Italy and Canada|
|Date: The photo of Maria Carmela Vincelli (Carmelucce) was taken in 1964|
|Notes: A tribute to Maria Carmela Vincelli (Carmelucce), Feb 21,1910-2010
Who was Carmelucce?
Carmelucce, as other people would call her in Casacalenda, was a kind, honest, hard working woman with a deep spiritual belief in the Catholic faith. Nothing brought more joy to her than to have the family name mentioned with pride (she referred to this as onore). She worked hard all her life to instill in her children the values of how to live up to that honour. What did ?honour? mean to her? It was very basic, if you worked hard, if you excelled at something worthwhile, if you bettered yourself economically, if you helped others, if you honoured your own, if you improved your education and used that education to make something of yourself, if you learned a trade (embarete l?art e mittele a parte - learn a trade and put it aside!) as an old Casacalendese saying goes.
If you had initiative, if you put all your love into everything you did, if you cared for people when they most needed caring for...these would all bring honour to you and to your family. Carmelucce was frugal and most of the time would practice self-denial. She felt that she did not need luxury to live. If you lived simply, basic needs being enough that was good enough for her and her family. She had the basic comforts here that, of course, she never had in Casacalenda. Running hot water, internal heating, electric stove, fridge, comfortable furniture and money to be able to afford nutritional food, what else would anyone want? This was luxury to Nonna. She felt privileged to live such a life and was always prepared to help others in need.
Getting along and staying together (married couples that is) meant everything to her. Marriage was for life, if things did not go well, you worked things out. Splitting up was not an option, especially if there were kids involved. She did not believe in divorce. Sacrifices, self denial and charity were the three corner stones of her belief system. To her there was no other religion other than Catholicism. She had a flair for evangelism in her as well, especially when Evangelicals showed up at the door unannounced. With her broken English she was always prepared to do battle and engage in a good discussion...She was just as stubborn as they were, so the conversation would never amount to anything.
Maria Carmela was born on February 21, 1910 in Casacalenda. Her dad, Francesco, was a stern, no nonsense kind of a man who had a strong belief in the traditional family. He was a land owner and emigrated to the USA for long periods of time to support the family. He spent some 20 years in St Paul, Minn. where another brother along with five sisters had also established themselves. Whereas his brother and sisters settled down in St. Paul, Francesco did not believe that the ?American? way of life and the Italian way of life that he was familiar with were compatible. He did not like the liberated ideas of the American way of life and as a result he never encouraged his family to come. Carmela grew up with four brothers one older, Pasquale, and three younger, Domenico, Pietro and Giulio. Pasquale unfortunately passed away at a young age of 24 when he contracted a fatal bout of pneumonia. Her upbringing was serious and hardworking. The children had farm responsibilities along with house ones. Education and recreation were very low on the family?s priority list. There was always work to be done, that was the modus operandi. As a result Carmela developed a tremendous work ethic.
Carmela and Pasquale tie the knot
February 10, 1928?the big day!
Some interesting stories?
Carmelucce was a ?detail? person whereas Pasqueline saw the ?big picture?. This was often a cause for some good arguments as they both understood and/or viewed the same thing from totally different perspectives. Carmelucce would often win by attrition...she would just wear Papa out. Her commitment to her family went beyond the norm. I can remember her stories of how she looked after Tzi Tzi (uncle Dominic, my grandfather?s brother) who had no family of his own. He had had 12 children, they all died in infancy and eventually his wife passed away as well. He had spent 21 years in Montreal making his ?fortune?. When he came back to Casacalenda, he bought some land and a house with his savings. He and his brother, my grandfather, got along really well. Mom Carmelucce (who was only 18 years old when she married Dad) looked after him and dad?s dad during the last twelve years of their life (the first 12 years of Mom?s marriage). Apparently, when it came close to the end, he would not leave anything in his will to Papa because Papa was away in the army . When Mom suggested that he put her down on his will, he objected that she was not a Fantillo. Mom?s response was that she was the mother of the Fantillos and that it did not bother his conscience when she looked after him. He eventually gave in and put Mom (using my brother?s name) on his will.
Times were tough?
