Dad’s father, Salvatore, was born in Italy on December 12, 1878. (He died on September 2, 1957.) While I am uncertain as to the exact location of his birth, I was informed that as a boy, he lived in or near Catania, Sicily. He lived with his mother and father (names unknown), a brother Dominic, and a sister (name unknown). His father died while he was fairly young. It was his mother’s decision at that time to place him (and most likely his brother as well) in a nearby orphanage. This gave her the opportunity to work and earn money for the family. I do not know the name of the orphanage or its location, but I understand that in later years, after he had already become a successful businessman in America, he and Josie always included in their frequent trips to Italy a visit to this orphanage. A sizable monetary contribution was always given each time they went to visit.
From what I was told, Grandpa and his brother Dominic emigrated to this country when Grandpa was about 18 years old, leaving their mother and sister behind in Italy. Facts concerning his family beyond this particular time are unknown.
While Grandpa was still in residence at the orphanage, it was required that each boy living there had to learn a trade of some kind. This was compulsory so that the boys who eventually matured and left the orphanage would be well prepared to support themselves.
Grandpa often told us the story that while at the orphanage, his interests were quite varied, and sporadically changed from time to time. It became a real test of patience for the administrators in charge of the various programs. At first Grandpa tried his hand in music and joined their school band, which was tutored by excellent music teachers. He soon tired of that and switched to farming, working in the fields with the experienced farmers. But that apparently did not interest him enough for him to remain with that program. And so he decided he would try learning the skills of leather and shoemaking. Unfortunately all these areas of interest produced little or no results. Grandpa became more and more uncooperative on all fronts. Finally, in desperation, the faculty advised him in no uncertain terms that his privileges of choice were now terminated, and whether he liked it or not, he was ordered to become an apprentice in the art of marble. And in the course of time, a highly skilled master of marble is exactly what he became, thanks to the wisdom of those in charge who channeled him in the right direction.
In reflecting on his years at the orphanage, Grandpa spoke of how he worked alongside the marble masters in the cemeteries, as they very carefully chiseled the names of the deceased on the many white marble headstones. Marble is known to be very delicate in its composition, and as such requires the skill of a qualified craftsman to know just how to work it and handle it. Grandpa mastered the proper procedures in handling the marble slabs, and soon became gifted in his work. We were always so proud of his many accomplishments, and the skill of his work.
With this background of skill and accomplishment, it is easy to understand that in later years he developed a very successful tile and marble business. He enjoyed an impeccable reputation for completing high quality work in all his installations. His business, known as Nation Tile and Marble Works Inc., was considered at one time to be one of the biggest and best in New York State. They completed large contracts and installations for hospitals, banks, schools, apartment houses, etc. The administrators of the orphanage would have been proud to witness these successful accomplishments, and rightly so.
Grandpa’s business continued to grow daily, and the areas in which he worked expanded as well. Grandpa and Josie were living on Dean Street in Brooklyn, in a rather congested neighborhood. By this time, with the success of Grandpa’s business, they were financially able to make plans to leave the city. Accordingly, they purchased a beautiful corner plot of land on Woodside Avenue and Alnwick Road in Malverne. They felt the need for more open space and less noise and congestion, and moving away from the city was the perfect solution.
The home that was designed and built in Malverne was of Italian design and truly outstanding. It was a one-story all-brick home, soft tan in color, with a beautiful red tile hip roof and an attached two car garage. The floor plan included a large living room with a large tile fireplace. On either side of the fireplace were two windows which contained beautiful glass mosaic designs of the Pansini (Josie’s family) and Pappalardo coats of arms. Hanging from the ceiling in each corner of the dining room was a beautiful electric light fixture designed as a cluster of grapes. You can imagine the beauty of these glass fixtures when they were lit – the hanging grapes were dazzling. These glass fixtures were made and imported from the Murano glass works in Venice, Italy. The other rooms included spacious bedrooms, a large tiled kitchen, 2 ½ bathrooms completely tiled, and a large tiled outdoor patio. The entire basement was completely tiled, with an extra den and lavatory. This room was large enough to hold about 100 people, and many parties were conveniently held here. This room also contained another beautiful tile fireplace.
