The Marriage of
Giuseppe Scozzari & Maria Palumbo
OCTOBER 18, 2017
Today marks the 87th anniversary of my great grandparents' marriage. It was on this day in 1930 that they were married in Casteltermini, Sicily after exchanging letters for a period of time between the United States, where my great grandfather had been for 10 years, and Sicily, where my great grandmother was still living.
My great grandfather, Giuseppe Scozzari, was born on March 24, 1906 in Casteltermini and remained there until the age of 14, when he left for America along with his father, Salvatore, and brother, Tommaso, on August 12, 1920.
Maria, my great grandmother, was also born in Casteltermini, on February 26, 1906. Family legend states that she was the youngest of 21 children, though at this point I've only found physical evidence of 11 births—9 before her and 1 after. After her father's untimely death on January 8, 1923, Maria, along with her sisters began working as seamstresses in Sicily, where they made high-end horse coats and worked for the so-called "countesses" of Sicily.
I'm not aware of exact dates, but at some point in the late 1920s, my great grandfather learned that Maria was "available" to be married, so having remembered her from years before, and also because his sister (Mattia Scozzari) was married to her brother (Giuseppe Palumbo), he sent a letter and jewelry to her and eventually, she accepted his marriage proposal. He traveled to Sicily to marry his her and remained there for about six months, before the two returned to America where the settled in Paterson, NJ and raised their family. This move to America was hard for Maria, since it was assumed that she would never see her mother and siblings again. I've been told that she cried so hard and often during her voyage to America, there was fear that the Ellis Island doctors were going to think her eyes were infected because of how red her eyes were. Though the two returned many years later, in 1972, Maria's assumption essentially became reality, as she never saw her mom or siblings (with the exception of her sister Rosa), again.
The two quickly started their family and first welcomed my grandfather, Salvatore, on July 23, 1932. A few years later they welcomed—but lost—a stillborn boy, who I'm told was named Vincent, though there are no actual records of his birth or death, other than a note on my Aunt Mary's birth certificate stating that there had been a previous stillbirth prior to her birth. After Vincent came Mary, then another pregnancy that is undocumented with any birth or death information and finally child #5, Carmelina, who we know as Aunt Millie.
Joe and Maria purchased their first home on August 24, 1945 and remained in that home—981 East 23rd Street, Paterson, NJ—for nearly 50 years, before selling in 1994. They both worked in factories in Paterson and lived incredibly full lives. Joe did a lot of the cooking, most of the food shopping and always served Maria breakfast in bed. Though they learned to love each other, they really embodied love in how they treated one another.
At both of their funerals, one of their grandchildren, Michele, shared a story about how they would share their fruit with each other. No matter what they were eating, even if they were both eating an apple, they would each cut their piece in half and share with the other. When asked why they did that, they explained that they share with each other in case one of them happened to have had a piece of fruit that was sweeter than the other's. It was their way of being fair and sharing with each other. Though a small gesture that could almost go unnoticed, it was one that proved how deeply they cared for each other.
My great grandmother passed away on July 17, 2001, after nearly 71 years of marriage. I had the unique opportunity, though it was sad at the time, to be with her on the night prior to her passing, along with my dad and Aunt Millie. I have always considered it to be a gift that I was able to say goodbye to her and tell her how much I loved her. She was 95.
My great grandfather died a few years later, on January 2, 2004, just a few months shy of his 98th birthday. He was laid to rest next to my great grandmother in Mount Calvary Cemetery in Butler, New Jersey.