I remember the time when my younger sister (Margherita) was really sick. The doctor could not do much for her, however, one day he tried to do a blood transfusion directly from her mom. He had her hand all rigged with needles to transfer blood to the baby. He didn?t know what he was doing?Those were really hard times. No one knew what the baby had but she was really sick. Eventually we lost her. My job had been to look after Margherita (1944) - in those days that meant rocking her in her crib (natzica) till she went to sleep. I hated it. It felt as if I was chained to that crib. Mom did the best that she could when one considers the times. She cared and loved all of us unconditionally. One cannot ask any more of a mother. Mom had a good sense of humour too but would really try to control herself when confronted with a humourous situation. In that casacalendese culture, laughing was not valued much, if one did use laughter, one would not be taken seriously at all. We, the kids, would try to make her laugh at different times but it was a real chore. She relaxed much more when we got older and would often smile hearing about our escapades when we were younger. One story that made her laugh, almost belly laugh, had to do with her disciplining me, when I was eight or nine. I was incorrigible apparently?she would spank me incessantly when I misbehaved but to no avail. One night, she was at her wits? end, I had misbehaved and she had to go out. After a well deserved spanking, she decided that I did not deserve to eat supper and on top of it all she would tie me to the bed post while she went out, which she did. Of course, the knot she tied was very loose, so I was able to free myself once she left. I had supper and kept listening for her footsteps for her to come home. Once I heard them, I re tied myself up and she came in feeling fully satisfied and avenged. She proceeded to untie me and sent me straight to bed and no supper. When years later, I would tell her the truth about what had happened that night, she would burst out laughing. My sisters Pina and Lina could also make her laugh but only when they were grown up.
A wedding without the groom?
Zio Vince?s wedding day in absentia, 1953,
Giuseppe Corsi, Lina Corsi, Pietro Vincelli, Lina
Whenever the topic of spanking your children came up, she would always state the casacalendese proverb?mazze e panelle fanne i figlie belle?roughly translates into?spanking and food make for good kids. She would also add that to her own kids she would go to no end to make sure that they behaved but when it came to others? kids, they were the responsibility of their parents. The other side of her spanking her kids was just as revealing about her values and character. When dad got mad he would lose his temper and go after us with his belt. I can remember two or three times when this happened to me. As soon as mom saw dad lose control she would step in and protect us from his blows. She would also have another weapon at her disposal when dealing with her kids, psychology. I think she had a degree in it without knowing it. She used social pressure as well. In summary, Carmela was a kind, generous and gentle person. She was strong willed and purposeful. She only had a grade 2 education but was extremely wise in all things. She was a voracious learner. She was very bright, thoughtful and caring toward her family and her fellow man. The love of her life was her family. What gave her purpose in life was her faith. She would force us all to say the Rosary at night before going to bed even though she was dog tired, her eyes half closed, nodding, she would recite the Hail Maries and Pater Noster??Mom, you are tired why don?t you go to bed?? we would implore. ?Praying the Rosary is very important, more important than being tired!? She would retort. And so we continued until the end. Her role models were the saints, especially St Francis of Assisi. She was extremely proud of her family and would often relate candid, caring stories about each individual member of the family.
Who was Nonna really? Some family reflections?
o - Nonna always had a smile and an apron on sipping her coffee. I remember the glass pot of coffee always peculating on the stove ready for her to pour a cup or two or three. Nonna often served the 'latte cafe' in the mornings (with espresso, milk and eggs) It's no wonder I love my espresso still today! I remember her home made apple pies and blackberry jams.
o - "mo veni polizia' diceva nonna when we would be fighting amongst each other or when the Biello kids would not be listening to their elders. It would be Nonna's way of slowing us down and making the young grandchildren stop and listen.
o - I remember well Nonna's baking/sewing/plant rooms. Her part work shop part baker shop downstairs at her home in Lake Cowichan and next to it was the sewing room, and then next to the wood stove was the long indoor plant room. Nonna would have her baking supplies and fine work displayed in the same room where nonno would store his tools. The wood stove, always stoked, the sewing machine always ready to be used. Nonna was always ready to sew up a pair of socks, pants or any other such item of clothing needing a stitch. A pair of socks would last a long time with Nonna Carmela around. She had great skills in sewing, washing (by hand) and cooking and she made sure that mamma also learned these skills.
