January 19, 2013
Obituary of Mariano
(1) Wife Harriet Smith Guardino (2) Son John and Harriet Guardino
at the Funeral of Mariano John Guardino II, January 19, 2004.
NOTE: The passing of my father is the end of an era. I urge all of you who visit here to make
a donation to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.
Rev. Marilyn A. Riedel wrote: "Since my partner has been my caregiver for the
past ten, of my 20 years of Parkinson's, she has expecially come to
grips with Parkinson's and all its reality when her father died from the disease
January 15, 2004. He was 84 years old when he succumbed to the disease.
I was diagnosed in 1985 at age 43, among the youngest in Wisconsin. From my
partner's realization of this insidious disease, we urge you to support stem cell research to
unburden our imprisoned loved ones and offer hope to sufferers and families alike."
Loving Memory of
Mariano Guardino II
Autobiography by Mariano Guardino II
Guardino Family Writes
be today, Jan. 19, for Mariano "Monte" "Mino" Guardino of
Jan. 15 of Parkinson's disease. He was 84. Michael
J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research
He was born January 5, 1920, in San Jose, California to Joseph and Jennie Lesei Guardino. He married Harriet Smith in San Jose on September 22, 1941.
He attended San Jose State College for two years and served in the U.S. Navy on the USS Sperry submarine. He worked in radio broadcasting and sales and in his leisure time wrote ten unpublished stage plays. As a young man, he played the accordion in nightclubs in San Jose.
Guardino moved in the late 1940s to Grants Pass, where he was a radio personality, "The Happy Roving Cowboy," for 11 years. He moved to Eugene in the 1960s, and was a regular writer of letters to the editor - typing them using only two fingers in later years as his illness progressed.
He was a member of St. Mary Catholic Church in Eugene, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Playwrighters' Guild. He had lived in Eugene for 39 years.
Survivors include his wife; two sons, David of Knoxville, Tenn.essee, and John of Eugene; four daughters, Mary Guardino of Racine, Wisconsin, Patricia Cummings of Springfield, Barbara Guardino of Portland and Lori Groat of Castle Rock, Colorado; two brothers, Robert and Edward, both of San Jose; two sisters, Connie Starkey of Campbell, California, and Theresa Linsmeier of San Jose; 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Visitation is today from 10:15 a.m. at 10:45 a.m. at St. Mary Catholic Church, with a Mass of Christian Burial following at 11 a.m. Rest-Haven Memorial Park & Funeral Home of Eugene is in charge of arrangements.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, P.O. Box 4777, New York, NY 10163.
In his book, Finding Italian Roots, John Phillip Colletta, PhD, discusses the naming tradition many Italians brought with them to the new country:
Since at least the 16th Century, both on the
and the island of Sicily, tradition has dictated how Italian
their children. A couple's first son is given the name of the
father; the first daughter is given the name of the father's
second son is given the name of the mother's father; the second
is given the name of the mother's mother. Subsequent children are
given their parents' names or the names of favorite or unmarried
aunts and uncles.
By Mariano Guardino II
60th Anniversary Harriet & Mariano Guardino II (1920-2004)
Milestones: Eugene Register Guard
The Sicilian name Concetta and its American counterpart Constanceis a thread that binds together at least four generations of Old and New World Guardino women. Maria Concetta Sunseri Guardino (1863-1945 Sicily), my paternal great-grandmother, was the first ancestor I know of who was anointed with the name. My grandmother, Jennie Constance Lesei Guardino (1899-1983), is the second identified ancestor to have been christened with it. Her first-born daughter, the third ancestor to carry the name, was Mary Constance Guardino I, who died in childhood. Mary Constance Guardino II, her second daughter, is my aunt, Mary Constance Starkey (1922-?). She is the fourth ancestor fortunate enough to have been given the traditional family name. I am Mary Constance Guardino III, the fifth woman in the family on whom this beautiful name has been bestowed. Mary Constance Linsmeier, my paternal cousin, is the sixth in line and has always used her first name. She is the daughter of my Aunt Theresa Guardino (1924-?) and Earl Linsmeier. Number seven is my paternal cousins, Connie Marie Starkey, whose mother was wise enough from the beginning to use the abbreviated form.
M. Constance Guardino III with her marriage partner and co-author,
Rev. Marilyn A. Riedel, M.Div., who also suffers from Parkinson's Disease
early teens, I chose the nickname Connie--just like my Aunt
practical purposes. I attended parochial school for a time, and
simply too many Marys to keep us all straight. Many of us started
our middle names.
At one time, I used the name Pia Camille Guardino--my alter ego or counterpart--for professional purposes, and with good reason.
My mother, Harriet Beulah Smith Guardino, a Scottish Campbellite who married into the Catholic Church, quite naturally bucked against the Sicilian naming tradition, which dictates that the first daughter be given the name of the father's mother. If she did not do this for the sake of originality alone, then she must, at the very least, have contemplated it for the purpose of cutting down on confusion, a theory which later on proved to be correct.
Harriet Guardino's 81st Birthday April 16, 2002
Pictured With Grandchildren Ellie, Grant and Gracie Guardino
I am a firm
our first impressions are accurate, and the name Pia resonated
as "fitting" for as long as I've known about her original
it is difficult to change concepts and habits, I accept that most
call me Connie, a few call me Mary, and fewer still call me Pia.
My mother's father, John Reynolds Smith, used to say, "You can call me anything but late to dinner." Because I am a radical visionary feminist in favor of social reconstruction at the very core of our culture [hierarchy patriarchy] I've been called much, much more than "late to dinner" over the years, but it comes with the territory.
Back: Connie, Mino, Harriet, Jo, Jennie
Front: Bob with David, Dick with Ed 1942
The name Mariano similarly acts
glue binding together at least four generations of Guardino men.
Mariano Guardino I, my great-grandfather, emigrated with his wife, Maria Concetta Sunseri, and their two daughters, Josephine and Rosa, from the Sicilian Province of Trabia in 1884. The family settled in Omaha, Nebraska, where my grandfather, Joseph Richard, was born. Two other daughters, Sarah Agnes and Marina, were born in San Francisco, California. Mary Assunta, their youngest daughter, was born in San Jose, California. The couple had another son, whose name I've not been told, who died at the age of four or five.
Mariano Guardino II, my father, is the first-born son of Jennie Constance Lesei (1900-1983) and Joseph Richard Guardino (1895-1959), my grandparents and the subjects of this story.
M. Constance Guardino III ( 1) With Brother David, California (1960)
(2) David & Connie 1947 (3) University of Oregon (1968)
Mariano Guardino III, an Afro-American child who was adopted into the family by my older brother, David Marius Guardino, lives in a section of the South where his name sounds foreign and is difficult to pronounce, uses the nickname Marty.
(1) John Guardino With Parents Harriet and Mariano Guardino II (2) Trinity Alexandra Bird
Granddaughter of M. Constance Guardino III (3) Heather Dobbie Hodges Carmichael,
James Bennett, and Trinity Alexandra Bird
According to Sicilian naming tradition, my father's name should have been Mariano Mariano Guardino in honor of his confirmation godfather, Mariano Mosso. He rebelled against his parents' wishes, who saw nothing wrong with this, and chose the name John which he passed on, along with his mother's birthname, to his younger son, John Lesei Guardino.
My father remembers:
I made my confirmation at Holy Cross
Church when I was 12. My godfather was Mariano Mosso of Gilroy, a
worker friend of Dad's. It was traditional that my confirmation
the same as my godfather's, which meant that my full name would
Mariano Mariano Guardino! I rebelled and put my middle name down
Ma and Dad didn't like what I had done, but they didn't complain
It is possible my brother's name could have been Mariano Mariano Guardino II, had my father gone by Mariano Mariano Guardino I, assuming that only the tradition concerning godfathers and confirmation names had been dropped, by the time our generation rolled around! At the very least, he could have been named Mariano Guardino III causing Marty to be known as Mariano Guardino IV!
In accordance with Old World tradition,
Guardino should have taken the name of his confirmation godfather
middle name. Somehow, that didn't happen. Instead, he adopted the
of "Richard" which he passed on to one of his sons for legal
It seems there were a number of Joseph Guardinos in San Francisco and San Jose (including an uncle) where his family settled before relocating in San Jose, and he needed closer identification for his protection. His attorney, Richard Bressani, suggested that he take the name "Richard" as his middle name, and helped him process it through the court.
The name shows up again with my cousin, Richard Earl Linsmeier, the third child of my Aunt Theresa Guardino and her husband, Earl Linsmeier.
Ventura is yet another name that winds its way through four generations of Guardinos and Leseis.
Buenaventura Lesei, my great-grandfather, and his wife, whose name is unknown to me, but was possibly Concetta or Theresa, were peasants from the Sicilian province of Palermo. Their three daughters, Maria, Caterina and Genevieve "Jennie," were born in Sicily. They had a number of stillborn sons, all named Vincent, which suggests Buenaventura's father was named Vincent Lesei. The couple settled first in New Orleans, Louisiana, before relocating permanently in San Jose.
Richard Ventura Guardino, the third son of Jennie and Joseph Guardino, was named in honor of his father and his maternal grandfather, Buenaventura Lesei. He was given the shortened version of it, of course.
Finally, my daughter, Hilary Truitt Hodges (1977-?), changed her name to Ventura d'Luna Guardino, in a revolutionary leap from tradition and convention following my own decision to reclaim the Guardino name following a divorce in 1993.
Ventura d'Luna Guardino 1990
Daughter of M. Constance Guardino III
and Delbert Loyd Hodges
On May 31, 2007, Ventura Guardino (fka Hilary Hodges) married Paul Drummer of Ohio.
the Two Sicilies
Two was the name of an early kingdom of Italy. It consisted of the
of Naples in southern Italy, and the Kingdom of Sicily on the
Sicily. At times, they were united as the Two Sicilies. The
formed in the early 1100s by Normans, who conquered the regione
In 1266, the Two Sicilies came under French rule. In 1282 on Easter Monday, an uprising known as the Sicilian Vespers took place in Palermo. It resulted in the massacre of nearly all the French on the island. Sicily was later separated from Naples and ruled by the Spanish. In the War of the Spanish Succession in 1713, Austria seized Naples, and Sicily was given to Savoy. Savoy turned Sicily over to Austria in 1917, in exchange for Sardinia.