The grounds were lavishly landscaped. There were rock gardens and fountains, all made of lava from Mount Etna, which was shipped from Italy in trunks. The flowers and trees were carefully placed around the fountains and rock gardens, all of which enhanced the outdoor setting with much color and beauty. One of the trees that was planted was a Japanese cherry tree, which seemed to dominate the setting when it was in full bloom. It was definitely a perfect magazine cover for House Beautiful, and to the present day is admired by anyone who sees it.
Dad and his brother Joe followed Grandpa and Josie in their move from the city to Woodside Avenue and lived with them for some years. Both boys were still unmarried at the time. Dad’s brother Frank, however, chose not to make the move, but rather to remain in Brooklyn to be near his friends. Of course, the three oldest brothers were already married and living with their families in Brooklyn. Fortunately, accessibility to Brooklyn and New York City was easily afforded by the Long Island Railroad. The Malverne station was conveniently located close to the Woodside Avenue home. And so, despite the move and the distance, Dad’s family was able to use the train or (if they preferred) the car to travel back and forth, as the needs would arise.
The Woodside Avenue property was eventually sold in the mid 30’s, as Grandpa and Josie felt it was too large and too expensive to maintain. By this time, Dad and his brother Joe were seldom home, being occupied with the fire department, the Malverne Club, baseball, dating, etc. as well as their tile work. But Grandpa, being the sharp businessman that he always was, purchased a large parcel of choice lots on Chestnut Street in Malverne, at $150 per lot. It was a steal and too good a buy to pass up. Using six lots of this original parcel, Grandpa designed and built another beautiful home to replace the one he sold on Woodside Avenue. The Chestnut Street property that remained will be discussed later in more detail.
As for Grandpa and Josie’s new house on Chestnut Street, it was the traditional Pappalardo masterpiece like Woodside Avenue, but the architectural lines were different. This one was a two-story tan brick home. It was very spacious, with six rooms, two baths, a finished basement, two fireplaces, an attached garage, etc. It was set in a peaceful wooded area, preserving beautiful oak trees. There was a minimal amount of lawn, but a lot of green bushes, mountain laurel, and other foliage to complement the rustic setting. The house was set back off the road and a long driveway edged with stone led to the attached garage. Over the garage was a large screened-in porch, with a beautiful tile floor. This porch was well-used as a dining and sitting area, and was nestled among the trees in its own beautiful rustic setting. The address was 22 Chestnut Street; in later years there would be more Pappalardo homes on this same street, but as I mentioned, this will be discussed in detail later.
The facts concerning Grandpa’s marriage to Santa Distefano (who was also born in Italy) are practically unknown. Whether they were married in Italy or America is unclear, but as I understand it, Freddie (the oldest) and Teddy (third oldest) were both born in Italy. The other four sons were all born in America.
Grandpa and Santa (Grandma) had seven children. The first, a girl named Francescina, died at a very early age. The next six were all boys. Their names, according to age, are listed below.
The Pappalardo Brothers
|Alfred (Freddie)||Oct, 1901||1983|
|Theodore (Teddy)||Jan, 1905*||1989*|
|Frank (Frankie)||Apr, 1907*||1987*|
|Salvatore (Sal)||Dec, 1908||1974|
|Joseph (Joe)||May, 1911|
|* – approximate|
Josie (Pansini) Pappalardo was born in Italy on January 26, 1889. I am not certain, but I believe she was born in or around Catania, Sicily. Her father’s name was Tito, and her mother’s maiden name was Santa Brusa.
Josie was a young girl of 15 when she arrived in America with her mother and her two brothers, Anthony and Mario. Her father worked for a bank in Perugia, Italy. While in Italy, he died at a very young age. This left Josie’s mother a widow at a young age, with the full responsibility of supporting a family of four.
