A short while before Dad’s discharge from the army, Josie and Grandpa began to make plans to build another replacement home for themselves, on the remaining parcel of land they still owned on Chestnut Street. With the war almost at an end, building supplies slowly began to become available.
By the early spring of 1946, they had already moved out of the upstairs apartment and were settled in their new home at 22 Chestnut Street. It was a brick split level house, situated on a corner plot, and as usual, perfectly constructed with all the precise details for which Grandpa was noted.
Building and construction and real estate in general were on the upswing. Business began to develop and flourish. The service men returning from the war took advantage of the GI Bill of Rights offered to them by our government, and enrolled in various colleges of their choice, tuition free. This was a wonderful opportunity to earn a college degree and to obtain a well-paying position upon graduation. Things in general were looking good. Everybody was engaged in finding their niche, and feeling optimistic about it.
In addition to Rosemary, both Sal and Jean were now enrolled in school. All three enjoyed making friends at school and with the neighbors’ children. When not in school, they enjoyed the space and surroundings around our home. Traffic was minimal, and the area was still a quiet and ideal place to raise children. The children took great delight in walking to Josie and Grandpa’s new home to visit. Their house was on the same side of the street as ours, about 300 feet away – a small enough distance for them to safely venture alone. Rosemary would take charge of her “little brood”. As usual, she always handled her responsibilities very well.
With the upstairs still vacant after Josie and Grandpa’s move, Dad and I decided to rent it. This would help us financially, as there were so many things we had postponed buying while Dad was in the service. Our finished room downstairs had already been converted into another bedroom at the time Josie and Grandpa had moved in, so we were not lacking any space. We rented the apartment to a very lovely widow lady, Mrs. Sylvia, and her single daughter who went to business each day. They were ideal tenants, and paid their monthly rent of $50 on time, without fail.
In the spring of 1948 I learned I was pregnant again. As usual, we were happy to learn of the good news, and grateful that Dad would be at home to welcome the new addition. On October 12, 1948, Paul Christopher was born. Because he was born on Columbus Day, Rosemary talked Dad and I into giving him a middle name at birth. All five of our other children had only one name given them at birth. Their second name was given at confirmation. Paul was the exception because of Rosemary’s strong influence. I’m glad she made the suggestion; it was very appropriate.
The town of Malverne was growing like all the other towns after the war. As a result, more and more people were moving in, and school enrollment increased steadily. In the Valley Stream school district it became necessary for the children to attend split sessions – morning and afternoon. Our children went in the morning, but like the rest, were subjected to afternoon sessions as well, according to their scheduled assignments by the administration.
In the District 13 elementary school where our children attended, the enrollment was 1,400 in kindergarten through sixth grade. Besides the crowded conditions, Dad and I objected to the split sessions. Morning classes meant getting the kids on the bus very early, and the afternoon sessions brought them home almost at dusk. This was not acceptable to us, since our children had to walk to and from the bus stop. Daylight hours dwindled as winter approached.
All of this led Dad and I to begin to make plans to make a move from Malverne, particularly while the children were young enough to make the necessary adjustments. We were especially interested in California. Our plan was not to sell our home, but to rent it. This would give us a place to return to, should plans go awry.
Meanwhile, I did my homework for three months, getting information on tile work opportunities for Dad, and rental costs for housing. We were very interested in the areas of San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Ventura, all in southern California, and all considered as prime real estate to this day.
I subscribed to the local newspapers in that area. The information from the papers was very encouraging. Prices of homes and rentals were very attractive and affordable. The real estate boom with its inflated prices had not yet hit California. Anybody who had money to invest at this time could find many lucrative opportunities. As for tile work, it was very much in demand in the construction of homes and buildings there. Many homes were designed in Spanish architecture, in which tile was a notable feature both inside and out.
Dad and I lined up a tenant for our house, a nurse who was very interested. We did not go into details of a lease yet; it was still a bit too soon. The obstacle we had yet to face was to convince Grandpa of the wisdom of the move. Months before we had privately informed Josie of our plans, and asked her to tactfully break the news to him. She was very much in favor of our plan, but in her wisdom, she never gave him the news. She was certain that he would vehemently oppose the idea, and would be very upset with the thought of our leaving.