In 1734, Sapin conquered the Two Sicilies, and the Spanish Bourbon family ruled them until the time of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821), who was emperor of France from 1804-1815. King Ferdinand I joined the allies against France and lost Naples as a result. The two parts of the kingdom were reunited after Napoleon's downfall.
The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies played an important part in the movement for a united Italy. In 1820, there was an uprising in Naples of the Caronari, a secret nationalist society. King Ferdinand I was forced to grant the Neapolitans a constitution. An Austrian army invaded Naples, and restored Ferdinand to power.
In 1860, the Italian military leader Giuseppe Garibaldi conquered the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies for the Kingdom of Italy, which was just coming into being. Later that year, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies became part of the domain of Victor Emmanuel, who became king of Italy in 1861.
Sicily is an island in the central Mediterranean Sea. The Strait of Messina separates Sicily from the mainland of Italy. Sicily covers over 9,926 square miles and is the largest island in the Mediterranean.
Sicily is one of Italy's 20 governmental units called regioni. Palermo, a center of industry and trade, is the capital, largest city, and chief seaport of Sicily. Messina, on the northeastern coast, serves as a gateway to the island. Workers commute daily by ferry across the strait between Messina and the Italian mainland.
Sicily's location made it a crossroads for many civilizations. A number of peoples invaded and settled on the island, including Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Muslims from North Africa, and Normans. Today, Sicily has a mixture of these civilizations. For example, the people speak local dialects that have traces of Arabic, Greek and other languages.
The population of Sicily have strong bonds of family and friendship. The hundreds of years of invasion and foreign rule discouraged the people's trust in government and encouraged a code of omerta. According to the code, a person who cooperates with the government is dishonorable. This code and the island's tradition of private justice provide support for the Mafia, a network of groups engaging in illegal activities that range from animal rustling to drug dealing. Protection for Mafia activities also had come from politicians who owe their positions to Mafia support. However, many Sicilian people are becoming increasingly opposed to Mafia activities. During the 1980s, the Italian government waged a campaign to fight organized crime, and convicted hundreds of people associated with the Mafia.
Many Sicilians are farmers. Others work in the fishing industry and other industries. A lack of jobs was a chief reason for a high rate of emigration in the late 1800s and early 1900s. From 1876 to 1925, more than a million Sicilians moved to the USA. Since 1945, many Sicilian workers have settled in the industrial cities of Northern Italy, France, Germany and Switzerland.
Most of Sicily's population is Catholic. Their religious celebrations often include colorful processions, horse races, pole climbing contests, and elaborate fireworks displays.
Many famous landmarks attract tourists to Sicily. Greek ruins stand at Agrigento, Taormina, and other places in Sicily. Many Sicilian cathedrals and palaces exhibit works of art.
Mountains and hills cover more than 85 per cent of Sicily. The island's highest point is Mount Etna, an active volcano that rises 11,122 feet on the east coast. Mount Etna erupts periodically. Catania had to be rebuilt entirely after an eruption destroyed it in 1669. But the area around Mount Etna is heavily populated because volcanic ash makes the soil fertile. Earthquakes also hit Sicily. Messina had to be rebuilt after an earthquake.
It was in the soil of that magic Kingdom of the Two Sicilies that Maria Concetta Sunseri and Mariano Guardino I had their roots. The story of their emigration to America is told by their grandson, my father, Mariano Guardino II.
and Distinguished Guardino Family Got its Name
appears to be occupational in origin. Research indicates that it
associated with the Italians, meaning, "one who acted as a guard
Although this interpretation is the result of onomastic research,
find other meanings for the Guardino family name. Many surnames
than one origin. For instance, the English surname "Bell" may
one who lived or worked at the sign of the bell, or it may refer
or bellmaker. It may be a nickname for "the handsome one," from
French word "bel" which means beautiful. It could also indicate
of "Bel," or pet form of Isabel.
When one begin to do more extensive research on the Guardino name there may have difficulty finding it with the exact spelling which you use today. It, in fact, may very well have been spelled differently hundreds of years ago, or there may even be someone in a family's past who actually changed his name. The more research one does, the more likely several different spellings will be found. Language changes, carelessness and a high degree of illiteracy (sometimes the man himself did not know how to spell his own name) compounded the number of ways a name might have been spelled. Often the town clerk spelled the name the way it sounded to him.
Knowing that different spellings of the same original surname are a common occurrence, it is not surprising that dictionaries of surnames indicate probably spelling variations of the Guardino surname to be Guardi and Guarducci. Although bearers of the old and distinguished Guardino name comprise a small percentage of individuals living in the world today, there may be a large number of direct relatives who are using one of the Guardino name variations.
All Italian surnames end in a vowel and many of them have been derived from a descriptive nickname. Even hereditary surnames have become the rule in Italy; descriptive nicknames were often passed from one generation to another and gradually replaced the hereditary surname. This practice has produced numerous animal, fish, bird and insect names. The following surnames are of Italian origin and all end in a vowel: Cannella (a dweller where bent grass grew), Medici (one who practiced medicine), Pellicanno (one thought to possess the characteristics of a pelican) and Rotolo (one who made or wrote on scrolls).
Coats of Arms were developed in the Middle Ages as a means of identifying warriors in battle and tournaments. The present function of the Coast of Arms (although still one of identity) serves more to preserve the traditions that arose from its earlier use.
Heraldic artists of old developed their own unique language to describe an individual Coat of Arms. The Guardino Coat of Arms is officially documented in Spreti's Encyclopedia Storio-Nobiliare Italia.The original description of the Arms is as follows:
"d'oro a tre sbaree di azzurro col leone di rosso attraversante sul tutto e tenente una spada al naturale nella branca destra." When translated the blazon also describes the original colors of the Guardino Arms as "gold; three blue diagonal bars; a red lion placed over all, holding a naturally colored sword within its right paw."
Even though America was allegedly
by Christopher Columbus (1451-1506), named for Amerigo Vespucci
and explored by such Italian adventurers as Giovanni Verrazzano
and Giovanni Caboto (1450-1498), it wasn't until the late 19th
that Italians began to emigrate in substantial numbers. Most of
immigrants were peasants from the South of Italy who left the Old
when poverty, overpopulation, political upheaval, earthquakes,
eruptions and vineyard blight began to take their toll on the
More than 4.5 million Italian immigrants found their way to the US
the 1880s and 1920s.
After being processed at Ellis Island in Upper New York Bay and other immigration centers, many of these rural Italians found themselves in urban ghettos like Manhattan's Lower East Side, working at menial jobs and crammed into narrow railroad flats that lacked both heat and privacy. Others, like the Guardinos, were westward bound, seeking their fortunes in the gold fields of California. But mostly, they settled in urban industrial areas of Boston, Newark, Philadelphia and Chicago, where unskilled jobs were plenty. Italians had to work their way up from the bottom and were willing to work themselves to the bone for low wages. One public notice recruiting laborers in 1895 advertised the following pay rates for common labor:
It's hard to
America without the rich and varied contributions of the Italians.
prominent Italian was physician and wine merchant Phillip Mazzei
who in 1796, collaborated with Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) on
essays about political freedom. In the world of music, Italian
played a significant part in our culture. The Italian poet Lorenzo
(1749-1838) was Mozart's librettist for a number of his operas.
Mascagni (1863-1945), a gifted Italian composer, "went West" and
classical music for frontier people in such places as Wyoming.
among the many other Italian individuals who have contributed to
mosaic are William Paca (1740-1799), who signed the Declaration of
Francis Mugavero, the first Italo-American bishop of Brooklyn;
governor of Rhode Island and the first Italo-American in the US
According to Jerry Della Femia, author of An Italian Grows In Brooklyn,Italians didn't leave their homeland because they were living a substandard existence in Italy and they did not come to America to better themselves; "rather, they arrived because of family ties." They left "because someone was here." He tells the story of "one bachelor in a tiny village near Naples (who) decided one day to pull of stakes and try America and within 20 years villages emptied out as effectively as if the plague had hit."
Mariano Guardino II
Mariano Guardino I, was the son of Giuseppa "Josie" Lo Bue and
Guardino. He was born in Sicily in February 1857, and lived in the
for 40 years; part of that time was spent in Nebraska, and the
years of life were spent in California.
Josie and Giuseppe's home town in Sicily has never been clearly defined to my satisfaction. My father, Joseph Guardino, often explained that his ancestors came from Trabia and he was Trabian. It is one of the 95 Italian provinces and is near Palermo. However, two of his sisters claim the family is from Siracusa, which is on the opposite side of the island. Maps of preunification Italy (1859) list the Province of Siracusa as Siragosa. It covers the same amount of area as the Provinces of Siracusa and Ragusa cover in contemporary Italy.
Before leaving Sicily, Mariano Guardino married Concetta Sunseri, a native of Trabia. How my grandparents met is pure conjecture, but I can assume they were peasants who came from the same or nearby towns, were from large families, were uneducated and poor, and probably married in their 20s. They were four years apart in age; Mariano was born in 1857 and Concetta was born in 1861 at the outbreak of the American Civil War and during the presidency of Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865).
They settled first in New York and, like many other Sicilians, began to look elsewhere to settle down. Sometime in the 1890s they took a train with all their possessions to Omaha, Nebraska, where they settled for a few years. Many of their family and friends traveled to Omaha with them, and I can assume others struck out in different directions, to settle primarily in the larger ports of call like New York, New Orleans, Chicago and Philadelphia.
How many family members remained in Sicily is not known, but it would be safe to say many stayed behind and some came later. General confusion prevails when one tries to track the ancestors of the two families. Our concern here is the migration of Concetta and Mariano and the development of their family in the New World.
Concetta and Mariano Guardino were the proud parents of Rosa, Josephine, Joseph, Sarah Agnes and Mary Assunta.