o - I remember often saying the rosary with Nonna/Mamma and which ever sibling was there present at the home in the evening. Nonna would normally site the latin version of "Ave Maria" whereas mamma would often site the Italian version. After leaving Nonna's house, I remember saying 'buona note', 'buona riposa' and 'grazie per tutti' and as we left I remembered hearing sounds of the crickets and seeing at times the light of the moon shining off the railway tracks...
o - I remember Sundays very well, we would either meet at church or pick both nonna/nonno up to go to church together. We attended mass and then would go downstairs for a cup of coffee and visit with the parishioners most of whom were the local Italian families. After this ritual we headed back to 8 Cottonwood Street for Pasta with the entire family including Nonna/Nonno. Nonna always in the kitchen assisting mamma with the pasta meal and of course her coffee in hand.
o She was kept warm with a coffee in hand and always had an instruction or two for nonno. She ruled the roost!
o She was a rock, a women of faith, an instrument of Italian tradition and culture and she had such love for her family, daughters, sons and grandchildren and the Catholic Church. Mom and Nonna had a very special relationship and bond and would spend many days/afternoons/evenings together. I remember watching tv programs (ie Three?s Company) at Nonna's house and watching both Mom/Nonna laugh without fully understanding the words but understanding fully the actions of the actors. They would often assist each other in translating/interpreting what was said.....
o So many other (pick and choose whichever ones you wish) but I think that I've filled the page with many wonderful memories.
o "Buon riposo Nonna"
o This also gave me an opportunity to remember and think about my Mamma today and the many great memories I have of her. As you know today she would have turned 79. "Buon riposo anche Mamma"
I have so many stories about Nonna but just too lazy to put them down on paper. I think one of my very favorite is when we recorded Nonna on the telephone with Auntie Linda because dad was heading back to Italy and her brothers wanted to hear her speak English. Since she had been in Italy now for 15 years or better. So we got the recording machine out
and without nonna really paying attention to us and not knowing what was going on we recorded her. Well it was a fairly long recording and it went something like this:
YA;;;;;;;OK OK ;;;;;;YA YA;;;;OK;;;;OK;OK;;;;;;;;YA;OK;;;;;;;YA YA OK
OK;;;;;;;;;;YA YA ME SCIENE;;;;;;;; SCIENE;;;;;;YA ;;;;;;OK OK OK OK YA;;;;;;;OK OK ;;;;;;YA
YA;;;;OK;;;;OK;OK;;;;;;;;YA;OK;;;;;;;YA YA OK OK;;;;;;;;;;YA YA YA;;;;;;;OK OK ;;;;;;YA YA;;;;OK;;;;OK;OK;;;;;;;;YA;OK;;;;;;;YA YA OK OK;;;;;;;;;;YA YA YA;;;;;;;OK OK ;;;;;;YA
YA;;;;OK;;;;OK;OK;;;;;;;;YA;OK;;;;;;;YA YA OK OK;;;;;;;;;;YA YA OK BYE BYE.
So dad brought this to Italy and her brother heard it and commented saying that she spoke English well. They sure got a kick out of it.In all seriousness anytime some-one went back to the old country, it was a very emotional and celebratory time as well. We all got together as family and had recorded our best wishes to our family overseas. This was very difficult for their generation as they missed their families terribly. Nonna would never want to speak on the recording machine as she would have tears of joy and sorrow at the same time. What we did was cruel but to this day we still say her
infamous lines of YA;;;;;;;OK OK ;;;;;;YA
YA;;;;OK;;;;OK;OK;;;;;;;;YA;OK;;;;;;;YA YA OK OK;;;;;;;;;;YA YA . She was such a good sport about it...We love you nonna.
