Giuseppe "Joseph" Scozzari
March 24, 1906 - January 2, 2004
JANUARY 2, 2016
It's been a while since my last post, but being that today marks a dozen years since my great grandfather passed away, I wanted to share some stories about him since he was so inspirational in my life.
He was born Giuseppe Scozzari in Casteltermini, Sicily on March 24, 1906. His parents, Salvatore Scozzari and Maria Spoto, had 3 children at home - Mattia, age 14; Nicolo, age 12; and Tommaso, age 5 - and had also lost two additional children - a daughter, Vincenza, age 1, in 1897; and a son, Giuseppe, 8 months, the year before. It was common in those days for parents to re-use names if they had lost a child of the same sex, so after losing their first son, Giuseppe, it was perfectly common and acceptable to name their next boy Giuseppe. I'm not sure my great grandfather ever knew that he was named after a deceased sibling of the same name.
When he was 10 years old, his mother passed away after complications from childbirth. That was a major event in the family and something that he continued to talk about until his last years of life. With her passing in July 1916, it wasn't long before the family starting making their way to America. One thing I've always wondered is if she had lived, would they still have come to America? I think the answer is yes, but we'll never know for sure. Either way, my great grandfather's oldest brother, Nick, came here in 1917 just before the breakout of World War 1. He headed to West Virginia - something I don't think our family ever knew - and went to stay with a relative named Salvatore Giuseppe, whose relationship is something I have no idea about. The Ellis Island manifest states that Salvatore Giuseppe was his uncle, but I've literally never come across the last name 'Giuseppe' in our family so I'm not sure if that person was actually his uncle or an "uncle." Nick worked in West Virginia for a few years and eventually moved north to Brooklyn, NY.
After the war ended, my great grandfather, 14, came to the US with his brother Tom, 20, and their dad, Salvatore, 44, and stayed with Nick in Brooklyn. They quickly made their way to Paterson, NJ where the family basically lived for the rest of their lives. Great Grandpa's sister, Mattia, never left Sicily.
In 1930, Great Grandpa made one of two trips back to Casteltermini. This first trip was to marry my great grandmother because he had heard she was "available to be married". He had remembered her from the town growing up, so he sent a letter to her (man, would I LOVE to see that letter!) and because his letter arrived first, she chose him. They were married on October 19th and stayed until mid-February. The family story is that she cried so much when leaving Sicily that they thought her eyes would be mistaken for being infected and worried that she wouldn't be allowed into the US.
The second trip was made by the two of them in 1967 when they returned for 3 months. When they got back to the US, my great grandfather got down on his hands and knees and kissed the ground in the airport while saying, "God Bless America."
Great Grandma was 95 when she died in 2001 and Great Grandpa was 2 months shy of his 98th birthday when he died on this day in 2004. Both were survived by 3 children, 8 great grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren. One additional great grandchild, Maria, was born after their deaths and she was named Maria after Great Grandma. This would have made them both very, very proud.
Great Grandpa was a proud man. He loved America and never took it's conveniences or freedoms for granted. He as stubborn and somewhat serious, but really loved his family and that was evident if you ever glanced at him during any large gathering -- I always noticed him just taking it all in while his kids, grandkids and great grandkids were all running around. Even though it's been 12 years, I still feel like it was just yesterday that we were going to visit him in the nursing home and bringing him a hot dog from his favorite place, Johnny & Hanges.