A laborer all his life, my grandfather passed away on September 14, 1924, when he fell from a backyard walnut tree in he had a heart attack.
I remember that day well, and the fact that he died within a few days of the immortal movie star Rudolph Valentino, Ma's great idol. I was in the front yard of their home as they carried his covered body to a hearse. Grandma Lesei was holding my hand and many people were gathered around. I recall seeing his body displayed in the livingroom a few days later. I had seen him walking down the street a few days earlier on his way home from work at the cannery. He had taken the streetcar to 12th and Julian streets and was walking to his house at 12th and Jackson streets. He was on the other side of the street in front of the old Linsmeier home. I waved to him from the window.
It has been interesting to observe that many of the walnuts from that fatal tree had three sections, different from the conventional two section walnuts. This still baffles me, because I have never seen this before and wonder if the walnuts are still three sectioned. The tree, as of this writing, still stands.
My father was 31 years old at the time of my grandfather's death, and I recall him sobbing in the kitchen of the Guardino family home on the shoulder of his cousin, Joseph Sunseri, who died a number of years later of trichinosis. My dad loved his father and throughout the years often dreamed of him.
A typical Sicilian homemaker who spoke little English, my grandmother passed away at the age of 84 on July 4, 1945. Her funeral was held at the Rancadore and Alameda Funeral Chapel on South Second Street in San Jose. A rosary was recited prior to Concetta's funeral, and a requiem mass was celebrated for her at Holy Cross Church on 12th and Jackson streets "for the repose of her soul," and she was interred at Calvary Cemetery.
After leaving Omaha, Nebraska, Concetta, Mariano, and their growing family settled in the Mission District of San Francisco. I am not sure what kind of work my grandfather did, but it is safe to say he worked as a laborer--at times as a fruit peddler--in the rapidly growing, wild city.
I know that my grandparents arrived in this country with a number of their brothers and sisters, cousins, nieces, nephews and friends. Mariano had several brothers. I recall having met some of them, including Joseph, Fillipo and Antonio (1889-1974).
Fillipo and his wife, Josephine Panzica (1876-1947), lived in San Francisco and were the parents of Josephine Bichinella, Salvatore, Vincent and Anthony Guardino, Mary Lewis, Rose Gabbani, Angelina White and Joseph Guardino. Aunt Josie has a number of siblings: Maria Lima, Rosalie Formosa, Augustine and Manuel Panzica, and Savatora Moreci, a native of Italy.
In January 2002, Jennifer Hendrey wrote:
"...I was directed to your Guardino
page by Jennifer A. Johnson, another online Guardino hobbyist. I
think she saw an immediate relationship between her family and
I think there's one between your family and mine. I am Jennifer
Kristin Hendrey, daughter of Elissa Camille Guardino, daughter of
Joseph Guardino, son of Filippo Guardino (youngest brother of
I, I'm pretty sure), son of Giuseppe Guardino and Giuseppa Lo Bue
"Do you know about my family? I have only a little information. I'm so pleased to find out about you. I've been poking about for great-great-uncle Mariano for about four years. There are still a couple of Filippo's children (Mariano's nephews/nieces) living. It's become a huge family, I gather. I have offical birth documents from the civil state office (Ufficio dello Stato Civile) in Trabia, as well as pictures of Mariano's little brother's wedding. Filippo looks just like the picture of Mariano on your website. Mariano and his other brothers wrote home to arrange for a bride (Giuseppina Panzica) to be sent over for Filippo!..."
In February 2002, Jennifer Johnson wrote:
"...Hello! I am Jennifer Johnson,
from Filippo Guardino through the Bickinella line. I have
your web page for a few months now, comparing the information
what I have gathered from my years of timid genealogy
saw my name given by Jen Hendrey, and figured it was time to write
and identify myself.
"Jen and I are second cousins; I have not yet figured out my relationship to you. Here is where I fall in: (1) Giuseppe Bicchinella + Giuseppa Guarino; (2) Calogero Bickinella + Giuseppina Guardino; (3) Joseph P. Bickinella + Virginia M. Springer; (4) Charles J. Bickinella + Ann Marie Adams; (5) Jennifer Anne Bickinella.
"Giuseppina Guardino is Josephine, the daughter of Filippo Guardino and Giuseppa Panzica.
"Most of my information has been gained from family contacts, and I have yet to learn how to do more in-depth research. There seem to be quite a few decendants of the Guardino line who are interested in tracing our family. I am so glad you have made the information from your line available online. I have learned so much from it already.
"I'm not sure how much I could share with you in return, but I hope to be able to contribute to your research as well..."
Antonio lived in Mountain View with his
Giovannia (1888-1974). Uncle Tony was the father of Vincent
Loftus and Angelina Tomasello, the mother of Tony Tomasello. Aunt
had a son by a previous marriage, Peter Di Ciuccio, who lived in
At the time of her death, she had a sister living in Italy and a
There were a number of sisters, whom I believe to be Bondis and Lombardis, to name a few.
On Grandma Guardino's side of the family, I recall her brother Joseph Sunseri very well. He was a hearty and handsome gentleman who followed his sister from Omaha to San Jose a few years later with members of his family, and has a large number of descendants in Santa Clara county. Grandma Guardino also has a number of siblings scattered about the country, including two nieces who lived in San Jose: Rosa Sunseri De Malta and Caterina Balistreri.
On May 20, 2002, Jimmy Spencer wrote:
"...My two grandparents, Salvador Sunseri and Angelina Guardino were both born in Trabia, Italy. Trabia is located on the north coast of Sicily. My grandfather was born in 1865 and my grandmother was born in 1867. He came from Italy and settled in New Orleans, Lousiana, and was a counselor to Italian immigrants and a musician. He died from yellow fever when he was 32 years old. This was one month before my Dad was born. My grandmother was a housewife and lived to be 91 years old. She had five children and came to California two years after my grandfather died. She did not remarry until all of her children had grown. I am curious if any of this may be related to your site..."
I recall that the three De Malta brothers, Samuel, Joseph and Vincent were born in Omaha. When their father died, they bought an old car, and with their mother, migrated to San Jose in the mid-1930s. Dad, who was a cannery worker all his life, got jobs for all three of the boys at California Packing Corporation (CPC) just as he had done previously for many of the Sunseris and other relatives as they migrated West from Omaha.
Packing Plants 1884
city in Nebraska. It ranks as one of the world's leading food
During the 1880s, Omaha developed into an important meat processing center. The city's location in a great cattle raising area and at the heart of a rail network helped this growth. The opening of the Union Stockyards in 1884 hastened the growth. Thousands of immigrants, including the Guardinos, came to work in Omaha's meat-packing plants.
I recall one woman who had just moved from Omaha. She heard about Dad's generosity and pleaded with him to get her son a job Dad talked to his boss and came home with the good news that her son would be hired. Ma went over to give her the good news, and she had the gall to ask Ma if Dad would give or lend her son a pair of working pants. Ma thought the woman had a lot of crust by making such a request, but Dad directed her to give the guy an older pair of his pants. The fellow showed up for work wearing a pair of Dad's donated pants. Generosity was Dad's middle name.
I'm not positive how the Lombardi clan fits into our ancestry but, when I was about three years old (1923), Grandma Guardino's nephew, Mino Lombardi, visited the family in San Jose. His home was in Omaha, and he was a US Army doctor. I am thinking that maybe he was stationed in San Francisco, and was looking up relatives.
Dad's oldest sister, Josephine, married Salvatore "Santo" Navarra in San Francisco. Uncle Santo was a fruit and vegetable peddler, with his own route in the Mission District; he was a carpenter by trade.
"Here is the best and only really
current picture I have of Joseph (Joe) Navarra, son of Josephine
Santo. That is his wife Alta who is sitting on his lap.
Salvatore Navarra (1849-1905) married Carmela Tricomo (1859-1941). They had 7 children: Minnie (1896-1972), Santo (1881-1969), Antonette (1883-1971), Josephine (1884-1968), Giuseppi "Joe" (1888-1979), Tony (1895-1979) and Phil (1898-1977). Santo Navara married Josephine Guardino and they had 7 children also: Carmilla [Minnie] 1907 in San Francisco-2001; married (San Francisco) Fred Borgert 1910-1979; son Edward 1942-married Barbara Armenian; daughters Joni 1961 and Karen 1960; Salvatore Joseph [Sam] 1909 San Francisco-1952; married Benedett Caruso 1913-deceased; daughters Barbara 1935 and Janette 1945; Conchetta [Connie] 1910-1912; Manuel Peter [Monte]1912 San Francisco-2000; married 1936 San Francisco Helen Jupke 1918; son John Joseph 1937 San Francisco; daughter Patricia Ellen 1941 San Francisco; son Robert James 1953; Philip Anthony [Phil] 1914 San Francisco-1997; married 1938 San Francisco Rose Gentile 1918; daughter Gloria 1942 San Francisco; daughter Kathleen 1946 San Francisco; married Robert Johnson; Joseph John [Joe] January 19, 1920-present; married 1940 San Francisco Alta Wallace 1927-present; daughter Joyce Marie 1948-married Robert Moxin 1969; daughter Jennifer Ann Moxin 1976-married Sean McIntosh 1998; son Raymond Joseph 1951 married Linda Galvin; daughter Lynette Marie Navarra-married Mike O'Brien 1999; daughter Katy O'Brien 2001; son Dennis James 1955-married Debra DeSantis; son Joshua Santo; son Jake Douglas; son Ronald John-married Denise Cherezian; son Daniel; son David; ngelo 1923 San Francisco-present; married 1947 San Francisco Ann Butera deceased; son Angelo, Jr. San Francisco 1948-1995; son Angelo III and daughter Renee; daughter Doreen 1959San Francisco.
