The Lost, “Caring,” of Letter Writers

There was a time in world history that letters were a main form of communication.  Thoughtfulness and respect, oozed forth from those quills, pen and paper.  The reason for saying that is because I just stumbled across an old letter written in Italian but translated into English.  The letter wasn’t long but it didn’t need have to be to succinctly get the message across.   The letter-writer wrote mainly to ask about the other’s welfare and was herself, mentioned only rarely.

I worry (of course my daughter would tell you that I worry too much) that writing will soon die out.  Cursive writing is no longer being taught in most schools because of technology today i.e.; e-mail, text messaging, and cell phones.

English translation by, Michael A. Chaplin…

Dearest godmother Teresa, I hope you had a very good trip and that you and your children (?little daughter and sons) are in good health; we thank God that we are all well. Give me your news which I hope to hear is very good. Greetings to the family (?), greetings to your children and (?hugs) affectionately together to your (?little daughter). Yours affectionately (?) Nunziata Luizza

Well, it worries me because my daughter’s is the first generation to have no written record of themselves. An article on the importance of writing letters, humorously asks, “If Jefferson had sent text messages to Adams, think what would have been lost to history.” A valid thought, no doubt.

As Newsweek author, Malcolm Jones, finds the root of the problem and in his opinion it is, “Sifting through the sets of data. The most common complaint of our time is that we are overwhelmed by information, unedited and unstoppable.”

And so it goes…





Working In Heaven

March 11, 2014 

My father died on my birthday, however; that didn’t make it more sad than if he’d passed on a different day.  Dad knew my memory suffered, but now his going home will be indelibly etched in my mind.   I will remember him for many things but especially for the way he brought life to all situations.

Note the boy peeking out the screen door - uncle George.  Dad is in the middle of the line-up wearing the bib overals
Note the boy peeking out the screen door – uncle George. Dad is in the middle of the line-up wearing the bib overalls

Dad was in the middle of the picture as he was with life. He was the seventh born in a family of fifteen. Dad had eight sister’s and six brother’s, seven older and seven younger. He was the first born in St. Paul, his older brother’s and sisters’ were born in Cumberland, Wisconsin. It was a large family for those days but surely not unheard of. I met only one guy in my entire sixty-one years with a larger family (an Irish family with seventeen kids).

Dad was born the same year as the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” (1929) so he was around in the days of real gangsters.

He was fond of saying, “My generation went from the horse and buggy to the moon!” Dad was a proud American and was right with his words because he told me stories of his childhood and life in the old neighborhood.

He told of the rag sheeny (a guy who used a horse-drawn wagon) to collect old clothes and junk from the area and how that guy would slowly walk the horse or ride in the wagon up the street yelling, “Rags, rags,” and the people made their donations. 

Definitely a poorer time but I think (from stories heard from Mom & Dad) a much happier time.
Definitely a poorer time but I think (from stories heard from Mom & Dad) a much happier time.

Dad told me of how he got into the painting business because the carpenter’s hall didn’t need any new recruits at the time. He went over to the painter’s union and made a successful business out of that.  He was the quickest painter and paperhanger (I’ve heard the stories of his good work and speed) but he hired a crew so his commitments would be kept.   He was doing the work of three guys, at least. He never once complained about the hard work or the many hours…Dad was a happy guy.

Back in the day he’d contracted with a couple national hotel chains (Holiday Inn and Howard Johnson’s).  He had entire hotels to renovate and decorate both in and out-of-state.  He was a maestro the way he quickly assessed the situation and assigned the right people to the tasks at hand.

1948 - wedding picture
1948 – wedding picture

He began selling carpet to people who’d hired him for other decorating jobs and that went so well that he eventually got into the carpet business alone. He had a store but none of us knew how it should be run.  Dad stuck with it and made a success out of that venture as well; he sold to many contractors, businesses, and residential customers, contacts he’d made while in his more speedy and spectacular days.

Lastly and at the age of eighty-one, Dad became a restaurant owner. He purchased, “Romolo’s” in the fall of 2011 from his friend, Jay Mondo.

He could not understand people retiring young, “What the hell do they do all day?”  That was my dad.  He saw no sense in taking the easy life and so did a total cleaning and refurbishing of his restaurant. He replaced much of the equipment along with sticking his mortgaged money into the fledgling operation and pointed Romolo’s in a new direction.

