Cousin Judy talks about Grandpa John

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I must tell you about a response I received from my cousin Judy.  She lived in Des Moines, Iowa and was able to visit both my Grandpa John and Grandma Mary.  She loved both of my Grandparents and knew them better than I.  Please read what she had to say about my Grandpa John and my Grandma Mary.

If anyone can add more information about these two wonderful people please send then to me or call me and tell me your stories.


Here is what she wrote:

I remember your grandpa John, very well. He was a wonderful kind, strong and caring man. Your grandpa was my Uncle John, because he was married to my grandmother, Carmella’s (or as they referred to her, Rafella, her name in Italian) sister, Mary, your grandmother. We (my mother, Chris and my father, Joe) visited Uncle John and Aunt Mary’s every Sunday. It was traditional in those days to make the rounds on the south side, where all the Italian relatives lived. My grandparents, your grandparents and Aunt Minnie (another sister of your grandma, Mary) and Uncle Pete were our usual Sunday stops every weekend. We ate everywhere we went–pasta, brachiolis, homemade Italian sausage, homemade cookies and pie; always homemade wine and anisette. Ate and drank from morning till night, then we would roll home!!! During the summer when my grandmother (Nana) was in California, I would stay with your grandparents while my mom and dad were at work during the day. There was always a big garden and grape vineyards in the backyard. Aunt Mary watched me very closely, the kids would always have to come to her backyard to play, and she would not let me go to theirs because she was very protective of me.
They were wonderful people and Aunt Mary spoiled me when I stayed with them. We loved them very much! I have a lot of fond memories of Aunt Mary and Uncle John.

Left to Right: Judy’s grandson Nicholas, age 13; Judy’s husband John, Michael, age 8, daughter Krista, granddaughter Natalie, age 8, Judy’s son-in-laws Doug and Craig, granddaughter Kaitlyn, age 12, Judy’s daughter Lisa, and Judy,





My Grandfather John

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I wanted to write a story about my Grandfather John, but this is very difficult for me. I did not know my Grandfather John very well. He lived in Des Moines Iowa and I lived in San Jose California. He and his wife Mary moved to Sacramento California after he retired and after he suffered a major health problem that almost ended his life. The move to Sacramento California was a good idea because his daughter, my Aunt Grace, and his son, my Uncle Jim, lived in Sacramento.

His oldest son, my father Frank, lived in San Jose California just 110 miles away. My family, Frank and Rose, could and did drive to Sacramento many times to visit my Aunt Grace and her husband, my Uncle Jim. Before my Grandparents, John and Mary moved to Sacramento the families of Frank and Rose, Jim and Grace visited each other often. My dad, Frank, was the brother of my Aunt Grace. My mom, Rose, was the sister of my Uncle Jim. In addition to these family ties each set of parents had four children consisting of two boys and two girls. The eight children were close in ages with cousins just about one year apart. (see below for the family chart)

However, by the time my Grandfather, John and Grandmother, Mary moved to Sacramento California I was married and starting a family of my own. All I knew about my Grandfather John was what my father, his son Frank, told me about his father. I knew that my Grandfather John was born in Italy and that he was poor. Prior to immigrating to the USA he was a field hand that cared for sheep, goats and cows. He was from southern Italy in the province of Calabria and the very small town of Terraivecca. In Italy he was called by the first name, Batista, which denoted John the Baptist. In the USA he was known instead by the name, John.

Once in the USA he found work as a cement finisher working on roads throughout the USA. He lived in Des Moines, Iowa and would travel to the road sites. He was away from his home working for days, weeks, and sometimes months. However, his family received most of his pay and along with their home garden survived the great depression. He was a good man with the hope that one of his grandchildren would graduate college. My father knew that I would never be able to make a living with my hands so he always told me to study hard and get a good education. That way I could attend college and work with my mind instead of my hands. I thank my Grandfather John for his dream that his grandchildren go to college. Without the dream of my Grandpa I may never have had the desire to attend and graduate college.

