I am taking a break from the Wood Oven Diary for a while, and follow through on posting something different. Over the years, many people have asked me if I am Italian when I tell them I am a stonemason. “Partly”, is how I usually start off, but “I am a mutt”. My father is French Canadian, and they are no slouches in the masonry world too…some very fine work is in Canada, with heavy architectural influence from the old country, just like in the states. But like a lot of things ( Frigidaire for refrigerators, Sawzall for reciprocating saws, etc,etc) one specific thing, or nationality in this case, is thought of when masonry is involved…. Italians. With good reason…they have built some of the worlds great masonry structures and can be credited with revolutionary techniques and styles. I appreciate having a rich family heritage on both sides, but my Italian side has the masonry connection. So, I would like to share a little of that with all of you. I actually wrote this as a post last year on a forum I belong to, and a couple of you may recognize some of the content. Anyhoo……..
Some time ago I was at a funeral for my great aunt on my moms side of the family. Of course there were many older ones there who even though I had never met, I knew of them through my immediate family. Over and over throughout the day, I was approached by distant relatives that were excited to tell me about my great, great grandfather Federico Verderosa, who was also a mason and about his father, Pietro…..who was a great man in his time. As far as I know, I am the only mason in the family right now…. and when they heard that, everyone seemed to be really happy about it… like somebody was carrying the torch. As you can imagine, the hands were flying around and the discussion got quite animated….the room was filled with Italians after all. A lot of the details were fuzzy, you know how memories go. It’s a bit like the game of telephone…endings are always different.
Then somebody even produced a few very old pictures and I never forgot them…there a couple of a stone house built by Frederico in Stamford, CT. As the day began to wind down, I found myself wanting to learn more about this distant relative that was spoken about with great enthusiasm. Fast forward until last year….My wife, son and I were at my parents house, and the conversation went to that day. I asked my mom if she had any information about Frederico or Pietro, and she produced a folder that had been mailed to her by a cousin Guy (who was also a great grandchild of Frederico) that had done some digging into the family history. It contained mostly copies of articles and photos, and there was one original of Federico and his wife and a couple of my great great grandmother Laura when she was young. There are immigration papers (copies) from Ellis Island too. Here are a few from the folder
Pietro Verderosa – My Great-Great-Great Grandfather
Apparently, he was quite the man in Lioni, Italy, as his obituary can attest. Pals with Guiseppe Verdi…how about that?!!
Federico Verderosa – My Great-Great Grandfather This is who we spent the most time discussing.
That’s him on the far left..Pietro is on the right. My great grandmother Laura is seated on the lower right…crazy for me to see her that young!! She died when I was 13…what a cook. She ALWAYS had something tasty on the the stove and gave my brothers and I wine and espresso when we went over. We loved it and always looked forward to a visit with Nonna! This really means grandmother, but we had a grandma already, so Nonna was used to avoid confusion.
I think this was just an information page that Guy (moms cousin) put together about Frederico.
One of the things family members spoke about was that he distinguished himself during the construction of the Simplon Tunnel.
I would love any photo copies of the construction process sent to me. If anyone out there has any to share that would be great! I thought it was cool that he got a couple medals for what he did…he must have been a heck of a mason.
Here he is with a little age on him…
Every family has it’s interesting characters, and even though I never had a chance to meet any of these men, it’s cool to know about my masonry heritage. Thanks to Mom and Guy for getting this into my hands!! Looking back isn’t always a good thing to do, but for stuff like this, neck cramp is just fine. Back to stone work in the next post, but I hope you enjoyed that.