My Aunt Madeline was born in Gloucester, Massachusetts in 1930, during the great Depression. She had 11 brothers including my dad,, who was ten years older than her. Growing up in a tough fishing port with all male siblings during tough times made Madeline tough, but she was one of the kindest women I ever knew. Madeline’s husband, my Uncle Joe Fiorentino was born in Civitavecchia, Italy in 1920. He served in the Italian Navy on a Submarine and later in the French Foreign Legion. Joe came to the United States through Canada in 1950 to work on the docks of Gloucester. He met and fell in love with my Aunt. They had one child, my cousin Michael, who is three months younger than me.
Gloucester was a tough town even in the 1960s when Michael & I were growing up. we both encountered bullies around town and even at Saint Ann’s, the Catholic Grammar School we attended. I always stood up for Michael, and had a black eye and a few other bruises to show for it. When we were in high school I went through a phase when I didn’t stick up for him and even teased him somewhat. I was hanging out with the wrong kids and trying to fit in, wanting to make a new start and not really thinking. Madeline confronted me in front of mom about how I was treating Michael and not sticking up for family. I was embarrassed and angry but I knew she was right, and from then on he could always count on me. Once in junior year when he was being harassed and bullied by a gang of boys under the nose of Sister Maria Delany. I walked into his classroom and told off the kids and the nun. “This is supposed to be Witness to Justice Class and you treat my cousin like this? And you sister Maria, “You allow this kind of bullying and torture in your religion class? What kind of witness is that ?”
We survived high school. I went to work for Massachusetts Department of Mental Health working with mentally handicapped people at the Hogan Regional Center. Michael went to Bunker Hill Community College, got a job at Bank of Boston, and met Sharon, the lady he would marry in 1982. Today Michael still works in a bank but is also a Deacon for The United Church of Christ and has written and delivered some inspirational sermons. I’m sure his mom had a lot to do with that.
Madeline was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer in the summer of 1981, and told she had less than 6 months to live. She proved the doctors wrong, living until February 1983, getting the opportunity to meet Sharon although sadly not to see her and Michael married that November. My Uncle Joe would outlive her by 24 years. Some of my dad’s brothers did not like Uncle Joe and felt that he was not as supportive as he should have been during Aunt Madeline’s illness. I tried to keep peace in the family, and while he was persona non grata with much of my family, I continued to visit my uncle, introduced him to Kathy, and brought baby pictures of Viterbo & Violeta to the Nursing home he spent his last years in. He was always happy to see me and loved showing photographs of his birthplace in Civitavecchia. When he passed away in October 2007 my mom and I were the only Pallazolas to join my cousin Michael at his funeral. I wished that my uncles could move past their animosity because Uncle Joe was a good man, but I cannot judge, they felt they were looking out for their sister.