Dad never spoke much about himself, though; I heard the stories of his quickness and mastery of the entire construction field.  His good friend, Tom remarked once, “Your dad was so smart he finished school in the eighth grade.”  Well not entirely true, he had to quit school and get a job to help support that large family.

His dad, my grandpa, took his every paycheck.  I think that motivated him to strike out on his own and Dad really made an impact with those he came into contact with.  He always paid more than fair wages. He emphasized neatness and a loyalty to your job, something he said was gone.

Some of the old days and ways stayed with him though.   For example, paying off cops for minor infractions that my brother and I had gotten into.  I’m sure his mistrust of the government came from his Grandpa and dad, and then from my Dad and onto me.  The government in Italy, in those days, took everything from the workingman…through taxes.  There were still taxes to pay in America, but they weren’t so hefty then and the government of the day branded the new Italian immigrants as being gangsters, I mean who hasn’t heard of the, Mafia.

Battling through the stereotypes and prejudices Dad lived to eighty-four years of age and lastly he made this prophetic remark, “I’ll work until the day I die,” and so he did.  I love that man.  

Dad's Pizza pie at his Romolo's restaurant, love you, Dad.
Dad’s Pizza pie at his Romolo’s restaurant, love you, Dad.

Dancing In Heaven…

My father died on my birthday, but for sure that didn’t make it a sad day.   In fact my sister told me, “Dad wanted to get the family together for one last party and it happened to be on your birthday.”   Every year I will remember him for many things, but especially because of his peacemaker ways.

Dad right in the middle with the overalls.
Dad right in the middle with the overalls.

Instead of getting drunk (I don’t drink), dancing (I can’t dance) and selfishly celebrating my birthday, I will respect life more because of my unanswered knock and Dad’s passing through heaven’s door on my birth anniversary.

I got somewhat close to Dad In the 80’s; that was when we worked side by side on many paperhanging jobs.  Dad instilled strong work ethics in me and one he stressed was to never work just to be paid a pity check, “That’s not fair to the employer,” he stressed.  Dad always emphasized, neatness, and a loyalty to your job.  And lastly he made this prophetic remark, “I’ll work until the day I die.”

He saw no sense in taking the easy life and could not understand when people retired young, “What the hell do they do all day?”  That was my dad.  He worried about me until he saw the volumes of writing I do and though he couldn’t understand how I could busy myself day in and out with that, (he despised any sort of paperwork); Dad was happy knowing that I had something other than raising my daughter.

Dad was always the life of any party he was at; wedding receptions oh my goodness.  Dad could seemingly dance circles around Fred Astaire and he and his sister, Mary could  – cut a rug – better than any two I’d ever seen, yeah he was quite a man, my dad.

1948 - wedding picture
1948 – wedding picture

To me, (and I understood this completely) it was like Dad had a new life after his bypass surgery at the Mayo Clinic years before.  He had changed and was different; he became more solemn. He either didn’t remember or didn’t like to think of the busy 80’s.  

His wild turbulent days were his past, and so I will leave those years behind as well.  He never liked reminders of yesteryear.  I recall asking him about ancestral things but he said, “Steve, I don’t care what happened back then,” I never pestered him again about that or anything else that might upset him for he had too much on his plate as it was, though, he seemed more at ease when dealing with stress.

Throughout the years, as my father saw his youth slip away, he would remind me of his quickness and thoroughness when he was younger with only a few words.  He told me of one day going to a small (it would be time-consuming to most) paperhanging job and never shutting his truck off, “It was only an entryway to hang and it was so cold out.  I carried the papering table in, cut and pasted the paper, tore the table down and hauled it out to my truck then went back inside and hung the vinyl…it only took 10-20 minutes.”   Dad never spoke much about himself though, he let others tell me the stories of his quickness and mastery of the entire construction field.  His good friend, Tom, remarked once that, “Your dad was so smart he finished school in the eighth grade.”  He was old enough to work, earn money and help the family; his dad took his every paycheck.  Sometimes it was difficult being his son because the differences were so great.