The result was that even Dad could not muster the courage to tell his father of our carefully laid plans. And so, of course, the only one remaining to carry out the difficult task was myself!
At the opportune time, in the presence of Dad, I carefully laid out our plan, and informed Grandpa of our intentions. His face became absolutely livid, as he stood motionless. When he recovered from the shock of the news, he gave us many reasons why, in his judgement, this move would be a disaster. His main objection was that crossing the country would be very difficult for the children to cope with. I think he had thoughts of us traveling in a covered wagon, like in the gold rush of 1848!
Our reasoning and attempts to diminish his concerns fell on deaf ears. As he was getting ready to leave, he gave us an ultimatum that, to this day, we laugh about. He informed us that if we attempted to go ahead with our move, he would immediately see an attorney and get an injunction against us, citing as the reason “cruelty to my grandchildren”! He then left, and Dad and I laughed at the desperation that Grandpa had developed into a serious legal case. We were upset to see him reacting so badly, but were certainly not worried about his legal threat!
Nevertheless, that evening, after much discussion, we decided to cancel our plans to move. We were both very disappointed of course, but I was very concerned that if we acted against Grandpa’s wishes, he might suffer a stroke from the stress and worry, and I did not want to be the one guilty of bringing that on. Once again, one of the rules I learned as a child was brought into play here; namely, always respect your elders, and never contradict them.
Needless to say, Josie felt badly for us; she knew how much we had counted on going through with our plans. But her hands were tied, knowing Grandpa’s ways as she did. He truly was generous and loving in so many ways, but he was also possessive of those whom he loved dearly – and we were among those he dearly loved.
Dad and I and the children, along with Josie and Grandpa, had visited Freddie and Mary in Shawnee, Pennsylvania several times, spending several days each time we were there. We were impressed with the beauty of the Pocono Mountains, and the expanse of green space. The children had a great time running around freely outside with no limits or barriers, and enjoying the Delaware River which ran along Freddie’s property, about 100 feet from his house.
Observing the favorable reactions of our children after spending visits in Shawnee from time to time, Dad and I once again began to consider plans to make the move from Malverne. But this time the destination we had in mind was Shawnee. The distance between Malverne and Shawnee was not too far, and by car it only took 2 ½ to 3 hours depending on traffic.
As we began to have serious thoughts to make this move, we discussed the idea with Josie and Grandpa. Both were very much in favor of the plan, which was very encouraging for us. Dad and I decided to contact his brother Freddie to ask him if he and Mary would be able to rent us the “chicken coop”, as we called the big barn that Freddie had built. It had been emptied of chickens and eggs, and was now converted into two lovely modern apartments, one on each floor. They were happy to hear of our intentions to move, and reserved the lower floor for us, at $80 per month. The upper apartment was rented to the postmaster of Shawnee and his family.
Freddie also assured Dad that a big tile job that had been awarded to him would be coming up. The job was at the new General Hospital (now Pocono Hospital) in East Stroudsburg. Work was scheduled to begin in the spring of 1950, and from all indications, there was a huge amount of tile to be installed. This would provide ample employment for Dad, for a while anyway, as well as for Freddie and his son Al. We planned to make our move to Shawnee sometime in 1950.
Meanwhile, after many years of bachelorhood, my brother Louie finally made plans to get married. My mother was gone now, my father was in a nursing home, and Louie was living alone in our big house in Lakeview. He planned to sell the house, which had been in his name for many years. (He was the one who financed it, and paid for all necessary repairs.) He and his fiancée, Rose, planned to then rent an apartment.
Their marriage took place in July 1949. As for selling the Lakeview home, they ran into a lot of difficulty. All of the prospective buyers seemed to be black, and were unable to get a mortgage from the various banks. But as they say, things sometimes work out for the best, as happened in this case. My brother Johnny had been looking for some time to buy a home.