My dad told me that my Grandfather John fought in the First World War. He was a member of the Italian army. Grandpa John did not talk about the war. He did not like to be in a car when it was being filled with gasoline due to the smell of gasoline. I was told that the smell of gasoline reminded him of the smell of the gas used to kill troops in the First World War. We never filled the car with gas if Grandpa John was in the car.

I remember that I did visit my grandparent’s house but that memory confused me. The reason for the confusion is due to the fact that as a child I never visited Des Moines Iowa. Yet I remember visiting a house with a big backyard. And in the middle of that big yard was a very large chicken coop. I can still remember seeing my grandma Mary enter the coop and check for eggs or find a plump bird for dinner. I wish I could remember more.

I also remember that my Grandfather John was not a very tall man. However, he was a very strong man with a large chest and a small waist. He had a smile that always warmed my heart and he never had a cross word for me on his lips. I love my namesake Grandpa John.


Family chart.


My Grandpa Sam and Grandma Jessie (the F Family)

Had seven Children





James – married Grace; My Uncle Jim and Aunt Grace

Rose – married Frank; My father and mother


My Grandpa John and Grandma Mary (the G Family)

Had three Children

Frank – married Rose; My father and mother

Grace – married Jim; My Uncle Jim and Aunt Grace


My Uncle Jim and Aunt Grace (an F family)

Had four Children

Anna Jean




My dad Frank and my mom Rose (an G family)

Had four Children





Grandma’s BIG Surprise

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On another day, I do not remember if it was before the incident of the figs or after, I was visiting my Grandma Jessie.  As usual, I was in the kitchen sitting at the table talking to my Grandma. She spoke to me in both Italian and a little English.  However even though I did not speak Italian I could understand my Dolly.  I never wondered how she understood me because I only spoke in English.  But somehow we were always able to communicate and we never had a problem.
Grandma Jessie had just placed some coffee (milk with a taste of coffee) and of course her home-made Italian donuts in front of me to enjoy when she told me she had a surprise.  But before I could see the surprise I had to eat my donut and drink my coffee.  I ate quickly and drank my coffee fast and soon I was ready for the surprise.  Even though I was a young man I was excited about the surprise my Grandma had for me.

Into the formal dining room we went and there before my eyes was the statue of the Blessed Mother of Jesus Christ.  Yes, her surprise was a statue of Mary, the mother of God. I just stood there looking at the statue.
However, this was not just another statue of Mary, it was an old statue of Mary and it rested on the floor of the dining room with the top of Mary’s head almost reaching the ceiling.  It was a giant statue of Mary and it stood almost eight feet tall.  I was spellbound.  For once in my life I could not speak.  All I could see was this giant statue of Mary.  Catching my senses I asked “Where did you get the statue?”  All the time I was thinking why would my Grandma want something like that?  Yet at the same time knowing why my Dolly would want the statue.
She told me how she got the statue from the church and that one of the priests gave it to her. She was so proud of her statue. She pointed to it and touched it telling me how beautiful it is and how wonderful.  I could see the sparkle in her eyes as she told me both the story of how it became hers, and then the story of the statue.  The next thing I knew we were saying the rosary in front of the statue. My Grandma’s face was all aglow and I knew that she was both proud and pleased that the statue was hers.
I cannot count the times I prayed with my Dolly in front of the statue of Mary, but I am sure it was more than just a few times. I can tell you how the statue scared me one night when I slept over her house and I got up from bed to get a glass of water.  Walking into the dining room I was scared awake after catching sight of the giant statue of Mary and me thinking that it was something else.  It did not scare me as much as the crocodile my sister Marianne told me about in fairy land.  You remember the crocodile that slept under my bed at night.  Waiting to bite my arm or leg off just as soon as it dangled from the bed.  But the statue of Mary did scare me.

(Note: to Daddy’s “Peanut” – I see your memory is fading fast, your comment implied I was not the best driver, but I was!)