Last one and that happened in church. Knowing how serious Nonna was and especially in the house of God, she was even more serious. Well one Sunday 2 young mischievous brothers sat right in front of Nonna with their mother close at hand. During mass one of the kids had tooted. Nonna heard him and was immediately embarrassed. I believe that she felt bad for them. These kids were a little simple and Nonna I believe knew it. As the mass progressed it was difficult for Nonna to really pay attention to the priest during mass. Well it happened that one boy let a ripper go. It was so loud that it vibrated the seat . Nonna began to laugh uncontrollably in a silent manner. She was laughing so hard while trying to maintain her composure. She was in the moment and doing all she could not to laugh out loud. The odd smirk came out of her mouth and she was holding back the tears of laughter while trying to be serious in church. I think this moment was mmm in mass for me and my mom and siblings who were there to share this experience. To date I can still see Nonna holding back as hard as she could laughter in church, which was a serious place for her.
When Maddalena and I were engaged, the family, and I mean the entire family were invited over to Zia Lina and Zio Lieto's for dinner. Like all Italian dinners/gatherings it went to at least 2 am. After the dishes were all cleared away and everyone was sitting around the dining room table enjoying yet another glass of red wine, Nonna Carmela got
up, probably to make sure the kitchen was spotless. It was then that Zia Lina decided I should learn some Italian. She said when Nonna return I should say this phrase to her as it would make her so happy, especially that I was trying to speaking Italian. So after a few attempts, Zia Lina confirmed that I said it correctly. I waited for Nonna to return to her chair and then proudly announced in my best Italian accent, "Nonna, mo me scapp a vesh!"
Of course everyone burst out laughing and Nonna had tears rolling down her cheeks, she couldn't stop laughing and turning red. At first I thought I had said something wrong, then Maddalena translated...
Tina Biello?s recollections?
My favourite memory of Nonna Carmela is the many weekends I went to stay over in Lake Cowichan. She was like a second Mamma and offered my Mamma a much needed break from all the kids. Poor Nonno Pat! Every weekend he would give up his side of the bed and I would sleep with Nonna as he would be forced to sleep in the single bed off of the kitchen.
On stormy nights, especially with any kind of high wind, I would wake up to Nonna sitting up in bed praying the rosary. I can still see her silhouette sitting up in bed, praying, telling me to go back to sleep. Every night after dinner, we would watch 'I Love Lucy' and the game show 'Tic Tac Toe'. She would take all the dishes downstairs to her laundry sink, wash them and then haul them back up to be put away. I would be forced to dust! I hated dusting and still do to this day! She would start crying and say, 'oh Tin' mo me mor' and I would buy it everytime and dust!
Oh Nonna, I still miss her!
I always drive by nonno Pat and nonna?s lot when I play hockey in Lake Cowichan and share a story with the kids. For nonna for me it was her deep dedication and spirituality to God that impressed me that I often reflect on. No doubt between her, dad and Zia Pina I contribute to why I have chosen my course. I used to watch her pray and it was very peaceful and securing to observe and very consistent. It was at church in her home on the drives to Gordon Bay when she used to visit us in the apartment ? she was always praying ? I loved that... Also nonna loved everyone especially her grand kids. We often felt bad when nonna sent nonna Pat off on missions to the Co-op to retrieve whatever the kids needed, i.e. cheddar cheese, ice cream etc. Nonna was the epitome of ?love ?generosity? and ?Peace". However if you pushed that one button look out...
One time the four musketeers that being Renato, Pat, Mario and myself were playing as we usually did. This one time we got carried away in the garage and it was annoying nonna. So she pleasantly asked us to play a little quieter. We did for about 20 seconds and then basically picked up where we left off. The ring leader Renato got singled out this time so nonna thought she would play on Renato?s emotional side and said her heart was giving out. To Renato?s surprise nonna was pressing the wrong side of her chest as he pointed it out to her! Well that was it and all the noise we made basically went twofold as nonna chased Renato around that little garage with the broom as we watched with utter joy! Zia Lina and Zio Lieto came over that night and Nonna set them straight about this boy. We were all listening in nonna?s room where we all slept in the bed the four of us. Anyway the next day it was back to ?club-med? in Lake Cowichan at nonno and nonna?s house with hug?s and kisses and no shortage of ?mangere? as well as pray-time.