Johnny was able to negotiate with Louie on the purchase price, and was successful in obtaining a mortgage. For Johnny, Marie and Johnny Mike, it was a wonderful feeling for them to be moving into their very own home, no longer as a tenant but as an owner. As for Louie and the rest of us in the family, we were overjoyed to know that our homestead was still going to be occupied by the Vecchios for a long time to come. It was truly a happy ending and a happy beginning as well.
On October 1, 1949, we were all saddened to learn that my father had died in the nursing home, having succumbed to complications from prostate problems. The last time Dad and I had visited him, he appeared to be acclimated to the routine and environment of the nursing home, and although he was a bit thinner, he had good color in his face. He enjoyed our conversation, but still exhibited the memory lapses he had suffered over the years.
With my father’s passing, it seemed as if another chapter of the Vecchio family had ended. We still latched on to the beautiful memories of the wonderful years that my mother and father provided for each of us. They would always be ours to cherish and to keep as our very own.
After the Christmas holiday of 1949 had passed, we made definite plans to leave Malverne. We were successful in finding a tenant for our house, and we also allowed Mrs. Sylvia to continue renting the upstairs apartment. Our furniture was carefully stored in the basement, eliminating the cost of storage fees. We decided to have our piano moved, along with boxes of necessary linens, clothing, etc., and hired a professional long distance mover.
Dad had purchased the piano for Rosemary, who had started taking lessons from our neighbor, Mrs. Thomson. ????lived with Mr. Thomson’s elderly mother????? Mr. and Mrs. Thomson loved having Rosemary with them, and would sometimes invite her out to lunch as their guest. They always complemented her for her well-polished behavior at the table. Such comments are always nice to hear. It is gratifying to know that parental lectures concerning good behavior are in reality very productive, and not lost in the process.
In February of 1950, we said our good-byes to Josie and Grandpa and all our friends. We packed ourselves into the car, en route to our new residence awaiting us in Shawnee-on-Delaware, as it was and still is officially called. We couldn’t help but feel the quietness of our three children sitting in the back seat.
I’m sure that many thoughts were racing through their little minds as we drove steadily along the highway. No doubt, they were already feeling their removal from the Malverne where they had grown up, and which they knew so well. Leaving their friends behind was not an easy task, nor was being introduced to a new school.
I held Paul, 16 months old at the time, on my lap in the front seat. Seat belts and children’s car seats were unheard of then. Paul was the only one in the car who was free of all doubts and anxieties.
After we were well outside of the city limits, we soon began to see the green countryside as we motored through New Jersey. This gave our children a lift, and their moods improved noticeably as we drove on. Soon we approached the Delaware Water Gap bridge. Of course their eyes lit up to see the beauty of the carved mountainside which the forces of nature had created, and the famous Indian Head, as it appeared to look down on the impressive Delaware River flowing along with steady force.
After passing Neesen’s post office and store in Minisink Hills, and the Empire Box Company, we turned onto River Road. We then passed Roy’s Tavern, the tiny Shawnee post office, Smitty’s general store, Worthington Hall (which also housed the Shawnee Fire Company), Fred Waring’s very posh Shawnee Country Club and golf course as well as his own private home. All of this was situated only three miles from Freddie and Mary’s house and parcels of land.
Still approaching Freddie’s, we passed Eagle Rock Lodge, Burnley’s house, Hialeah Park (a summer home development along the banks of the Delaware), the Davis home (later sold to the Newcombes), the Irvin Walter farm and sawmill, the Harry Kautz farm, and the beautiful old stone home which was purchased and occupied by the Robackers for the summer months. The Robackers were both teachers and lived near White Plains, NY. A stream, which was fed by an underground spring in the mountain above River Road, flowed under a small bridge and emptied itself into the river.
We then made a right turn into Freddie’s long driveway. There stood his beautiful home, which was now finished, complete with heat, electricity and water. Alongside of this impressive home was the “chicken coop” which would be home to us for the next 18 months. Dad started blowing the horn as we neared the house. By that time Freddie and Mary were already outside, to greet us and welcome us to our new state of residence – Pennsylvania.
The children lost no time in getting out of the car, ready to explore their new surroundings and play with Butch, Freddie and Mary’s dog. He was just a mutt, but well conditioned as an outside dog in all kinds of weather. He was a beautiful dog, and particularly friendly and gentle with children, ours being no exception.