He never spoke of what it was like to get old.  He never (or at least didn’t like to think of himself that way) but I saw it happen, first to me, then to my infallible dad.  It’s a feeling that you can do something that physically you cannot.  You picture the activity in your mind and even see yourself doing it, so you try, but you screw it up. It is then time to stop fantasizing about unrealistic goals. Each passing year I will hear Dad clearly on my birthday, March 11, 20… 

Me, Stephanie and Dad
Me, Stephanie and Dad


Dad's Pizza pie at his Romolo's restaurant.
Dad’s Pizza pie at his Romolo’s restaurant.


                         What some of the nephews and nieces said upon his demise…

So sad to hear the passing of Uncle Fred. He was a great man and a great Uncle. He will be missed greatly.Jenny Richie Very sad.

March 12 at 10:25am

Michelle Richie Borre He was such sweet man! What an inspiration -opens a restaurant in his later years to stay busy and social. So neat!
I will really miss our chats.
March 12 at 10:46am

Joseph Richie Sad day
March 12 at 11:21am · Like

Barb Blunt-Holmgren My favorite memory was him playing the guitar for us. He was a gem.
March 12 at 11:23am

Christine Mayo So sad, Yes he was such an extraordinary man! Loved him and am praying for his family.
March 12 at 12:15pm

Janice Richie I loved dancing with him at the weddings. When he told me he bought the restaurant, I thought it was so great!!! He needed a place to have coffee all the time. He was so much like my Dad. I will miss him so much!!

March 12 at 1:03pm

Patricia Ricci Stendahl Heard the news last night and am absolutely heartbroken. Uncle Fred had a great sense of humor, a quick wit, a contagious smile, a gift for storytelling and was a fabulous dancer. I’m so sad he’s no longer with us in this world. I loved Uncle Fred and am praying for his family.
March 12 at 2:41pm

Sue Ricci I will really miss him. In addition to what you all wrote, I will miss his great stories.

Italian Ancestry

Picturesque town in Abruzzi Region


The Europeans had a massive immigration to America around the turn of the last century, much like the Asian influx of recent years.  My great grandfather came to this country with wife and children, on a ship of course…1896?   His family was six including the parents’.  He came to this land from the province of Abruzzi, (pronounced a·brutṭ· si,) Italy.  That province is southeast of Rome on the Adriatic Sea. My grandfather was still a boy.  The reason they left for America was the same reason that people immigrate to the U. S. today; a chance for a better life. Many foreigners think of (or at least they used to) America as having streets paved with gold.  The U.S.A. was and is a country where dreams can come true. They were aboard a ship that went north from New York Harbor to Boston harbor and then made their way to Cumberland, Wisconsin and that was where they settled. I don’t know their reason for settling in that little hamlet and don’t know if there was a reason.  Maybe it was a nice day, and or, a comfortable spot to put down roots.  There were dozens of other Ricci’s on that boat and some stayed along the east coast and other places on their way west but many remained in Cumberland as well. There was a time in the ‘60’s when I went to my uncle’s cabin in Cumberland and I recall seeing our name displayed on many a business window.  The spelling, Ricci, (that was the original Italian spelling) was also prominently displayed.  At the time Richie was the biggest name in that town.

Grandpa took his already large (by today’s standards) family and moved to St. Paul because it provided more opportunity for work.  He was a self-taught carpenter. My dad, was the first born in St. Paul.  He was exactly in the middle of the large family. Dad was the seventh child born, there were seven older and seven younger, eight sisters and six brothers.  How’s that for being right in the middle of all the action?

Anyway, back in the early 1900’s when my Great Aunt Lizzy, your Great-Great Grandpa’s sister told me that while she was in grade school she spelled her name Ricci and the teacher told her that she was in America now and so would spell it the American way…hence, Richie.  Back then, it was a disgrace not to speak American English if you lived here.  Nowadays, they let every language in the world be spoken and encourage the diversity. But you know, even in the Philippines (a third-world country) where there are 70 different dialects spoken there is 1 common, national language spoken throughout the islands. However, my dad told me that the name change occurred in the ‘40’s.  The name had been legally Americanized but that his brother, my uncle John, was in the Navy at the time and so never had his name changed.  Uncle John and his family still spell it, Ricci. If I had more time I could gather much more information but you told me you need it soon so this is what I’ve got.  I hope it helps some.