On August 20, 2006, Joyce Marie
Navarra Moxin, granddaughter of Josephine Guardino and Santa
"I very well remember my
grandparents, Santo and Josephine. I am told their marriage
"arranged', as was the custom. Santo would travel from
Francisco to San Jose to court Josie, under the watchful eye of
parents or siblings. He was 24 and she barely 17 when they married
1905. Josephine was the shy sister, a wonderful cook
course, and adored by Santo. They often travelled to San
visit Josie's family. They would bring sausages, wine,
etc.. and come home with fresh fruit and wonderful memories of the
country. They celebrated 64-1/2 years o f
marriage. They are both buried at the Italian Cemetery in
In 2003, my daughter Jennifer and I left our husbands at home for 10 days to travel unescorted to Italy. After enjoying the wonderful sights of Carnival in Venice, Rome and Florence, we traveled to Sicilia. In Sicily we had to break out the language books since hardly anyone spoke English. We weren't exactly sure of how we would find Trabia, but we purchased train tickets in Palermo and traveled the beautiful coastline. It was a very emotional experience, and I cried when I saw the sign of the Trabia train stop.
I'm sure the little village looks much the same as it probably did when our ancestors lived there. It looked untouched by time. Very slow and very quiet. We were the only women walking on the main street while men peeked out of storefront windows or while sitting in front of storefronts. As we walked the village, we realized the women were all at work in their homes, cooking [smells like Granda Josie's sauce], washing off balconies with water buckets, tiny trucks like golf carts delivering bread, produce and other items by a bucket on a rope up to balconies! We were even lucky enough to stumble onto via San Salvadore, the street of Santo's birth! The little village rises sharply up the mountain from the nearby coast line. We literally "climbed" up the steep and very narrow street, and looking back at the view was breathtaking. I could only wonder why someone would leave this beautiful place! It was like a movie. I could only wonder if any of our ancestors even went to the big city of Palermo, or did they just have the opportunity to up and leave - and so they did. I remember Grandpa Santo saying he never wanted to go back - because there "wasn't anything there - only olives."
We were lucky to find the cemetery
and a little man/caretaker who
proudly escorted us to every grave that bore the Navarra family
name. Along the paths, we saw the names of Guardino,
Butera, Bonaccorso ... and it goes on. It was
mind-boggling. There was a mass - unmarked grave for people
had died before the 1800's. We couldn't communicate enough with
to know why. As the time on our train tickets was nearing
expiration, we knew we had to leave - but it was so
was if we had lifted the lid on a treasure box! I want to
One further note of much interest, is that my father, Joseph John Navarra January 19,1920 - [yes, born the same year as Mariano Guardino] was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease nearly 10 years ago. My mother, Alta, is his caregiver. Much of his struggle has been with freezing and now a mild dementia. He was an MP in the Army (North Africa w/Gen Bradley) in WWI and after the war, always a teamster. He drove all the crazy routes with a million stops, up and down those hills, in San Francisco all of his life. Otherwise, he does pretty well, going to church every Sunday and watching the news and current events. Joe and Alta will be married 59 years this October."
Rosa Guardino married Frank Bonaccorso,
was born in Italy, and was also a carpenter by trade.
A few months after my birth, we moved into our new home at 469 North 12th Street. It had been built by Uncle Frank with Dad's assistance at a cost of about $4,200. They put the wine cellar in first, then the foundation, and built the house from there. The wine cellar hole was dug out by a team of horses pulling a scoop shovel. The house was sturdily built and stands well today (1983), more than 65 years later. However, the house leaves much to be desired when it comes to architectural planning. Imagine putting a toilet next to the kitchen!
Ma always made the mortgage payments on the house in person, and I usually went with her. The mortgage company was located on Market Street near Saint James Park. Her payments were made in a small office operated by a man named Charley House! I'm not sure if that was his real name or a nickname Ma have thoughtfully given him.
On one occasion, I gave Ma an accumulated $25 and she said that was enough to make a mortgage payment, so she used it for that purpose. The mortgage payments, I believe, were about $24 a month and I helped make a few of them.
Aunt Rosa and Uncle Frank bought a prune and apricot orchard in the Berryessa District on Capital Avenue, where they lived with their three children for many years, successfully growing and harvesting their crops.
The Bonaccorsos daughters were Dorothy Huffman and Connie Cancilla.
Dad's best friend, almost from the time of his arrival from San Francisco, was Connie's father-in-law, Samuel Cancilla. They went to school together and were about the same age.
I recall Sam and Dad swapping stories about the good times they had growing up and the mischief they got into. One story they told me was about the time they went to Chinatown and ordered a big dinner. They started throwing Chinese food at each other and then throwing it around the restaurant. They were kicked out of the place and warned never to return.
Sam and Dad remained friends throughout the years, and Ma and his wife Jessie "Chinsey" Concilla were good friends. Jessie and Sam Cancilla were my baptismal godparents. In later years, the two buddies went their separate ways but always remained good friends. Sam became a milk delivery man and worked for many years for the American Dairy.
One time Dad helped his friend and neighbor, Sam Cancilla, paint his house. Sam originally said, "Come over, Joe, and give me a hand painting my back porch." Dad went over and spent a week helping him paint the whole inside of his house! Many people took advantage of his generosity; he never learned to say "No!"
Apparently Sam had a beautiful head of hair, but developed a case of dandruff at about age 20. Some character told him he could cure the dandruff by washing his hair in boiled cigar water! He boiled the cigars, washed his hair in the mess, and lost all of his hair in a few days. He became bald as a billiard ball, got hold of a gun, and went looking for the guy who gave him the bum advise. I don't think he ever found him.
The Bonaccorsos's son, Matteo, was born in San Francisco on March 10, 1912. He married Marion Althea, and the couple had two children, Diane Esterday of Lacey, Washington, and Gordon Bonaccorso of San Jose. They were the grandparents of Juanita and Matthew Bettencourt, David Bonaccorso and Kristen Bettencourt.
On November 4, 1994, Matteo A. Bonaccorso died in San Jose Hospital from respiratory and cardiac arrest, pneumonia, and cancer of the prostate. Funeral services were held on November 8, 1994, at Lima Family-Errickson Memorial Cathedral Chapel. His body was taken to Saint Christopher's Catholic Church, where a requiem mass was celebrated. He had been a member of Moose Lodge #401, Sons of Sicily, ICF #4, the Italian American Heritage Foundation, and the Senior Italio-American Club.
Two more daughters, Marina and Sarah Agnes, were born to Concetta and Mariano in San Francisco. Aunt Marina married first a Mr. Gladich, then a Mr. Wheeler, and later, Joseph Di Martino, who was a musician. Aunt Sarah married Thomas James Highshoe. I believe their youngest daughter and child, Mary Assunta, was born in San Jose. She married Thomas Greco and had a large family, until her untimely death at age 35.
When he was about ten years old, Dad worked with Uncle Santo on his fruit and vegetable route, using a wagon drawn by one or two horses. Uncle Santo would go to the San Francisco market in the early morning to buy his products, then returned home to load the wagon and get it ready for the route. In addition to accompanying his brother-in-law on his peddler's route, Dad, of course, also attended school.
He once found a $20 bill on the route, and gave it to my uncle, who patted him on the forehead and said, "You're an honest boy, Joe; you'll go a long way in life!" Ma told me this story, but she didn't say if Santo gave Dad part of the money or if Dad was ever paid for his work.
San Francisco Earthquake 1906
I don't know how peaceful or exciting
was in San Francisco for my grandparents, but all hell broke loose
in the morning on April 18, 1906, when Dad was 11 years old, the
Earthquake! The tremors started in the early morning and shook
long, followed by a big fire that destroyed much of the downtown
Dad remembered being knocked out of his bed onto the floor. He and
members of the family--and the entire Mission District--were badly
People poured into the streets to survey the damage. What they saw
downtown San Francisco in the distance being devoured by fire
up the sky, and there were billows of smoke. They became
many thought the end of the world had come! The commotion lasted
days and had everyone frightened as they waited for more quakes to
Business was at a standstill and so was life itself. The US Army
members of the military had taken control of the city; martial law
At least 3,000 people died in the disaster, and about 25,000 lost their homes. Most of the city, including more than 28,000 buildings, lay in ruins. Property damage exceeded $500 million.
Things finally returned to normal and soon many shaken San Franciscans began to look elsewhere for a place to live. Once again it was time for the Guardinos to relocate, although I imagine they were getting tired of moving--from Sicily to New York, from New York to Omaha, from Omaha to San Francisco, settling finally in San Jose.
Processing Plants 1970
industrial city and one of the nationis chief centers of aerospace
The city is also home to many electronics industries. Other
chemicals, electrical equipment, fabricated metals, farm
Large canneries helped make San Jose one of the major food processing centers on the West Coast. The city is the main distributing point for the agricultural products of the fertile Santa Clara Valley.
Most of the people of San Jose are of European ancestry, and include many English, Irish, Germans and Italians.
Aunt Josie and Uncle Santo stayed in San Francisco. Aunt Marina and Aunt Sarah moved from city to city. Aunt Assunta and Uncle Tom eventually moved from San Francisco to Mountain View. Generally speaking, Dad and his five sisters stayed pretty close to the home of their relatives.
Climactic conditions in San Jose were, ironically, similar to those in Sicily, as were the crops that were raised. Displaced Sicilians, including my grandparents, went into farming and related industries, such as fruit picking, packing and cannery work. San Jose was known as the Garden City, and the Guardino family fit in well in that agricultural community. Grandpa Guardino worked in the orchards and in the cannery. My aunts worked in the cannery, California Packing Corporation, on West San Carlos Street, and later at the plant on 7th and Jackson streets.
It was permissible for boys and girls to help their older brothers and sisters and other family members when they worked in the cannery, cutting, sorting, and preparing the fruit and vegetables for canning. Dad helped one of his sisters at CPC, and worked so hard he attracted the attention of the bosses. They recognized him as being a human dynamo, so they encouraged him to stay over at the end of the pack season and work in the warehouse.
There were times in his life when Dad wanted to quit the cannery and strike out on his own. On one occasion, when I was about eight or nine, he opened a fruit stand on Bayshore Highway near Sunnyvale. He took a Greyhound bus to work and took me with him on occasions. Due to his lack of business acumen, this experiment failed, and he went back to the cannery for the rest of his life.