Renato remembers? My main memory of Nonna was her deep love for her Grandchildren. I use to love when she would protect us from our Parents when they would try and discipline us, never countering what they were trying to do but giving as much loving support as possible. Always grabbing her heart saying.....?oh please oh please......I am going to die, my heart, my heart....? followed by a sweet giggle and a hug. The wonderful smell of her home when cooking. Her plastic covered couch that we were never allowed to sit on. Turning the furnace way up in the dead of summer while opening up the windows and as a result, Mario and I suffering dozens of mosquito bites every night. The zingers being the ones to our eyelids. Spending summers in Lake Cowichan walking back and forth from Zia Pina?s to Nonna?s all the while picking buckets of Blackberry?s so that our jelly supply through the summer was endless. Nonna also knew that I LOVED burnt toast and made the best burnt toast ever with just the right amount of jelly.
My funniest memory of Nonna was when Mario and I were in Nonna?s room getting ready for bed when Mario and I got on the subject of this one really cute girl that use to walk by Nonna?s house once a day. I can?t remember her name but Mario was describing how he wanted to make out with her so he started to make out with Nonna?s long tube like pillow that she kept on her bed. And right as he was getting into it (which did include a few pelvic thrusts), Nonna walked in and caught him. I never forget the look on both their faces. Needless to say, she dragged us to church every morning that week followed by the Rosary each night. But then again, I think that was a normal part of her routine that we also were blessed to be a part of.
One of Blair?s earliest memories?
Mom and Papa had to go to a wedding so they left me with Nonna and Nonno for the weekend. I must have been three years old or so. You'll remember that Nonna's English was pretty limited. I remember at one time I was getting hungry so I said to Nonna..." I'm hungry Nonna!", thinking that some pasta would be next - the next thing I knew, she put me to bed. She must have thought that I said I was tired! I didn't have the heart to tell her that I wasn't sleepy but that I was hungry. She would have been so embarrassed! So I stayed in bed and went to sleep.......
Carmen Denomme remembers?
o I remember nonna Carmela as a loving, nurturing and giving person!! It was so special to have grown up with her right by our side. She was always there helping my mom in anyway she could. I will always remember how she would make us eat a bedtime snack at her house in the evening...no questions asked!! She told us that if we were hungry when we go to bed, we wouldn't get a good night sleep!! So she would make us peanut butter and jam toast with a glass of milk. Sometimes, she would even give us chocolate chip cookies and milk for a bedtime snack!! We loved going to nonna and nonno's!! They were both such a huge part of our lives and I will always cherish and remember the times we had with them!!
Nick Biello?s memories?
Nonna was a very devoted wife, mother, and grandmother. I remember going to nonna's house in Lake Cowichan and she always had a fresh pot of Nabob coffee percolating on the stove. If she had company then she would offer coffee and those bird's nest cookies with the coffee. If she didn't have company then she would drink the whole pot of coffee herself!! I also remember her not wanting the young girls to wear any clothes that showed off their legs!! She was quite old fashioned and always had nonno Pat under her thumb. She was a fantastic cook and baker. She was a devout Catholic and she was very God fearing. She never wanted to be in the spotlight.
I just want to share some memories of nonna and her habits etc... when we went to visit.. of course she always had a pot of coffee on--and no matter what time of day she would start to cut some bread, some cheese, maybe some olives from a can then she would put some cookies out---her matrimonial cookies, biscotti, hard almond cookies---these things were always put out to indulge and eat...then one of the other things she always would say when she was saying some story or recount a phone conversation----she would say ---oh so and so says ---saluti----oh yes they asked about you--but then when you spoke to her alone or at another time---she would say---oh it doesn't matter if they didn't send their --saluti---i'm going to say they did---because if they thought about it--they would have? then one of her other little sayings was---- it's o.k. to say a little white lie---if it's in the greater good----like sending saluti------even if they didn't?
Oh well there are a lot of memories --and lots of stories----but most of all---there was a lot of love---and a lot of caring---she had a very big heart who always wanted for everyone to get along ....so to nonna----a very big saluto-----and lots of love, always?