After having lunch with Freddie and Mary, we all proceeded to unpack the car. At night we tried our new beds for the first time, immediately feeling the comforts of home. It had certainly been an exciting, full day, and we were already looking forward to the events and changes the future would be bringing us.
The next matter to be taken care of (of the numerous activities yet to be done) was to register our children for school at the Smithfield elementary school on River Road, about four miles away. Dad and I left the children with Mary for the short while we were gone. We entered the building and proceeded down the hall to the office of the principal, Mr. Bartholomew (who was also the band director). He greeted us warmly and before asking us any questions, offered us a piece of his birthday cake, which was in full view in the center of a table in his office.
We politely accepted his offer and were served coffee as well. While serving us, he suggested that we call him Mr. B, as did everyone else. We were very much impressed with the informality and his friendly nature. Our first question to him was, “Mr. B, how many students are registered here?” to which he quickly replied “202”! Of course we were shocked, comparing this minimal number to the 1400 students enrolled in the Valley Stream school our children had attended. And Smithfield’s enrollment included kindergarten through eighth grade, while Valley Stream’s was K through 6 only.
At that moment we informed Mr. B that Smithfield’s enrollment figure would now increase to 205, and accordingly we formally registered Rosemary (age 12), Sal (10), and Jean (8). We gave him all the necessary transfer information. We were assured that the school bus would make the stop at the top of Freddie’s driveway, and were given the times of pickup and return. As we left Mr. B’s office we thanked him for all his help and for his friendly hospitality.
We left the school feeling very encouraged and optimistic, sensing that this change would be a definite improvement for all three of our children. Classes were not crowded, and all the teachers at the school took a very personal interest in each of their students, recognizing those who had unusual talents and skills, and volunteering extra help to those who needed it.
With preparations made for school, our next task was getting to know and making friends with our neighbors and others we began to meet from time to time. Many of them were natives, having been born in the area and hardly ever leaving it.
Construction of the hospital was on schedule and soon Freddie, his son Al, Dad, and their helpers were very busy installing tile as was contracted. This gave Dad an opportunity to meet many of the local people who were also working on the project doing plumbing, electrical, and other jobs. I had the opportunity to meet many of the parents of children who were in the same classes or activities as our children.
Regardless of who we met or where we met them, Dad and I agreed that, generally speaking, they did not show us much acceptance or signs of approval concerning our arrival in the area they considered “theirs”. It is not uncommon for so-called natives to have this attitude toward newcomers whom they feel are invading their small towns and hamlets. But with patience on our part, and our showing no signs of hostility, we slowly began to gain acceptance of the local townsfolk.
Soon Dad was invited to join the Shawnee Volunteer Fire Department, and later became its president for two years. I was a member of the Fire Auxiliary, which was actively engaged in cakewalks, square dances, etc. to raise money for the fire company. Dad was also a member of the Civil Defense, and we were both active in the Smithfield PTA. We wanted to be a part of the school our children attended, to help them in their transition. They were doing very well, making new friends, as each day went by.
When the hospital job was finished, employment for Dad was terminated. Whatever tile work Freddie had was basically done by Freddie and his son Al. At that time the Poconos had not yet developed into the very busy resort area it now is. Many of the boarding house owners were not interested in making tile improvements, or any other kind of improvements for that matter. They continued to offer their guests a very simple package: clean rooms, good meals, and a large porch well-furnished with chairs and rocking chairs on which to sit and chat for relaxation. This was basically a farm community with just a few famous landmarks such as Sky Top Lodge and Buck Hill Falls, where the affluent spent their summers.
Dad and I were concerned about the lack of employment and its effects on our financial stability. Yet we desperately wanted to remain in Pennsylvania. We were pleased to see the children enjoying the countryside as we did.
So we decided to sell our home in Malverne, and were successful in finding a buyer for the price of $15,750 (with $750 going to the real estate agency as commission). We made a profit on the sale, but of course we did not net the entire amount, as the bank still held a balance on our first mortgage. Meanwhile Dad found some employment with Freddie from time to time. New resorts were beginning to be built, and the tile business was slowly improving.