Another time, he quit the "sweat shop," as he often called CPC, and opened his own market on the west side of Market Street, between Santa Clara and San Fernando, about one block from the old bus depot and near the National theater. But he was generous to a fault and caused him to fail. He gave away too much of his profit, and even delivered groceries to his neighborhood when he came home from the market. Ma used to chide me for eating all his profits. I ate everything in sight and never stopped: apples, oranges, peanuts, walnuts, almonds, candy--everything! Another reason he failed in the market business was his misplaced trust in others, and some of his suppliers took advantage of him. They would, for instance, sell him a sack of potatoes with a few good ones on top and bad ones underneath.
One day, Dad's former boss, Clarence Woods, came into the market and said the warehouse at CPC couldn't get along without Dad, and promised him if he returned to the cannery, his seniority would continue. He had worked for the corporation for about 15 years prior to his decision to open his own market. He thought about it for a few weeks, closed out his business, and returned to the cannery.
Garden City Transportation
A number of Dad's cousins from the
clan visited him one day and tried to interest him in investing in
trucking business, Garden City Transportation. It was during the
Depression, and Dad was one of the few people who had a steady
told him "Nothing doing!" and that took care of that. Later, the
became highly successful without Dad's investment. What a loss!
always demanded that he be conservative with his money and
he never leave the cannery. I wrote a three act play about him in
entitled The Old Plow Horse, the story of an old man who
to die until he has given something to the world.
Dad was so determined not to make the cannery his lifetime work he took a course in barbering while still working at CPC. He quit the warehouse and worked in a barber shop on Santa Clara Street near the corner of 6th and 7th streets. It was the south side of the street. He then moved around the corner from his parents' home, and opened his own shop, near the corner of 12th and Jackson, across the street from Holy Cross Catholic Church.
This was where my parents' first child, Mary Constance (Maria Concetta), was born and died a few months later, January 5, 1919. She had been a healthy, beautiful child, but was a victim of the flu epidemic that swept the countryóand the worldóduring and shortly after World War I. She was buried at Calvary Cemetery, under a tree, near the entrance to the graveyard. My parents both had the flu, as did almost everyone else in San Jose. Grandma Guardino claimed she didn't get the flu because she ate a lot of garlic, which killed the germs. There could be more truth than fiction to her claim.
I was born January 5, 1920, one year to the date following my sister's death. This coincidence would explain why my birthday was never celebrated by the Guardino family, because it also marked the anniversary of the loss of their first-born child.
I was born in the shadow of the Catholic Church which has always been a source of pride to me. Holy Cross Catholic Church was an important part of family life and heritage, where Ma and Dad were married, where all of the children were baptized, made their holy communions and confirmations and were married. Ma, Dad, Grandma and Grandpa Guardino were buried from there. Nieces and nephews were also baptized and married there, following in the footsteps of their forebears.
I was delivered at 3:30am by a midwife, Mrs. V. Trojan, in the back of my father's barbershop. Ms. Trojan lived on 10th Street in San Jose. She also delivered my sisters, Connie and Theresa. My brothers, Dick and Bob, were delivered by doctors. Ed, the youngest, had the luxury of being delivered in a hospital.
Concetta and Mariano Guardino's home was located just around the corner from HCCC. I remember the house well, dating from 1925.
It was customary for us to visit his folks every Sunday after church following the 10:30am Italian Mass. We would stay there about an hour, then go home and have our big Sunday dinner. Dad was faithful to his mother and often visited her during the week. He took her to the movies a few times, but she was a large woman and I recall missing some of the busses because she was slow moving.
Joe the Barber
Dad never forgot his training as a barber and
through life giving free haircuts to nieces and nephews, friends,
and his own flock of kids. Some of his parents took advantage of
and would tie him up giving haircuts on Saturdays, Sundays and
He loved to cut hair, and was a perfectionist; I don't think I've
gone to a better barber. For many years, he used a hand clipper
about 20 minutes a haircut. In later years, in self defense, he
electric clippers and got the job done much more quickly. Dad
across the room at a friend or relative and say, "You got a few
I'll give you a haircut!" And, of course, when he felt one of his
needed a haircut the invitation became an order, "Sit down; I'll
hair!" Over the years, Dad gave away hundreds of free haircuts,
he was so tired from his cannery work that he could hardly stand.
His feet always hurt and he loved to soak them in a wash tub with boiling hot water and lots of salt. He loved to take a Saturday or Sunday afternoon nap in the kids' bedroom (all six of us slept in the same room until the utility porch was converted into a bedroom), but frequently his much needed rest was interrupted by some neighbor or relative wanting a haircut. Some of his parents came from miles around to get free haircuts! And many a Sunday Ma would hold up Sunday dinner for Dad to finish cutting someone's hair. If you were clever enough to come at just the right time, you got not only a free haircut, but a free dinner as well!
Dad gave up barbering--after having failed to make a dime at it, and went back to the cannery where he worked for nearly 50 years--until he dropped--at a job he was never fond of.
Dad was always one for offering a helping hand in the neighborhood. He went to help Mrs. D'Angelo when she suffered a stroke in the bathroom. He helped his neighbors move in and out and he was tragically present to help Mrs. Marazzi a few minutes across the street after her husband had blown his brains out with a shotgun, just across the street in his tool shed. He fought like hell to put out a grass fire I accidentally started in the lot back of ours. Some of the neighbor kids were playing with firecrackers and one that I threw started the fire. Dad and the Blacks living next to the lot put out the fire and agreed that next hear they would burn the lot together before the kids would burn down the neighborhood. Before the year rolled along a house was build there.
The Sicilian that he was, Dad always wanted to start a chicken ranch, but Ma always vetoed this idea and convinced him he had a good job and should stay where he was at CPC. He kept looking at farms and almost bought two or three acres in East San Jose. Ma pleaded with him not to buy a farm, and, of course, she won! In later years, I visited the property he was interested in; it turned out to be right in the middle of a Mexican slum area. Ma may have been right that time, but one never knows.
Dad compensated for his love of raising chickens by raising them in the backyard of our family home on 12th Street. He took a scientific approach to his chicken farming by putting up a professionally designed chicken coop, having his own brooders, egg graders, and other necessary equipment. He sold eggs in the neighborhood for 20 cents a dozen. Eventually, he added rabbits to our inner city barnyard, which he also sold for 20 cents a pound, fresh butchered, dressed, delivered and ready for the pot!
One of my chores at home was cleaning the chicken coop. It was a dirty and dusty job. I hated it, but when Dad worked late, I just had to do it. I would take a deep breath of air, charge into the chicken house, work as fast as I could, then duck outside for another breath of air. Dad raised good chickens, and we got plenty of nice, fresh eggs and good chicken dinners. The eggs were so fresh that I would reach under a warm hen, take one of her eggs and eat it raw!
One time, however, I reached into a nest and picked up an egg that had apparently been lost a long time. It was rotten; when I put it into my mouth it made me suddenly ill. I have never eaten a raw egg since. I have often wondered if that hen pulled a switch on me!
Cleaning the rabbit hutches was another one of my chores. When Dad butchered a rabbit, which was about every other Sunday, I was the holder while he skinned the animal.
We ate a lot of rabbit and chicken. Ma was an excellent cook. However, I was never too happy about rabbit head soup, which she made occasionally. Other exotic dishes included brodo di pollo--head and feet soup, squid (ink fish), tripe (cow belly), cow tongue, fried kidney and roast heart, all well flavored with garlic and plenty of olive oil.
Ma gave us a variety of cooking, with plenty of vegetables and fruit, and lots of pasta dishes. She served pasta with fagioli, pasta with lentils, pasta with peas, pasta with everything, and almost always spaghetti with sauce on Sundays and holidays.
Ma loved to eat and Dad ate very little. There wasn't an ounce of fat on his body at any time. He was of small stature, standing about 5 feet 5 inches tall, wirey, hard as nails, and weighed in at about 130 pounds from the age of 18 until he became ill late in life. His weight never varied five pounds throughout his entire lifetime.
She made him a small sack lunch to take to work. He insisted on two sandwiches only, no more no less. She tried to make his sandwiches larger and he would complain. She made the lunch meat thicker and the bread slices smaller and he objected. He hated to eat! He had a cup of coffee at home for breakfast, and a cup of coffee and a donut for his mid-morning break at work. Ma said Dad would rather work--or drink wine!--than eat! He worked extremely hard at the cannery and still had a small appetite for his evening meal.
My wife, Harriet, bought Dad a lunch bucket as a present. He refused to use it! One morning, he couldn't find a paper sack, so he had no other place to put his lunch except in the lunch bucket. He liked the idea and never carried a brown bag again. He started to fill the thermos with coffee and that lunch bucket, I believe, helped make his life and work a lot easier.
As a money saving measure, Dad bought a sack of flour for Ma to bake bread in the kitchen oven. She made about six loaves at a time, but the bread tasted so good that the kids, namely me, Connie and Theresa, ate most of it before it cooled off. We would cut or tear off a big chunk of bread, saturate it with olive oil, garlic and a little pepper for added flavor. Sometimes we added butter to enhance the flavor. Ma gave up baking bread after a few batches of the best bread in the world; it was much cheaper to buy it at the store.
The cannery would test their fruit in the company lab and pour the tested contents of the cans selected at random into large galvanized buckets. They would give Dad several buckets at a time for him to take home for Ma to can and for the kids to enjoy. He would bring home as many as four or five buckets of peaches, apricots, pears and fruit cocktail. The food was devoured before Ma had a chance to can any of it!
Dad could out work anyone. Ma called him a "working fool" and said he would rather work than eat, and this was true. He ate like a canary and yet produced so much work it made me wonder where he got the energy. His boss and one of his best friends ever, Tunis Both, once said to me, "Your father is not only the hardest working man I ever met, but he's one of the best friends I've ever had; he's fantastic!"
One night, when Dad had worked from 5am until after midnight during the heavy pack season, Tunis told him to go and get some rest for the upcoming shift which started at 5am the next morning. Dad refused to go home and kept right on working, helping Tunis load a freight car until about 2am when the job was finished. He then drove home, got up after about two hours of sleep, and went back to work. During the pack season, Dad frequently worked 16 and 18 hour days--and oftentimes longer--whatever it took to get the work done.