There are so many memories of nonna that stand out in my memory. Whenever I would visit her, there was always a pot of coffee perking on the stove, and of course she would always offer us kids 7up to drink as well as cookies, rotolini, date squares, birds nests cookies with jam in the middle, savoiardi, and many other kinds of sweets, cheese, toast, and so on and so on. Whenever my cousin Carmen and I would sleep overnight at nonna's house, Nonno Pat was delegated to the basement, and the three of us would sleep in the bed with her. I always ended up having to sleep in the middle, and arguing to get out of that spot was not permitted.
For about a year or two, during the time when nonno Pat was stationed in Matsqui, I had the priviledge of going to nonna's house every night to keep her company, as she did not like staying on her own. Reluctantly I would leave my house, and go there every evening. Once there, I was treated like a princess, out would come the coffee, cookies, sponge cake, toast, cereal and everthing else she had in her cupboards and fridge. Then nonna would call Marietta over to visit with us when her husband Frank worked afternoon shifts. During these evenings, nonna, Marietta and I would sit at the kitchen table, drink coffee, eat goodies and talk all night until it was time to walk Marietta home around the block. When Marietta wanted to walk home alone, nonna would insist that the two of us walk her home. Nonna would always get her way.
Then in the morning, she would make me coffee, breakfast, and lunch. But, before I left for school, she would always make sure I wore appropriate clothes that would not show any skin whatsoever. If my skirts were too short according to her standards, she would talk and talk and talk until I finally gave up, and wore pants instead.
When at church, nonna would always make sure we were well behaved, respectful and quiet. But one time, nonna had a very difficult time in keeping it together herself. There was a family in the congregation with 2 special needs boys. One Sunday, these two boys were sitting in front of us and nonna, when all of a sudden we heard what sounded like a fart, and then the smell of rotten eggs. Nonna could not keep it together, and began to giggle. As soon as she started and could not stop, the rest of us kids joined in. To see this proud and traditional woman loose her composure in church still brings back much laughter for me today.
The year that Bill and I got engaged, I came home for Christmas with a ring on my finger, but without him. She was very upset and kept telling me that what I did was very wrong and that I should have brought him to meet the family during the holidays. It wasn't good enough to bring him during Spring Break, he should have come at Christmas, just after giving me the ring. Finally after meeting him, she was relieved and very impressed that he seemed respectful, family oriented and seemed to fit in very well with the family, even though she could not speak English to him.
Nonna was the type of person who always wanted to do the right thing and cared deeply for her entire family. Two words that come to mind that describe her are: Respectful and full of Integrity.
Grazie Nonna for being you and for the wonderful memories?your unconditional love, values and strength?
Some chronological events in Nonna?s life
1910. Maria Carmela?s birth
1911. Maria Carmela?s marriage
1928 Zio Vince is born
1930. Loss of her brother Pasquale (24 yrs old)
1931. Zia Pina is born
1934 Zio Franco is born
1934-5 Nonno serves in Africa w/his older brother Domenico
1936. Nonna?s father passes away
1937. Zia Lina is born
1938. Both Nonno?s uncle and bother pass away
1939 Nonno is recalled into the army
1940 Nonno is injured while serving in Slovenia, in former Yugoslavia
1940. Nonno is sent home after convalescing in Venti Miglia
1941. Uncle Tony is born
1944 Margherita is born and passes away at eight months
1946 Nonna loses grandfather, Tate Pasquale
1950 Pina is married
1951 Zio Vince comes to Canada
1952 Nonno Pat comes to Canada
1953 Zio Vince is married
1955 Uncle Tony comes to Canada
1956 Nonna?s mom passes away
1956 Nonna and Zia Lina arrive to Canada
1958 Zio Franco comes to Canada
1959 Zio Pietro arrives in Canada
1963 Zio Franco gets married
1963 Zia Pina , Maddalena, Pat and Nick arrive in Canada
1971 Nonno Pat retires from CNR
1973 Uncle Tony gets married
1978 Nonna and Nonno celebrate their 50th
|Contributed by: Antonio Fantillo; photo of contributor's mother, Mrs. Carmela Vincelli (Carmelucce)|
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