We began to seriously think about building a new home for ourselves, but needed land on which to build. When we told Freddie of our desire to buy land, he offered to sell us a 16-acre tract of his property, a small part of the large parcel he had originally purchased. We agreed on a price of $1,000, which was reasonable. However, a good deal of the land, which was located across the road from Freddie and Mary, was mountainous. We were able to select a sizeable portion that was fairly level, on which to situate our home.
In the early part of 1951 we began construction of the house, according to specifications drawn by Dad. It was a 51-foot ranch home with three bedrooms, a large living room with fireplace, two tiled bathrooms, and a very large tiled kitchen. (I was always in love with large kitchens, mainly because I grew up in them.) Off the kitchen was a beautiful outside porch that was later screened and enclosed.
The house was constructed entirely of cement blocks on the outer walls, and cinder blocks on the inside partitions. The hip roof, red in color, gave the house beautiful lines. The sides were covered in gray wood shingles, and the front of the house was faced with stone taken from the side of the mountain and painstakingly installed, one by one, by Grandpa. He was our expert, and a truly gifted one at that. In a short while he constructed many beautiful stone creations on our property: a lighthouse, two outdoor fireplaces, several stone-and-tile tables, birdbaths, and a fountain. Everyone who saw his work was impressed.
In later years we would attach a two-car garage next to the kitchen. The grounds were surrounded with lots of white dogwood, oak and cedar trees. But our pride and joy was a very old apple tree that faced our front porch, bearing small green fruit. The apples were great for applesauce, but the rustic country scene it provided was priceless to us. You can imagine our sadness when, years later, it died. We had to have it cut down and removed. It almost seemed like we had lost a member of the family. It was sorely missed.
We found it necessary to apply for a mortgage in order to complete our house. Getting a mortgage from the local banks was no easy task, as they catered mostly to the resort owners. After being turned down by two banks, we obtained a mortgage from the Equitable Life Assurance Society to finish the construction.
By August 1951 we had moved into our new home, using the furniture that had been stored in the basement of our former home in Malverne. What a great feeling it was to enjoy home ownership in the country! Of course there were still lots of things we needed, including carpet for the living room and the installation of built-in furniture that Dad had designed for all three bedrooms and the hall. But we managed to postpone doing all of this until such time when we were financially able.
Some years later, my brother Frank was experiencing serious marital problems with his wife Helen. He asked Dad and me if he could come and live with us. As I have said, Frank and Dad always had a close relationship. I think part of it had to do with the very large role Frank had played in engineering the romance between Dad and me!
Without hesitation we responded in the affirmative, and Frank moved in. He was warmly welcomed and was now a member of our family. He was the same lovable Frank we always knew – full of good humor and so easy to get along with. The children loved him, and there was a special rapport between him and Paul. All of this helped Frank to forget his problems.
Frank was desperately in need of a job, and Dad was able to find him one with Tucker Chevrolet in Stroudsburg, as a mechanic Henry Tucker, the owner, whom Dad knew very well, was looking for a qualified mechanic. He gladly hired Frank and learned right away that he had a wide knowledge of automobile mechanics. Frank was required to supply his own tools, which he did not have, so we provided them for him. In addition he had no car or other means of transportation, so I drove him to and from work each day, a 16-mile round trip. We were happy to help him in any way we could. Dinners were prepared and served on time, and Frank enjoyed the relaxation afterward, sitting in the living room with the family. He truly felt very much at home, and we were happy to have made it possible.
The employment that Freddie was able to offer Dad was minimal, and seemed to diminish even more as time passed. This caused Dad a great deal of worry, as the expenses of maintaining our home, car and family were quite high. Dad’s other brothers, who worked independently, had a great deal of tile installations that were contracted for and yet to be done. Each of them offered Dad a job and agreed to pay him well, if he would consider going to Long Island where the work was located.
Dad and I discussed the matter at great length. After much thought, we agreed that Dad should accept their offer, stay at my brother Johnny’s house (he and Marie were only too happy to help), and from there go to the various tile jobs wherever they might be located. He began his new mission of employment and commuted back and forth to Long Island faithfully for two years.