Upon her arrival in this country, Josie was eager to attend night school where courses in English were being offered. But her maternal uncle, who had arrived earlier in this country and had sponsored his sister’s family to emigrate, protested loudly (out of envy, mostly). From Josie’s account, she implied that her uncle did not want to see his niece advancing her education in any way. As was the custom at that time, the place for girls growing up was at home.
However, Josie in her wisdom pursued getting a job in a nearby dress factory with the approval of her mother and her brothers. In a short time, Mario and Anthony also were employed. They worked in tile and marble, and were members of the same tile union to which the Pappalardos belonged. This turned out well for the Pansini family, as there were three wage earners who could contribute financially toward their household expenses.
As I understand, during this particular time, Grandpa and Santa and family were living in the same vicinity in Brooklyn as the Pansinis. It was at this time that Josie became aware of the many Pappalardo youngsters playing outside in the street. They seemed to be outside a great deal, and never seemed deterred by the weather. But what she was not aware of was that in due time, she would be the one who would help to raise them during their early years of childhood up to and until the time when they would be old enough to live on their own.
It is not my intention to analyze or elaborate on the complications of Grandpa’s and Santa’s marital situation. There have been a number of explanations and accounts given over the years concerning the breakup of the marriage, some of which are confusing, contradictory, and painful as well. But in fairness and truth, it is fair to say that Dad and all his brothers were the unfortunate victims of the situation, inasmuch as their years of growing up were at times tenuous, and occasionally there was a definite need for bonding and unity among themselves.
Josie continued to spend several more years at home with her mother and brothers, all the while noting that Grandpa’s marital problems were rapidly escalating. She especially noted the adverse effects this was having on the six boys. As Josie became more and more interested in Grandpa’s situation, her mother and brothers were very adamant in their objections to her involvement with this serious family problem. As a result, her family abandoned her, and she left her home abruptly. Despite the alienation she suffered, she joined Grandpa and was determined to help in any way she could.
They lived in an apartment somewhere in Brooklyn. Josie immediately began her new role of homemaker and caregiver. She made certain that the house was kept clean, meals were nourishing and well-prepared, laundry was done, and the boys were well-dressed and clean. Grandpa worked very hard doing marble work and trying to earn as much money as he could to support the family. Josie also helped; in her spare time she carried on a little business at home, sewing beautiful outfits for infants and babies. She was an excellent seamstress, having learned much from her mother. Little by little, she began to get more and more customers. With Grandpa’s salary and her little home business, their finances improved and things were looking better. The boys attended public school regularly, and they were beginning to enjoy a normal routine with regularity and discipline, which added much pleasure and comfort for them as they were growing up.
But as the years passed by (I was told), there were times that, due to financial hardship or lack of space to accommodate all the boys, it became necessary to split some of them. I know from Dad’s account that for a short while he and Joe lived with Uncle Dominic (Grandpa’s brother) and his wife Carmela, who were childless. Since Uncle Dominic’s apartment was very close to where Grandpa and Josie lived, it was a perfect solution, for the time being anyway. Nevertheless, for Dad and Joe, it was a transition they had to make, as temporary as it may have been at the time. I understand also, that at a later time, Dad’s brothers Freddie and Frank were placed in a special home for boys for a short while. The reason for this temporary move is not known. What is known is that broken marriages take their toll in many different ways.
As the years passed, Santa remained apart from her children and Grandpa as well. Later on, in the 30’s, she moved into a little house of her own located in Swartswood, New Jersey (near Newton). While living there she had a friend by the name of Sam. I do not know how long this friendship continued. After living in Swartswood for many years, she began to feel the effects of the severe winters. To make her feel more comfortable, with less responsibilities, Dad’s brother Freddie and his wife Mary arranged to have her live in an apartment over a garage adjacent to their home in Shawnee. Freddie had purchased large parcels of land in Shawnee along the Delaware River. Over the years he developed part of the land, and built several houses on various parcels, including a very lovely spacious one overlooking the river for himself and Mary. The apartment occupied by Santa was very bright, cheerful, and large enough to satisfy her needs. This move to Shawnee took place in the mid 60’s, and it proved to be a comfortable way for Santa to live out her remaining years.
