I’ve been wanting to write about families for quite a while now, and everything finally came together recently when I took part in a few family events. Family is an important part of recognizing who we are from the perspective of where we came from. The families I’ve been fortunate to spend time with have experienced life in many different ways. Their stories are varied and interesting but the shared common thread of famiglia is all-important to their present day lives, their perspectives on their past and their future as carried forward by their offspring.
A generous invitation was extended to me by Joe Yates — a descendant of the Maro-Mantia family — to visit their reunion at Hickory Creek Junction in New Lenox. I was fortunate enough to meet with Joe’s Aunt Clara Maro and some of her many children before her passing. There were more than 55 extended family members who attended the reunion throughout the day, including a 3-week-old baby — the newest Mantia-Maro descendant.
Those in attendance included well-known Roseland names such as Mantia, Maro, Desalvo, Dal Santo, Piolatto, Vinceguera, Gregorio and Florczak. Among the games was a bocce match for the ages — it lasted an hour and a half! There were five daughters of Mary Mantia: Rose Desalvo, Julie Vinceguerra, Jean Florczak, Josephine Gregorio and Clara Maro. Their picnics have been going on since the 1940s. Aunt Clara Maro was in charge of organizing and she wanted the kids to keep it going after she passed, and they did!
One of the most pleasant and surprising emails I’ve received was from Vilma Dal Corrobo, who I met when she was an officer of the Piemontesi nel Mondo Women. Thanks to her late husband, Vilma is also a fellow member of the Veneto Club, with which I went to Italy back in 2015. Vilma contacted me to ask if I would be interested in meeting her Aunt Eva Vische. Eva was her mother’s sister and since she had no children of her own, she basically co-mothered her sister’s only child, Vilma.
Why would I immediately want to talk to her Aunt Eva? For the simple reason that I’ve learned from previous experience — time waits for no one: Vilma’s Aunt Eva turned 108 years old on Sept. 15 and she may well be the oldest living Roselandite. Speaking with Eva was a lot of fun and I am very grateful that Vilma was present to add to the stories that Eva began.
Joe Vische didn’t want his wife working after their wedding on July 23, 1935, at which Vilma, at age 7, was a flower girl. Joe, whose family is from the Turin commune of Vische, was an industrial engineer for International Harvester. They didn’t have children and made great use of their time travelling. Joe wasn’t home much on weekends because he was a drummer for Del Hamelen’s Orchestra, but he made up for it by travelling the world with Eva.
Eva recalled that every time they took a trip, she always brought home a souvenir for her precious niece, Vilma. She recalled having gone to Tutankhamon’s Tomb while visiting Egypt. They visited Italy numerous times along with France, many other European nations, Africa, and China before World War II and many other countries.
Eva’s husband Joe passed away at 71 and there was never a need for Eva to drive before that.
When Eva turned 76 she obtained her first driver’s license and drove her Chevy well into her 80s. To what does Eva owe her longevity: a daily whiskey sour and great genes!
Many of you readers of my column are former parishioners and present parishioners of St. Anthony of Padua’s Parish and you share the common bond of that Catholic upbringing. Throughout your lives — as you’ve grown in so many ways, as you’ve gained character, as you’ve realized the strengths you have, and you’ve passed all of these traits on to your children and grandchildren — you know they were all born in you with your St. Anthony’s experience.
As we are now at the age where we realize that time is fleeting, consider joining us at St. Anthony’s Dinner Dance on Saturday, October 7, 2017, for one more reunion. The evening at the Serbian Social Center, 18550 Stony Island, Lansing, will begin with cocktails at 6 p.m. followed by dinner at 7 p.m. Last year’s evening was complete with dancing to great music provided by Spirit Band, who will be returning this year. I don’t think there was one song that didn’t have at least four couples out on the dance floor.
Despite rising prices at other annual fundraising events, St. Anthony’s Dinner Dance remains at $65. Tables of 10 are available for groups of family and friends that would like to be seated together. Many St. Anthony Grade School classes have their reunions at this annual event to show their support for the place where their good character got its beginning. If you would like more information, or to purchase tickets, please call the rectory at 773-468-1200 or contact me at 11403 S. St. Lawrence Ave., Chicago, IL 60628; 773-701-6756; firstname.lastname@example.org.