It was a big sacrifice for both of us. He would leave early each Monday at 4 AM and return on Friday or Saturday evening, depending on how busy the work assignments were. Of course he missed being home with all of us, but he realized his responsibilities for our support came first. As for the children and me, we too missed having him at home. Nevertheless, I did not shirk from taking on the role of a Mom as well as a Dad, just as I had done before when Dad was in the service.
I encouraged the children to continue with their various activities at school and with friends, as they had been doing. Accordingly, as the need arose, I chauffeured them to their designated destinations, day or night, regardless of the distance involved. Fortunately God was watching over me, as I never experienced a flat tire along the various routes, which sometimes included lonely stretches in the middle of nowhere.
Shortly after we moved to Pennsylvania, Josie and Grandpa sold their home on Chestnut Street in Malverne and built another beautiful home on Willow Street in West Hempstead. After a short stay there, we were not the least bit surprised to learn that they wanted to sell that house as well. It was sold more quickly than they expected. Listening to them, it was obvious that they were missing the closeness we had enjoyed living next to each other as we once did, but most of all, I think they missed our children – their grandchildren.
They strongly indicated that they would like to locate near us, whereupon Dad and I offered to give them a parcel of our land next to our house. They gladly accepted. We proceeded to arrange with our lawyer to prepare the necessary deed of conveyance. Very soon, Josie and Grandpa’s house was built, with help from Dad and his brothers. It was a very nice floor plan, consisting of five rooms, a bath and a porch on the upper level, and a garage and laundry room, with full size windows and plenty of light, on the ground level. It was lovely, modest in size, and fairly easy to maintain. But what Josie and Grandpa liked best about the whole arrangement was that they were next door to us once again, and close to their grandchildren. We too were as happy as they were.
When I informed Dad, on one of his weekend visits from Long Island, that I was pregnant, his response reflected much happiness as always, but he was worried. We both questioned whether the commute to Long Island should continue with a new baby on the way. After much discussion we agreed that he would continue to work in Long Island for just a few months longer, and would be back home permanently several months before the baby was due in January. This pleased all of us a great deal. In the meantime, the fact that Josie and Grandpa were near us once again gave Dad much relief from worry, knowing that I was not alone should any emergency arise while he was away.
But our big concern was how Dad would find employment in the Stroudsburg area after he returned. After much prodding from his brothers and with much thought and consideration, Dad made the decision to go into the tile business independently, and to operate from our home. Of course Freddie was not too happy with this idea, but his other brothers encouraged him to ignore Freddie’s objections. Their anonymous advice was, “You have a wife and four children and another one on the way to support. What better way is there to do so than by operating your own business as we’ve been doing? So, just do it. No apologies are necessary.” Josie and Grandpa agreed.
With all this support and encouragement, as well as a used truck that Dad’s brother Frank bought for him to carry tile and materials, Dad officially began his own tile business. We were all excited. In a short time, by word of mouth, tile jobs began to come through. Customers were very satisfied and highly recommended Dad to others who wanted tile installed.
This was most encouraging to both of us. To help in some way, I took on the clerical and bookkeeping work, to eliminate the cost of paying somebody to do it. I phoned in tile orders, took messages, typed letters, estimates and contracts, and filed all records to keep things in order. All in all, Dad and I were truly partners in more ways than one. We could see we were making progress, our business was growing, and we were feeling good!
On January 21, 1954 Peter was born in the middle of a very cold winter. The day before he arrived, we had a very heavy snowfall, but were fortunate to have our neighbor, Herb Theune, plow our long driveway. He realized we were very anxious about having a clear driveway at all times in order to quickly get to the hospital in time for the baby’s arrival. He refused payment from us, and told us that his services were a gift to the new baby. Good neighbors are priceless, and we always appreciated the good neighbors we were fortunate to have in Shawnee.
