Maria (Spoto) Scozzari
About 1873 - July 3, 1916
JULY 3, 2019
On this day in 1916, my great-great-grandmother, Maria Spoto Scozzari, died from complications after giving birth to her son, Vincenzo. At the time of her death, Maria and her husband were the parents of 5 children: Mattia, who was married to Giuseppe Palumbo and already living out of the home with her husband and one-year-old daughter, Carmela; Nicolo, age 22; Tommaso, age 15; Giuseppe (my great-grandfather), age 10; and Vincenzo, who had just been born a month earlier.
Maria’s husband, my great-great-grandfather, Salvatore, was employed at the Cozzo Disi Sulfer Mine in Casteltermini, Sicily, where he worked for many years as a Miner. When Maria died at 10PM on July 3rd, it meant that Salvatore would take a few days off work to mourn his wife and take care of her funeral. That decision to stay home ended up saving his life because, as it turned out, that next morning, July 4, 1916, there was an explosion in the mine and 89 workers were killed, including a several members of our family. Had Maria not died when she did, Salvatore would have been at work and would have likely been killed in the explosion.
The original story mentions a single “cousin” of the Scozzari family who passed the funeral procession while on his way to work in the mine. The story says that he told the family that he could not afford to miss a days’ work. However, after recent advances in my research, I’ve learned that there were actually 4 relatives of our family that lost their lives in this accident. Those relatives are: (1) Giuseppe Pensato, aged 13, worked has a Carrier in the mine. He is the youngest documented victim of the explosion and was the son of Salvatore’s sister, Filomena; (2) Vincenzo Scozzari, aged 69, who was Salvatore’s first cousin; (3) Vincenzo Vaccaro, age 27, who was married to Salvatore’s first cousin, Giuseppa Scozzari; and (4) Carmelo Marotta, aged 37, who was married to Salvatore’s niece (his sister Filomena’s daughter, Providenza Scozzari).
With 3 boys at home—Nicolo, Tommaso, and Giuseppe—and a newborn, it was Salvatore and Maria’s oldest daughter who stepped in. Having already given birth to her own daughter (Carmela) a year earlier, Mattia, along with her husband, Giuseppe Palumbo, took in Vincenzo and raised him alongside their daughter, Carmela, who was about a year and a half old. Just 29 days old, Vincenzo was dependant on being nursed and Mattia took on that role of nursing and caring for him as though he was her own child, even though he was actually her infant brother.
The year that followed isn’t well documented, but sadly, almost exactly a year later, on July 6, 1917, Vincenzo passed away. Sicilian records do not list a cause of death, so the reason for his death will never be known. Mattia and Giuseppe had put off having their own children during that time, so when Vincenzo died, they were left with their daughter, Carmela, who was two and a half years old. They eventually had another son, Salvatore, born in 1920, as well as two other children that died at a young age.
1917 also marked the year that Nicolo left Sicily and came to the United States. First heading to West Virginia, Nick worked in a mine there until coming up to Brooklyn, NY, where he was joined by his father and two brothers three years later, on August 28, 1920. The story, according to my great-grandfather, was that they were unable to leave Sicily from 1917 to 1920 because there were submarines in the ocean that were fighting as part of World War One. During that time, my great-grandfather would get up at 5AM and go stand on line with the hope of getting some bread for his family, though he was not always successful. Those times were incredibly tough on the family, so it was no surprise that they left Sicily with the hope to make a better life for themselves in America.
I always found it fitting that this story took place around the 4th of July because my great-grandfather always shared this story with all of us and would end it by saying, "God Bless America.” He loved this country and was proud to be an American citizen. He truly felt that his mother died to save his father’s life, which then in turn allowed the family to leave Sicily and come to America, where they made a life for themselves and lived the American dream.
With this story in mind today, and all the difficult times our family went through, I simply end it, just as my great-grandfather did, by simply saying one thing:
🇺🇸 God Bless America 🇺🇸