Some years later, the US Government condemned all the property in the valley where we lived for the purpose of constructing the Tocks Island Dam and Recreation Area. This process affected a large number of the residents who lived in the Shawnee Valley, which include Freddie and ourselves. It meant we were all compelled to move, which was a blow to everybody. Our move from Shawnee will be discussed later.
As for Dad’s brother Freddie, his need to move because of the condemnation was solved by his decision to move to Florida. He and Mary purchased a very lovely and spacious home situated on a pretty lake in Clearwater, Florida. They arranged to take Santa with them, and provided her with a large room and private bath in the new home they had just purchased. She enjoyed the mild climate for which Florida is noted, and quickly adjusted to the change.
After living with Freddie in Clearwater for several years, she suffered a stroke. Because of its serious effects and her need for special care, it became necessary to place her in a nursing home, located very close to Freddie and Mary’s home. She remained in the nursing home for several years and received excellent care there. Meanwhile, Freddie and Mary visited her quite often, as did the rest of her sons, if and when they had the opportunity to arrange a trip to Florida. I do not know the exact date of Santa’s birth, but I know she was well on in years at the time of her death, which I believe occurred in the mid 70’s.
Despite the separation that existed between Santa and her sons, each of them, including Dad, always contributed financially toward her support and needs. They also completed many necessary repairs that were needed from time to time while she lived in Swartswood. By their good deeds, they truly lived and practiced one of the commandments we all must live by: Honor thy father and thy mother. With love and respect for one another, we not only can enjoy life together, but in so doing, we can achieve and find peace and understanding as well.
At the time of our marriage, all of Dad’s brothers except Frank had already married. Frank married Mae Connors a year after our wedding, in 1938.
Ironically, all five brothers went through divorce, one after the other, which was a devastating development for all concerned, especially Grandpa. He, having painfully experienced separation and divorce, was well aware of the hardships which a marriage breakup would eventually bring to all family members involved. The transition to the “second set” of Pappalardo marriages took place over a number of years. Three of these second marriages took place before I ever knew or met Dad. Many years later, after Dad and I were married, Frank’s divorce took place. Like his brothers, he remarried. Joe was the last one to go through divorce, after having been married almost 50 years. To this date, he has not remarried. Nevertheless, it was the newer set of sisters-in-law with whom I became acquainted. After our marriage, a cordial and warm relationship among all of us soon developed and grew as the years went by.
A record of the marriages and pertinent information concerning Dad’s brothers follows.
The Pappalardo Marriages
|Alfred (Freddie)*||Perpetua (last name?)*||Alfred|
|Mary (last name?)*||none|
|Dominic (Denny)*||Marian Pitts*||Salvatore, Dominic*|
|Mae (last name?)||Daniel, Earl|
|Theodore (Teddy)*||Philomena “Minnie”* (last name?)||Salvatore, Gloria*|
|Frank (Frankie)*||Mae Connors||none|
|Phyllis Sapienza (a widow whose 2 sons were already grown and married)||none|
|Joseph (Joe) (Divorced very late in life. Has not remarried.)||Anastasia “Stasia” Freel*||Joan, Peggy, Maureen, Stasia, Kathy, Mary Frances, Judy, Eileen, Joseph Jr.|
|Salvatore (Sal)*||Mary Edna C. Vecchio||Rosemary, Sal, Jean, Paul*, Peter, Frank|
|* – deceased|
Of course, Dad and I were the fortunate ones to escape the devastation of having to live through a divorce or ever be threatened by it. We knew from the very beginning that our marriage and our life together was well reinforced with love and mutual respect for one another, and that nothing could ever shatter it in any way. As the years progressed, our marriage continued to grow with faith, gentleness and much caring, and remained that way until the very end.
As all well meaning parents still do today, unselfishly caring for and providing their children with much needed love and security, we too shared ourselves and everything we ever owned with all our children, for they were and still are our blessings from God. For these blessings we have always been grateful.