Note the boy peeking out the screen door - uncle George.  Dad is in the middle of the line-up wearing the bib overals
Note the boy peeking out the screen door – uncle George. Dad is in the middle of the line-up wearing the bib overalls
All not present, but my grandmother is holding the youngest, Virginia...
All not present, but my grandmother is holding the youngest, Virginia…

Wisconsin, State Census, 1905

Name: John Ricci
Residence Place: Cumberland town, Barron, Wisconsin
Age (Original): 10y
Birth Year (Estimated): Abt 1895
Birthplace: Italy
Relationship to Head of Household (Original Language): Son
Race: White
Gender: Male
Marital Status: Single
Parent 1 Birthplace: Italy
Parent 2 Birthplace: Italy
Family Number: 64
Page: 235
Line Number: 43
GS Film number: 1020439
Digital Folder Number: 4236845
Image Number: 00524
Household Role Gender Age Birthplace
Carmino Ricci Head M 42y Italy
Carmine Ricci Wife F 37y Italy
John Ricci Son M 10y Italy
Josephine Ricci Daughter F 8y Italy
Ernestina Ricci Daughter F 6y Pennsylvania
Frank Ricci Son M 4y Pennsylvania
Philomene Ricci Daughter F 1y Wisconsin
Citing this Record:
“Wisconsin, State Census, 1905,” index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 24 Sep 2014), John Ricci in household of Carmino Ricci, Cumberland town, Barron, Wisconsin; citing p. 235, line 43, State Historical Society, Madison; FHL microfilm 1020439.

1920 United States Federal Census

John Ricci

Mary Ricci and husband, John Ricci
Mary Ricci and husband, John Ricci

                                                                                                                                                     Age: 24
Birth Year: abt 1896
Birthplace: Italy

                                                                                                                                             Home in 1920: Cumberland, Barron, Wisconsin

                                                                                                                                             Race: White
Gender: Male
Immigration Year: 1895
Relation to Head of House: Son
Marital Status: Married
Spouse’s Name: Mary Ricci

Carmine Ricci and wife, Carmina Ricci
Carmine Ricci and wife, Carmina Ricci

Father’s Name:  Carmine Ricci    

Father’s Birthplace: Italy

Mother’s name: Carmina Ricc

Mother’s Birthplace: Italy

Naturalization Status: Naturalized
Occupation: Laborer
Industry: Farm
Name Age
Carmine Ricci 57
Carmine Ricci 54
John Ricci 24

Mary Ricci 20 (possibly Lombardo.. wife of John Ricci)

Fluma Ricci 16
Frank Ricci 13
Josephine Ricci 11
Lizzie Ricci 9
Annie Ricci 1 (Granddaughter of Carmine and Carmina)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
1930 Census – St Paul, Ramsey, Minnesota 1930

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              John Ricci 34
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Mary F Ricci 31

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Born in Wisconsin/Ages

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Anna C Ricci 11 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Carmen A Ricci  9
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     George A Ricci  7
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Esther J Ricci  6
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Palma L Ricci  5
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Loraine Ricci  3
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       John L Ricci 2


Born in Minnesota

             Alfred J. Ricci 0                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              


               Famous people & Their Provinces

Pacentro is in Abruzzi’s Apennine Mountain Range.  It is high above sea level and so when Pacentro’s castle, Colle Castello, was built in the 14th century attacking or advancing troops could be seen while still in the distance.  Colle Castello majestically stands in this gorgeous medieval town that was built by Cantelmo lords in the 14th Century.   The castle was in possession by several powerful families up until 1957.  Then the Cipriani-Avolio family sold the castle to the town government.

(Some of the)Famous People From the Abruzzi RegionIn 1901 and 1902 Gaetano Ciccone and Michelina Di Iulio the grandparents of Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone (yes, Madonna the singer) were born and where today her relatives still live.
    “The King of Cool” Dean Martin (Dino Crocetti)
    Henry Mancini Composer/Conductor (Scanno)                                                                                                                      
    Perry Como- American singer and television personality (Palena)

    Only undefeated champion in Heavyweight Boxing history…                                                                                                                                                                Tommy Lasorda – American Baseball Player/Coach/Manager (Chieti)

    As a young player for the same team he woud later manage to World Series status and wins
    As a young player for the same team he woud later manage to World Series status and wins
    Rocky Marciano – Boxer (Chieti)