Tuesday Tidbit

It’s hard to believe that a week ago Rick and I were at breakfast with Dominic Renzi and his friend Diana. After breakfast we went back to his apartment and he shared enough stories to inspire Tuesday and Thursday tidbits for a long, long time.

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Grandmother Renzi in front of the farmhouse on Limestone Hill

As a “self-taught” genealogist, one thing I’ve read over and over, is that you should  start with your oldest living relative and get his or her stories before it’s too late. Yes Dominic, by my calculation, you are the oldest living relative but thankfully I don’t think you’re going anywhere too soon. I hope that I will have half the energy (physical and mental) that you do when I’m your age.

Just to update anyone who isn’t familiar with the family tree, Dominic is part of the George family because Lena George was his step-mother. His mother Julia Giordano  died in May 1939 after what should have been a simple operation to remove a goiter. Apparently the surgeon did not properly suture the incision and she bled to death the night before she was supposed to come home. According to Dominic, the doctor responsible was never seen again, perhaps hurrying out of town because of the reputation of the Giordano brothers who were none too happy with the tragic death of their sister.

The Renzi family lived on a farm on Limestone Hill but Nick Renzi had a full time job on the railroad. Although his sisters took care of the boys immediately after Julia died, Nick needed a wife to be with the boys since he was often gone for days at a time. Dominic remembers that his father visited a few other ladies before he chose Lena as his wife. Although he didn’t come right out and say it,  I think one of the earlier candidates would have been Dominic’s choice (he even remembered her name!) Thankfully for us, we get the benefit of Dominic’s memory because, for whatever reason, his father chose Lena.

Carole Ann has mentioned the story of Dominic and his younger brother Gene sitting in the parlor while his father and Custode negotiated the terms of Nick’s marriage to Lena – in Italian. When the negotiations were over, Nick and the boys left and on the way home, he told them, “I think you just met your new mother.” This was only three months after Julia died.

A few things stand out from what Dominic told me about his father’s marriage to Lena. First of all, Lena did not participate in the negotiations. She was in the room but never said a word. She sat in silence and never expressed any affection or warmth when Nick and the boys left.

Secondly, even though Lena was an accomplished pianist, Custode refused to let her take the piano to the farm. Apparently this was out of spite because from what Dominic remembers, Custode did not play the piano, she just didn’t want Lena to have it. In her view, such a refined item had no place in a farm house.

Finally, and perhaps most shocking of all, (although at this point, nothing I hear about Custode surprises me) Custode insisted that  Nick and Lena take her grandson, Harold Galand on their honeymoon. Harold was 12 (just two years older than Dominic) when he got to visit Canada and the New York World’s Fair.  A great opportunity for Harold, but what a damper on any chance for romance between Lena and Nick.

Even though Lena was not a good mother to Dominic and Eugene, the combination of her brother Gene and Aunt Rosie made up for it. According to Dominic, Lena was mean to Aunt Rosie and often made her cry but Rosie did her best to shield the boys from Lena’s fury. Many times during our visit last week, Dominic shared a story of Uncle Gene’s kindness and generosity. Uncle Gene loved the farm and would often stop by to visit Aunt Rosie and to soak in the fresh smell of newly plowed earth. On leaving he would always admonish his sister to be good to the boys.

Nick Renzi died in 1949, ten years after he married Lena. Although he left the farm to Lena and the two boys in equal shares, Lena refused to leave and also refused to let the boys live there (not that they wanted to.) Eventually, Gene arranged for the boys to “buy out” Lena. He got Lena a job at the hospital in Connellsville and convinced her to move to an apartment there.

Dominic lived on the farm and was making repairs to the house which had fallen into disrepair while Lena lived there. On one visit when Gene saw that Dominic had converted the back seat of his car to carry loads of materials needed for the repairs, he commented that Dominic needed a pick-up truck.  A few days later, Gene called and asked Dominic to meet him in town.  When he got there Gene was parked near a truck and as the two men talked, Gene asked what Dominic thought about the truck. Dominic thought it was nice and Gene said – “Good – because it is yours.”When he asked what he owed him, Gene said nothing – it was a gift. Dominic needed a truck and Gene got it for him.

Just one example of Uncle Gene’s many acts of kindness, which are perhaps a big part of  why Dominic is not unhappy about his father’s choice of his replacement mother.

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Nick Renzi on a visit to Canada (probably before his honeymoon)

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Tuesday Tidbit

  1. I’m learning so much about my family’s history that I otherwise never know. I always knew that Uncle Gene was a kind and generous man. I just never the depth of his generosity. Thank you Dominic for your input.

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  2. Kalan, What wonderful memories of my dad. I never knew he bought that truck for Dom. We put “Blessed is he who giveth” on his tombstone. Yet another story to prove how appropriate that verse is. I remember that truck like it was yest. It was a red pick up & Dom put an additional wood frame around the sides of the bed so he could haul more things. It was very distinct looking. I remember helping him put in a drop ceiling. We spent many Sundays under the huge grape harbor out there. We have old 8 mm film Of lots of memories. I converted it a VCR tape but must have loaned it to someone. The good news, I still have the original reels. I would love to edit them as there is a lot pirate baseball games & other stuff that isn’t needed. I so appreciate what you are doing. Hopefully, we can connect as you & Dom did. Love to all of you. Carole Ann

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    • Carol Ann we will never know how many people your father touch with his genes he had of helping people . When he came to visit us at the farm from the time I was nine yesrs old he would keep us stocked with vitiamns. Starting with your brother he would let me drive his new cars taking Bobby and you back to pittsburgh to college. Remember he worked in his store six days a week. from. morning to late at night and was always on call to drive to Scottdale for someone that ran out of their meds.That is one reason I always told him I had to pay him back with deeds for we never had a lot of money. And he would always pay me when. I would help move stock around at his drug store. I loved going down in the basememt and looking at all the old bottled that today must be worth a fortune. Carol please if you ever put those films on disk. I would love to have a copy. What a gift out of our pass . ( But you would have to bring it to New Jersey. ) Got to go these old widows are always bring me meals what a life. God Bless

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