During the Great Depression, when most of CPC was forced to shut down, Dad kept on working as a watchman, and he never lost one day's work.
Considering wages at the cannery were as low as 20 cents an hour then, I was actually making pretty good money as a musician. I happily turned over most of my earnings to Ma, who appreciated it very much, and it made me extremely happy to know I was being helpful to my family. She was always afraid I didn't keep enough for myself.
As a foreman, Dad was required to wear a white shirt and tie under his striped overalls to symbolize his position as "boss." He refused to wear the white tie and shirt and insisted on wearing a blue denim work shirt without a tie. He did, however, agree to wearing the striped overalls. Dad was the only CPC boss permitted to dress in this manner. He was born a working man and never forgot it, even when he was promoted to the position of foreman.
In his book, An Italian Grows in Brooklyn,Jerry Della Fume claims this is still true about Italo-Americans:
We are still menial laborers. Among us are far too few lawyers, doctors, engineers. It's as if some God looked at the US and said, "Hey, listen, the US is short of cooks, waiters, shoe repairmen, and singers; let's put the Italians to work. And give me an order of fried zucchini to go." And that's what happened.
I don't know if that's true of
on the West Coast, but it's an interesting observation on Della
As a label machine boss, I recall seeing Dad working harder than anyone of his crew, which involved about six men. When it came time to move the heavy label machine from one location to another, Dad would start moving the heavy equipment by himself instead of ordering him men to do the work. They stepped in to help when they saw him straining; he got his men to work for him by leading the way and tackling the job first!
Dad's company provided him with an annual physical examination free of charge, in their sincere effort to keep their key employees healthy. Regardless of how he felt at examination time, he always told the doctor he felt "great," and there was "nothing wrong," with him, even in later years when he started having problems with his prostate. He never complained about his health and avoided a much needed operation to solve the common problem in men his age. Instead, he sought temporary relief when the pain became unbearable. He finally collapsed on the job and was taken away in an ambulance. I think the last big conversation I had with him was at my brother Ed's wedding when he assured me his health was "great." But I was soon to learn differently.
Joseph Guardino was a laborer, and was proud of it. I had a career in radio broadcasting; sister Connie married an accountant, Ezel Starkey; sister Theresa married a mechanic, Earl Linsmeier; brother Bob repaired cash registers; brother Dick was a carpenter, and so was brother Ed.
in San Jose, California
unmarried sisters attended Grant Grammar School on the corner of
Jackson streets near the home of his family, and a few hundred
from Holy Cross Catholic Church, which at one time was called
Blood. It was decided that he would quit school and work at
and help support the large family at home--his parents and his
He had finished the fifth grade and had been promoted to sixth
ending his formal education at the age of 12 or 13.
When I started attending Grant Grammar School in 1926, I had the distinction years later in the fifth and sixth grades to have had two of Dad's former teachers, Mrs. Henderson and Mrs. Smith. They remembered Dad well, especially Mrs. Smith, who told my class what a novelty it was to have taught a father and his son in the same school, although in different classrooms, because the original schoolhouse burned down. It was rebuilt at the same location. Mrs. Smith told my classmates what a good student and hard worker my father had been, and how unfortunate it was that he quit school at such a young age to help support his family of origin. She said Dad was a "sincere, hard working boy" and she had enjoyed having him in the classroom.
The irony deepens. In later years, she and Mrs. Henderson had the pleasure of again instructing him when he attended night school! But always, he had to cut his education short to help his relatives, and later, when he married my mother, to support his own fast growing family. I recall seeing Dad go off to night school wearing his work clothes and carrying his books. Both he and Ma enjoyed reading my text books.
Lice in the Classroom
When I was in the first grade at Grant
School, we had an epidemic of lice in the classroom. The school
from room to room with a pencil and examined the children's
you had lice, she put a cloth around your head and sent you home
note. Many of the kids had lice, but not me. I went home and told
what had happened. She immediately washed my hair, as well as
and Connie's, and made damn sure none of her children had head
said if the wine vinegar didn't work, she would use kerosene.
Dad bought himself a bicycle and peddled back and forth to work at CPC for many years to come. This was a step up from taking the streetcar, which the family boarded at the corner of 12th and Julian streets. I imagine they walked when they later worked at the plant on 7th and Jackson streets.
Holy Cross Catholic Church had been built many years previously of wood construction. Later, the original structure was converted into a Sunday school and parish hall, when the new church was built in 1920. Much of the family's social life revolved around the Catholic Church--bazaars, picnics, plays performed in Italian, parades up and down the nearby streets on religious holidays.
The parish had itís own sponsored Italian Legion Band, in which Aunt Marina's third husband, Joe Di Martino, played as a drummer. The band frequently marched in front of the home of my parents at 469 North 12th Street, and they played loud and well, wearing flashy uniforms, with the colors of the Italian flag (red, green and white) being featured.
and the Blind Stick
"Jennie" Constance Lesei (1899-1983), my mother, was born
Stefano Di Christina, Sicily, which is near Palermo. Because her
were illiterate peasants, and apparently didn't obtain a birth
from their home town in Sicily, there is no proof as to the exact
of her birth. Considering she so loved the Roman Catholic Church
its saints, she chose December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate
of the Blessed Virgin Mary as her day to celebrate her own birth.
Although Buenaventura Lesei's name is spelled differently that the famous saint's, it is obvious that he was named in honor of him. He and his wife, whose name might possibly have been Theresa Pizzo, also had two older daughters, Maria Ferlito and Caterina Desparicio. The couple had a number of stillborn sons--all named Vincent.
In his book, Finding Italian Roots, John Phillip Colletta, PhD, discussing the naming tradition many Italians brought with them to the new country:
Since at least the 16th Century, both on the mainland and the island of Sicily, tradition has dictated how Italian parents name their children. A coupleís first son is given the name of the father's father; the first daughter is given the name of the father's mother. The second son is given the name of the mother's father; the second daughter is given the name of the mother's mother. Subsequent children are usually given their parents' names or the names of favorite or unmarried or deceased aunts and uncles.
Jennie and Joseph Guardino appear to
this formula quite faithfully. I was named Mariano in honor of my
father. My sister Connie was named in honor of my father's mother.
Richard Ventura, was named in honor of my mother's father. My
name is Theresa, so I'm speculating my maternal grandmother's name
in fact, Theresa.
The Lesei family migrated to America when my mother was three to five years old and settled in New Orleans, Louisiana, where my grandfather worked a hard, long season in a cotton field. He was paid in cash at the end of the season and was going home on the train. He apparently dropped his wallet or wad of money to the floor. A man pointed to it and asked him if it was his. Grandpa Lesei didn't understand the man, who spoke in English, and thought he might be teasing him or playing a joke. He shook his head "no" and said the money wasn't his! Needless to say, Grandma Lesei was furious when he returned home broke! Later on, they moved to San Jose and settled there.
The colorful old Lesei house had two rooms and was still standing in 1983. My son, John Lesei Guardino, has taken a number of pictures of the historic old place, which will live in my memory forever. My grandmother would burn orange peelings on the wood stove to give the room a fragrant smell. I have wondered why they don't take the place down board by board and sell it for expensive decor wood. I would suspect, however, that someday the wind will blow it over or it will go up in flames in about five minutes.
For many years the old Lesei home had an outhouse in the far end of the lot and a wire leading from the house so Grandpa Lesei could follow it to the toilet. Later, they put in a pull chain toilet outside on the back porch.
My grandparents also had an oval bake oven in the back yard and made terrific bread. One day, Grandma Lesei got hold of some brush with some poison oak in it. She made the oven fire and the poison oak got to her. She wound up in the hospital and was a very sick woman for a week or so.
I remember her brother, Joseph Pizzo, who lived in Pasadena. He was a happy-go-lucky guy and came to see my grandmother on occasions, and was there for her funeral the last time I saw him. Ma called him Uncle Joe.
My mother refused to marry an early suitor because his name was Mariano. Yet, a few years later she married Joseph Guardino, and they were bound by tradition to name their first son Mariano! I guess they figured there would be room for better sounding names down the line.
Joseph Richard Guardino and Jennie Constance Lesei met in 1916 in San Jose while working at CPC on West San Carlos Street. Ma lived in that neighborhood on Gregory Street and she, Aunt Maria, and Grandma Lesei, all worked at the cannery.
My mother was about 16 or 17 when she and my father met; he was 21 or 22. It must have been awkward courting her when they lived miles apart and his only transportation was a bicycle and a streetcar! It took about 45 minutes to get to her house by bicycle and longer by streetcar. Nevertheless, love prevailed and they were married in 1917 at ages 17 and 22.
They were married at Holy Cross Catholic
and, according to my mother, the honeymoon had been a bus trip to
where my father took her, among other places, to the Golden Gate
where she remembered she didn't like all the skeletons on display.
The newlyweds moved in with the Guardinos, which proved to be a mistake, since my didn't get along with my grandmother and some of his sisters. She claims my aunts wore her clothes as their own and this made her sore. The house was too small and terribly crowded; there was no privacy.
Later, when I was born, one of my father's sisters told everyone I was an ugly baby. This made my mother extra mad and she insisted that they move out of the neighborhood--away from the glare of his critical family. When they finally moved into their own new home, it was a block and a half away, proving somehow that blood is, in the long run, thicker than water.
One of my favorite memories of Grandpa Lesei was his dancing to Sicilian music with Theresa at Aunt Maria's house. Theresa danced him around in a circle while he stomped his blind stick and howled with happiness.
Grandma Lesei looked a great deal like Ma in her later years, and was about the same size (4 feet 11 inches and heavy built). She worked in the cannery many years and saved her money diligently. She was, however, extremely generous with her grandchildren and would lift her skirts to reach the money bag tied around her waist and would pass out pennies and nickels to us.
My grandmother was a great storyteller and would keep the family spellbound for hours sitting near the old wood stove and spinning her yarns. Unfortunately, it was all in Sicilian, and I never never learned the language and didn't understand one word of what she was saying. Regretfully, the only time our parents spoke Sicilian at home was when they didn't want us to know what they were saying.