The children enjoyed their new baby brother, as did we all. Of course Josie and Grandpa doted on our new addition, as grandparents usually do. Meanwhile, our house was always filled with a wide variety of friends and family who were eager to visit us at our home “in the country” and to see our new baby. The Pappalardos and the Vecchios always enjoyed their visits with us, sometimes for weeks at a time, including our wonderful get-togethers for the Thanksgiving holiday. They were impressed with the privacy, the quiet and the green beauty of our valley. It was the perfect place for them to get away from the noise and congestion of the city. They were always welcomed when they came to see us; we were always happy to have them.
Dad began to get more and more work now, doing the big resorts such as Mount Airy Lodge, Paradise Stream Resort Hotel, Penn Hills Lodge, and many others. He often took our son Sal with him on the job on Saturdays or during vacation time. He wanted to interest him in learning the art of setting tile, as Dad had learned it from his father. Sal was very receptive, and learned the tricks of the trade over the years. It was a wonderful father-son experience for both of them. Fortunately, Sal learned the trade well enough to use it as a second income over the years to supplement his teaching salary.
Dad was invited, and joined the Monroe County Master Builders, an association of well-known builders and subcontractors. This was a wonderful opportunity to expand his business contacts, and led to many lucrative tile jobs. Many times Dad would get extra help from his nephews and brothers from Long Island, in order to have all jobs completed on time. He compensated them well, just as they had done for him years before when he worked for them.
Of course I made sure that there was good food waiting for them upon their return from the job to our house, for as long as they stayed. They thoroughly enjoyed the job location “in the country”, and Dad likewise was pleased that the work was completed with the Pappalardo touch of quality, and on time as well. It is no wonder that Dad’s reputation among his business associates and customers was well known, and that he earned a high degree of respect. Hearing the many complements about his work was always wonderful, and made us feel especially proud.
By 1956 Rosemary was ready to graduate from high school. She applied and was accepted to Douglas College in New Jersey. It was around this time that Grandpa began to show signs of failing health – weight loss, poor appetite, etc. We had him see a doctor who prescribed medication, a change of diet, and plenty of rest. Despite the doctor’s orders, he refused to slow down and continued to work outdoors, doing all the things he enjoyed. Meanwhile, we helplessly watched him going down hill as each day passed.
The year 1957 seemed a combination of tragedy and joy. To begin with, Rosemary quit Douglas after her first semester. She was already dating Frank Piazza, and they were seriously planning marriage. For us, it was a blow to see her giving up school and the wonderful opportunities that a college degree would have afforded her. But we began to adjust ourselves to the reality that our firstborn would be leaving us in the foreseeable future to start a life of her own.
In May, Grandpa had to undergo emergency surgery for cancer, which was diagnosed as terminal. He was discharged and sent home to convalesce. After seeing his wan, tired face we knew it was just a matter of time.
Despite Grandpa’s grave illness, Rosemary and Frank’s wedding took place in July. Because of the gravity of Grandpa’s condition, we had arranged a small reception for the immediate families only. It was held at the Rhodes’ Inn on Route 611 in Stroudsburg. Under the circumstances it was the best we could offer to do. Before leaving for their honeymoon, Rosemary and Frank went to visit Grandpa and Josie at home, as they had been unable to attend the wedding. Josie and Grandpa had provided Rosemary with her wedding dress, and she wanted them to see her in it. She looked beautiful.
On Labor Day, Grandpa died peacefully at home. He was almost 80 years old, but his energy and interest in so many things defied his age. It was a blow to all of us, especially Josie. But fortunately, she would never be left alone, as we were next door and ready to answer her every need. She knew she could count on us.
On October 22, 1957 we were blessed with another son, Frank. His birth helped to bring joy to all of us, after the loss of Grandpa. It helped to cheer Josie in so many ways; her interest in the new baby helped remove her loneliness. Dad’s brother Frank and Josie were both honored when we asked them to be Frank’s godparents. Of course Josie was especially pleased, as now she had a godson to think about. She felt that she was needed, which was wonderful for everyone concerned. Frank was blessed with wonderful godparents who showered him with TLC all the way.
To finish 1957 on a high note, Denis Ann Piazza was born in November, making Dad and I grandparents for the first time, and making aunt and uncles of our children, including Baby Frank! God called Grandpa to his heavenly home, but sent us two precious lives in replacement. How lucky we were. We were indeed grateful for our blessings.