June, 1897.

Pietro Sanfilippo and his wife Caterina, sit in their small home in the port city of Porticello, Sicily. The once bustling fishing village has now fell silent. The young have left for America. They finish eating a fish dinner, and are continuing to sip their wine. On the wall hangs a cross and a picture of Santa Maria del Lume (Holy Mother of the Light) the Sicilian Patroness. In front La Santa Maria, their conversation sounds more like prayer as they discuss the future. In Caterina’s hand is a postcard from their daughter, Rose, in Brooklyn, NY. She writes of her longing for them to be together, but also of the prosperity of her new home. Its an invitation to join her and her other brothers and sisters. Will they stay or join their seven children in America? Finally, Pietro stands and walks to the window. The golden mediterranean sun is just beginning its descent behind the dry sicilian hills, when he says, “Che dio mi aiuti,” we’ll leave next month.” His face is calm like the resting sea of the port, yet inside brews a storm of uncertainty.


Modern-day Porticello, Sicily:

Grandpa Bernard

Jack writes about his Grandpa

His dad, my great grandfather(name?) played the violin in the St. Louis Symphony. Musical notes reverberated through the family.

In fact, my grandpa Bernard could fund his medical school at SLU he played saxophone for silent movies and boat excursions.

He missed his anatomy final because his teacher wouldn’t excuse him for a two week boat trip.

He always claimed he knew anatomy better than most because he had to take it twice. He graduated from SLU med school in 1928.

He loved to fish and drink beer.

His most cherished possession was an award from the pope for treating “The Little Sisters of the Poor” (clarify) for umteen years without any compensation for doing so.

Because he was a physician he had the liberty to issue prescriptions for whiskey during prohibition. From time to time he would write a prescription for a half pint and he and his brother would go to a football game and have some fun, strictly for medicinal purposes of course.

Ramon Arias Palacios

Jorge adds facts about his grandfather

Born: May 20, 1930 in Cuitlahuac, Cuauhtemoc, Chihuahua, Mexico to Clemente Palacios and Manuela Arias

Occupation: Farmer

Religious Affiliation: Catholic

Education: 4th grade

Military Service: Fulfilled mandatory service year between July 26th, 1948, and July 26th, 1949

Antoinette was only 2 when the Japanese…

…gave the Dutch plantions (?) an hour to pack up their things before going to the concentration camp. Her father was away on business so her mother, Suzanne Wouters, packed them up, stuffing jewlery into Antoinette’s doll. While in the camps Suzanne used the jewerly to get any food for her daughter, Anoinette. We still have bracelets, the last remaining jewerly from the doll, that will be passed from generation to gentertion, grandmother to granddaughter.

-When Suzanne and Antoinette were in the Japanese concentration camp in Indonesia the leader of the concentration camp would get moon sickness and would make everyone gather around him in a circle, bowing for hours. Suzanne had asthma and couldn’t not breathing doing this, so they would beat her with a nine tails whip. Once they found out that she had asthma they would let her stand to catch her breath but she still had to endure this pain. I wish I knew more about my great grandmother’s strength.

-After being liberated from the camp Antoinette and Suzanne were being helped by the Red Cross. While healing and gaining their strength back Suzzanne got a letter from her husband asking for a divorce. While in the camp he started relations with someone and has fall in love with her, abonding Antoinette and Suzzanne.

-One day when she was a little girl my mom was watching The Wizard of Oz, her favorite movie, as she was eating dinner. My mother is not a fan of seafood and would not eat her crab that my grandmother prepared. So my grandmother warned my mom that if she didn’t eat them she would turn off the movie. My mom did not eat her crab and my grandmother turned off the movie at my mom’s favorite part; when the cowardly lion is so scared of the wizard that he runs out of the palace through the window. My mother was so mad and still tells the story every time we watch The Wizard of Oz.

Antoinette Marianne Haccou

Brittany posts a few facts about her grandmother here…

Born:July 30, 1939 – Jakarta, Indonesia

Marriage: Sanford Gunter (Born October 30, 1933- Peoria, Illinos) on march 21(civil union) and 22(in a church), 1958 In Amsterdam.

Imigrated: Sanford was in the military so it was about a year before Antoinette immigrated to the US.

Childern: Micheal Gunter and Michelle Gunter (one still born baby)

Occupation: For the majority of her life she was a stay at home mom, but she also taught ballet and ran an art gallery.

Religion: Become Catholic after marring Sanford.

That’s Amore

Nick: My grandfather always told me about the older generation, “boy could they dance the tarantella” I only know the music by name but it’s in fact Southern Italian Folk.

Here’s a collection of songs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XULgXK6vVMg

My grandfather also talked a lot about the radio. After farming they would gather around the radio and listen to the new, stories, and programs. It brought the family together and was a symbol of community. He still has the radio on his dresser.

And of course, the classic, Dean Martin “That’s Amore”