The Signorelli Family


I just got back from my daily walk-about. Walk-about, I love that phrase, I borrow it from my Australian friends. Though their walk-abouts are longer than mine, I’ll still trek around for a few hours. I have always believed that if you want to see America, real America, meet its people and find out about it you have to spend shoe leather. I have met some great people while on my feet. People like a police dog on his first day on the job in Ohio, and a guy and his dog walking across America (both of them with their own backpack), then there is John at the Napa store in Guadalupe, California. John may run the Napa store, but John really is a historian. Not the kind in a university, no John is my kind of historian. He is the kind of historian who knows his neighbors and welcomes strangers. John is one of those rare men who know all about his town and its people. Not the gossiping kind, no John is an historian of the best kind, and he doesn’t mind telling you the history of his little town, if you have a few minutes.

Today I visited the Signorelli family. I didn’t stay with them long and no words passed between us. But, I spent quite a bit of time thinking about them as I went on the rest of my walk-about. I mean what do I know about them, really. Well there is Rosa and Celestino, Celestino’s older brother Emilio (he never married), and younger sister Neva. Then Alfred, he is the youngest of the four, oh and Alfred’s wife Mary.

I could see they endured pain. But, there was love too, the love of a large family, and the love of family still remembered. I had to know. Who were the Signorelli’s. I got home from my walk-about and set about trying to find out about the Signorelli’s.

Celestino was the second of seven children. He was born in Italy. His father moved the family to Switzerland when Celestino was seven-years-old. Then his father went to work in the coalmines of Africa where he died. By the time Celstino was twenty-years-old he already had two brothers and a sister living in California, and so he set out for America. He left Le Havre, France on October 14th, he sailed on the Savoy and reached New York city on October 26, making arrangements for the rest of his family to follow him the following January.

Celestino became a rancher and farmer, then he went into business with his brother-in-law. After that, Celstino went into the hotel business which he did for a year and a half before he went back to ranching (milk cows). Rosa and Celestino had five children but lost two of them. Celestino started out very poor, but through hard work he made a good life for himself and his family.

Alfred married a local girl, Mary Belloni. And, just as his brother before him became a successful farmer. As I read about the Signorelli family I saw a family who started out in poverty, leaving their native Italy for Switzerland, but still unable to shake the bonds of poverty. They left Switzerland they came to America and settled in central California. Through hard work, they provided a good life for their family and became active and important members of a new, but growing community. I like the Signorelli family, I like them a lot.

I have a lot in common with the Signorelli family; you have a lot in common with the Signorelli family. You see our triumphs and tragedies are not new. One hundred years ago, Alfred and Celestino went through the same trials and had the same celebrations you and I do. They made it, and they did such a good job at creating a family of love and hope, that even to this day, fifty years after their deaths, you can still find flowers on the graves.

Yup, I like the Signorelli family. I think I have to ask John about them tomorrow.

Signorelli family in the first row

Signorelli family in the first row

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