled one toy growing up – a pair of roller skates, but her brother, Max, took one of them to build a cart. Flora’s sister, Helen, said that one year the Christmas gift consisted of an orange. Giorgina lost at least one child as an infant and a daughter, Lena, who was struck and killed by streetcar in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1909.
Giorgina and Federico were typical of Trentini at that time in that they returned home multiple times through-out their lives. Helen was actually born in Panchia during a 1904 visit. My grandmother, Flora (born in New York in 1910), contracted pneumonia as a child; the family returned to Panchia – perhaps the cool mountain air healed her. She was playing in her grandfather Valentino’s room when he died in 1913. Attilio’s family returned to Austria in the 1910s. They lived across from the Via Nazionale home above the cheese cellar. When they returned to the US a few years later they brought with them a portrait of Lucia Delugan, deceased since 1874, which sat in Valentino’s home all those years. Georgina died in 1936. Though not elderly, a photo taken shortly before her death shows a sick woman, worn down by the years. She had a difficult life, but her children and descendants have done well by her. We are proud parents, bankers and lawyers, a physician and psychologist, a pilot and a world traveler and more.
Written by James Bulen. Washington, DC