Joseph Sunseri was my grandmother's brother. I remember him well. He was an extremely handsome and generous man. In 1930, he bought his sister a radio for her to enjoy the Italian language broadcasts and news that some stations featured. My grandmother knew about ten words of English--"hello," "good by," "shew!," etc. She often gave my parents hell for not teaching us kids to speak Italian.
My favorite photograph of Grandma Guardino is a four generation picture taken in 1944 of her, my father, me in my US Navy uniform, and my son, David Marius.
and Sicilian Wakes
my grandmother went to a dentist and had all her teeth pulled, but
think she went back for dentures, just like my mother.
While I was overseas she suffered a heart attack while in bed and woke up my grandfather, who pounded on the walls with his blind stick until he woke up Aunt Maria next door. They called a doctor, who gave her a few heart injections, but it was too late to save her. She died saying the rosary in the presence of members of her family.
My grandfather died about ten years later. I remember both of their funerals from Holy Family Catholic Church on San Fernando Street. My grandmotherís body was displayed in Aunt Maria's livingroom, with all night wakes held by members of the family. I remember my mother and her sister sewing black mourning dresses. My grandfather was displayed at the old Denegri Mortuary.
My parents were frequent funeral goers. They would drag us children to many of the home funerals in the neighborhood, and I still remember the day my mother took me to see three bodiesóa suicide, a young girl, and an old woman. They did this out of loyalty to their friends and loved ones, so they took us along until Theresa and Connie were old enough to babysit our younger brothers.
Grandpa Lesei was totally blind, and stayed at home to take care of himself. He had lost one eye in a wood chopping accident helping a neighbor woman cut her wood. A doctor used a hot towel treatments in a crude effort to save it. The other eye gradually weakened and he eventually lost his sight completely.
About 20 years later, Dad's nephew, Tony Tomasello, shined a flashlight into the old man's eyes accidentally. He complained of feeling pain, so in a faint hope there might be a chance of recovering his eye sight, he was operated on in San Francisco at Green Eye Hospital, but the operation was a failure.
Grandpa Lesei stayed with my parents for about six months following Grandma Lesei's death, but he was too much for my mother to handle with several growing children. His bed was located in the kitchen near the refrigerator, just outside the bathroom. We children were too noisy for him and this made him cross. Someone hit him in the eye with an orange peel. He showed it to our parents and we all caught hell for it. They moved him back to Aunt Maria's house shortly after that.
Buenaventura Lesei died in 1934 within days of Chicago gangster, John Dillinger.
Connie Starkey and Theresa Linsmeier
L-R: Edward Guardino, Theresa Linsmeier, Richard Guardino,
Robert Guardino, Connie Starkey, Mariano Guardino
at 3:30am by a midwife, Mrs. V. Trojan, in the back of my father's
Mrs. Trojan lived on 10th Street in San Jose. She also delivered
Connie and Theresa. My brothers, Dick and Bob, were delivered by
Ed, the youngest, had the luxury of being delivered in a hospital.
My sister Connie became badly cross-eyed at about two or three years old as the result of chicken pox or measles, and was successfully treated at Green Eye Hospital in San Francisco years after Grandpa Lesei was there in hopes of regaining his sight. She wore glasses for many years, and my favorite name for her was "Four-Eyes" or "Cock-Eyed Connie." She would beat up on me and I would beat up on her. She retaliated against my insults by calling me "Mary-Ann-O," which always made me fighting mad.
At Holy Cross Sunday School, the nun pointed out to us the Christian meaning and significance of our first names and how they related to saints and other religious figures. I asked about my "beautiful" name Mariano. She said I had the most "beautiful name of all," Mariano being the masculine version of Mary, name of the Blessed Virgin. Despite it's religion significance, I still hated the name! I got the nickname Mino from Grandma Guardino's nephew, Mino Lombardi, and chose the name Monte Guardino for professional purposes later on in life.
My sister Connie developed the reputation of being an outstanding babysitter, and she took over and was in charge of Theresa, Dick, Bob and Ed when my mother went shopping or had had an appointment. I would suspect that Connie, and later Theresa, changed more than their share of their brothers' diapers.
I remember the day Theresa said her first words. She was in the kitchen in a baby buggy by the old wood stove, and I was present when she said "Ma, Ma!" I was four and Connie was two.
The year Donna Rosa died, the family took a trip to Pasadena to visit my mother's sister, Caterina Desparicio. Ma had been ill and the doctor recommended the trip. I was six, Connie was four and Theresa was two, and, of course, Ma had lost a baby one year before I was born. I would suspect that the nature of her ailment was extreme fatigue.
We went with Sadie and Frank Balistreri, and with a second car carrying the Joseph Sunseri family. While in Pasadena we attended the wedding of Jennie and Joseph Castellano. My mother complained because the wedding wasn't Catholic! The Castellanos celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1976.
My sisters ran a gas station as their contribution to the war effort, and both of them married service men. Connie married an Irishman, Ezel Starkey, and the couple settled in Campbell, California where Ezel worked as a certified public accountant. In later years, he invested in properties, including a gay bar. Their raised a family of five children: James Wayne, Loretta Jane, Connie Marie, Catherine, and Carol. In 1968, Sgt. James Starkey (03-05-47-05-21-68) was killed in hostile action during the Vietnam War. Loretta, who is one week older than my daughter, Connie, spent time in Europe during the Vietnam era. She sojourned to Sicily to visit the home towns of our ancestors, and was busted for drug possession while working in a German hospital. Having lost their only brother in action, she and her younger sister, Cathy, became hippies, and were caught up in the anti-government sentiments of the time.
Theresa married a German, Earl Linsmeier, who was a mechanic, a trade he most likely picked up in the Army. Earl had a contract with the San Jose Police Department, and ran a very large garage. He had the distinction of being the only survivor of a bombed tank, and had big lumps of shrapnel in his powerful arms, but it did not hamper his ability to make a good living. They eventually bought a small, two bedroom house directly across the street from our parentsí home, and raised a family of three children: Shirley Ann, Mary Constance, and Richard Earl.
Shirley was also cross-eyed, like my sister Connie, and had many surgeries to correct the condition. Even as an adult, her weak eye would pull in when she was tired. She married Gary Hendriques, a Portuguese prune farmer, and the couple raised two children.
Like my daughter Connie, Mary played the accordion and became quite good at it. She married her childhood sweetheart, Leonard Pelletier, and the couple's daughter, Michelle, became an ice skating champion.
birth was quite a novelty in that he was born on the 13th day of
and weighed 13 pounds. Shortly after his birth, one of my mother's
Bobbie Both, said, "Why that kid looks like he's six months old!"
One day, when he was about 18 months old, Bob put his head under the spigot of the wine tank outside the house. He had seen Dad test the new juice after the wine had been crushed and put into the tank for the fermenting process. Baby Bob decided to try it out for himself. He cocked his head just so and sampled the leaking juice. He passed out! Ma ran to her neighbor, Jessie Cancilla, who called doctor to the scene of the emergency. He said, "This child is drunk," and recommended that my mother but Bob in a stroller and push around the block several times to sober him up.
Bob suffered from emotional problems much of his life, and had some sort of a breakdown while serving a stint in the Army. He often suffered from amnesia and was treated at Agnews State Hospital a number of times.
A cash register repairman by trade, he was able to make a comfortable home for his German wife, Billie Herring, and their four children: Robin Lynn, Thomas Edward, James Anthony, and Julie Ann. Robin married an African and lives in Africa with her husband and children. and Tom who has a genius IQ, lives on the Oregon Coast with his wife Holly Jean Quedens and children. He is the project manager for ECONorthwest. Jim, who was born a platinum blond, spent time in a California prison for raping a woman. The whereabouts of Julie Guardino are currently unknown to the author.
It was my nightly job to fill the wine bottle for the evening meal when Dad came home from work. I went into the cellar with a half gallon jug, took an occasional nip or two and put the filled bottle on the kitchen table. When I was slow bringing the bottle from the cellar, he would rap on the floor as a signal for me to hurry up, or he would send one of the other kids down for reinforcement.
I went to confession one evening when I was about 12 years old. I had drunk a little wine and decided to cover the smell with a garlic sandwich. The priest asked me how old I was through the darkened window of the confessional. I told him, and he gave me a lecture on not drinking wine prior to my confessions. He told me to come back next week--no wine and no garlic! That Sunday, because the priest had refused to hear my confession, I remember I went to a different mass than my mother, so she wouldn't ask me why I didn't receive communion!
All members of the family drank wine with our evening meals--a tradition I passed on to my children. Dad enjoyed a drink or two before going to bed, and if he had trouble sleeping he would get up during the night and have a nightcap or two. My father drank a lot of wine but I never saw him drunk! However, that is not to say he wasn't effected by it; my mother complained because he sang opera in his sleep long and loud; he complained because her raucous snoring was enough to quicken the dead.
Every year my father paid good money for a ton of grapes to make wine, which guaranteed 200 to 250 gallons of what was either good, bad or plain vinegar wine. He did, however, manage to bottle about ten gallons every year and give it away as Christmas presents to his bosses and friends, who looked forward to receiving it. I would usually go along with him on his wine delivery trips. Tunis Both, Clarence Woods, and Cal Benjamin were some of the recipients at California Packing Corporation. Ma gave him hell one year when he had made a batch of bad wine, then went to the store to buy good wine to give to his friends!
One of Dad's best wine drinking friends was his neighbor, Herb Lietz, and sometimes his brother, Bill Lietz. Herb came over frequently and Dad kept his glass filled; he usually left the house feeling happy. I recall Herb reaching over to pour his own drinks. He would bring over his friends and Dad became the bartender. He loved to make people feel happy, and I am sure the wine helped!
When I was about six years old, I remember some of Dad's cannery buddies came over and they must have killed two gallons of wine! Always the errand boy, I made several trips to the store to buy cheese, butter and salami to feed the mob. During the party, a big lump of coal fell on his foot and broke it. Some of the men forced him into a car and took him to the hospital. They put him on crutches and his boss told him to stay home for a month or so. Within a few days, he went back to work on crutches and worked that way until he healed.
Ma usually stayed in the background during those drinking sessions, but she was a good sport about the whole thing and drank along with the boys. She enjoyed the company and was particularly happy one day when musician Smoky Joe and an accordion buddy came over to entertain.
Smoky Joe at one time was the world's best harmonica player, and was really great until the booze finally got to him and he wound up a bum. He and I played at some dances together, and he was really a great musician. I saw him about a month before he died, around 1965; he was dressed like a bum and playing his harmonica for donations. They found him dead in a creek with a bottle of wine at his side. He had apparently drunk himself to death. Idiota!
When I was seven or eight years old, my mother and I were in town, when an old drunk fell down in front of us. The sidewalk was crowded with people, yet no one offered to help the guy up; they walked around him and kept moving. Ma bent over and helped the man to his feet. She asked him if he was all right. He said, "Thank you, lady!" and staggered away.
Dad had been reasonably healthy most of
life. He drank wine all of his life and started smoking Bull
age ten or eleven.
Bull Durham came in a small sack with the opening tied with a thong. Along the side of the sack were the cigarette papers for rolling and making your own for each smoke. You poured the tobacco onto a sheet of tobacco paper, rolled it into a cigarette shape, and with your lips moistened it tight, ready for smoking. Dad got mad when the price went up from five cents to ten cents a sack, so he bought a cigarette making machine for about $5.00 and tried making his own cigarettes mechanically. The experiment didn't last long and he went back to rolling his own manually, for the rest of his life. Dad was not cheap, just highly principled! He would fight to save a nickel on a sack of Bull Durham, yet he would give a bum 25 cents because he asked for it! He disliked store bought cigarettes, which he called "tailor made," and smoked them only when he had to. He never smoked on the job, but made regular visits to the men's room to join his co-workers in puffing on the weed.
As a child, Dad suffered from typhoid fever, and as a result of that ailment, his right nostril was pinched and partially clogged. It didn't seem to affect his breathing. He also had a number of small bumps behind his right ear, which may have indicated a problem (mastoiditis?), although I donít believe he ever had a hearing loss. He wore glasses; I would say his eyesight was good. In his earlier days, he read many Western novels; his favorite writer was Zane Grey (1875-1939). In later years, he preferred books on poultry raising and small farming, the big dream of his life that was never realized!
My father hated doctors and dentists and kept away from them as much as possible. He did, however, spend a fortune on doctors keeping his wife and children healthy. He never hesitated to take a sick child to a doctor or have a doctor come to the house as was the custom in those days, when most doctors made house calls. Dad always claimed that doctors did a good job keeping him broke.
He suffered from piles for years, and the problem kept him miserable weeks at a time. The situation got progressively worse, and he refused to see a doctor. One summer day, when I was working in the cannery and eating my lunch at the restaurant, I heard two guys from the warehouse talking about "Joe the foreman," who had piles so bad that he sat on the warm fruit cans for relief. I didn't say anything, but I recognized they were talking about my father. I told my mother about it, and we both pursued him to see a doctor. He refused, as usual, and said there was nothing wrong with him! Finally, Tunis Both ordered him to take time off and see the company doctor.
So, reluctantly, he went to see Dr. Wagner to have his hemorrhoids treated. There was a debate as to whether they should be surgically removed or burned out. Whatever method was chosen, it must have been extremely painful and Dad never forgot it or forgave the doctor, whom he said used a "hammer and chisel" to cure the problem. He cursed the doctor for the rest of his life and called him a "butcher." Actually, he was an excellent doctor, and did a good job curing the painful situation.
Richard's birth, Dr. Monte made frequent calls to our home. Ma
to me that I was going to have another brother or sister, and it
come someday in the doctor's handbag. One evening Dr. Monte stayed
dinner because Ma's cooking smelled so good!
My brother Richard was to have been named after our grandfather, Buenaventura Lesei. I put up a howling complaint and convinced our parents that an American name was more appropriate. I reminded them what a handicap the name "Mariano" had been to me. They settled for Richard Ventura. "Buena Ventura" means "good venture" or "good fortune."
I recall watching my mother breast feed Baby Dick. I was fascinated by the process. She saw me watching, so she took her nipple out of his mouth, aimed it at me and squirted me in the eye. I can still see the twinkle in her eye and hear her chuckle!
Dick developed into quite a rascal. One day, while I was sitting with my shirt off on the concrete steps leading to the house, Dick sneaked up behind me with a fig on a stick covered with bees. He dropped the fig on my back and ran away. Thank goodness I wasn't stung!
On another occasion, he smashed my pride and joy crystal set with a hammer. Tony Tomasello had just made it for me. I tried to fix it with glue, but it never worked again. I had thoroughly enjoyed the crystal set bringing in KQW for about a week when he smashed it. He said he was "trying to make it work better!" Tony never got around to making me another crystal set. In the course of time, I made sets for myself and my sons.
Dick was a carpenter by trade, and he and his wife, Barbara Ann Server, raised a family of four boys: William Richard, who married Janet Susan Woytek, Michael Joseph, Mark Anthony and Carl Thomas, who is President and CEO of the Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group. Carl Guardino was recently named as one the "Ten Most Powerful" people in Silicon Valley by the San Jose Mercury News power study, which is only conducted every ten years.
Richard Ventura Guardino (1929-2002)
San Jose Mercury News, Friday, February 1, 2002
He mended broken bicycles, rebuilt
and cars, even added an entire second story to his home, doing
the work himself.
Richard Ventura Guardino could repair or build just about anything, said his sons. And he was completely self-taught.
"He'd read a book on how to do something then he'd do it and it was always right the first time," said son Carl Guardino of Mountain View, who heads the Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group.
"He could make anything work, and he had hands like iron," recalled son Mark Guardino of San Jose, an area drywall contractor. "I called him 'Mr. Magic Fingers.'"
Mr. Guardino, 72, lost his two-year battle with cancer Sunday at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Santa Clara as his wife of 47 years, Barbara, and his four sons surrounded him and said goodbye.
"He had been will with prostate cancer for a couple of years," wrote his sister-in-law, Harriet Guardino of Eugene, Oregon. "It had spread to his spine and tumors in his brain. We were thankful that our grandson, Matthew Hicks, had driven us to San Jose in September to visit Dick before Matthew was sent on a year's assignment in Okinawa."
"He was ready to go months ago, but he was so strong that he just kept on fighting against the illness," Mark Guardino said.
Even while his health was fading, Mark Guardino said, his father still managed to greet people with his "bone-crusher" handshake. "He was the toughest guy ever and stayed sharp until the end."
Carl Guardino said his most enduring memory of his father was the lesson he taught his sons about racial tolerance. "Both my parents were completely colorblind, and that's the way they raised us. I was always thankful for that."
Mr. Guardino was born in a little house on North 12th Street near downtown San Jose, not far from the fruit packing canneries where his father worked. He attended Grant Elementary School, Peter Burnette Junior High and eventually San Jose Tech, a school across the street from San Jose High School. He was proud of competing for San Jose Tech's wrestling team. He spent two years at San Jose State University before being called to serve in the Korean War in 1951.
Five years earlier, he'd met the girl of his dreams--Barbara Ann Server--to whom he wrote constantly while overseas.
"He couldn't get her out of his mind," said Mark Guardino. "He remembered her beautiful blue eyes that he called 'pools of blue.'"
When Mr. Guardino returned from the war and saw Barbara waiting for him, he was so excited that he jumped off a second-story fire escape at his Army barracks and ran to scoop her up in his arms, Barbara Guardino said.
Soon after, he proposed to the woman he'd first met when she was barely a teenager at 14 and he was only a little older at 17.
"He had the biggest brown eyes," said Barbara Guardino. "And he had a great sense of humor that never left him. He was still joking and singing songs to the nurses at the hospital at the end."
Mr. Guardino became a drywall installer; but he'd taught himself almost everything else about construction. After he and his wife moved into their small West San Jose home and started their family, he knew the home needed to grow. So, largely by himself, he built a second story with three bedrooms.
He was also known throughout his neighborhood as "Mr. Fixit" and would often jump in to help someone down the street install a sink or put up rain gutters. He was a 30-year member of Carpenters Union Local 316 in San Jose.
When he began mulling over retirement, Mr. Guardino and his wife visited the Napa Valley, fell in love with the sprawling vineyards and ended up buying an ailing five-acre plot of grapewines in Calistoga.
"We didn't know a thing about grapes, but my husband said, 'We can do this,' so we bought the property," Barbara Guardino said.
Mr. Guardino revived the little vineyard after reading about growing and harvesting techniques. He built a small garage on the property and the couple lived in a trailer on weekdays for 16 years while they nurtured the French colombard grapes that were sold each year to a commercial winery.
The couple sold the property last year when Mr. Guardino became too ill to continue working on it.
"If he hadn't gotten ill, he'd still be working the vineyard," said Mark Guardino.
Mr. Guardino's sons remembered the family camping trips with their dad and how he supported their academic and athletic endeavors as they grew up. Mr. Guardino has two other sons: William Guardino of Cupartino, also a drywall contractor, and Michael Guardino of Carmel, a biology teacher at Carmel High School.
"He was a loving family man to the end," said Mark Guardino. "He and my mom held hands and had a strong love for each other until the very last minute."
Mr. Guardino was also survived by three grandchildren: Natalie and Billy Guardino of Cupertino, and Nancy Guardino of Carmel.
A funeral mass was held February 1, at Queen of Apostles Church, 4911 Moorpark Avenue, San Jose, followed by burial in Santa Clara Mission Cemetery.
the day of my brother Edward's birth at O'Connor Sanitarium. He
motherís only child to be born in a hospital, the rest of
been delivered conveniently at home by doctors and midwives.
was present at Ed's birth too, and she told the story of how my
insisted that she get out of bed one hour after Ed's birth
mass because it was Good Friday. Bobbie told her, "The Lord will
your not going to the church today. Just thank him for your
you've done enough for one day!"
My parents deliberated a long time over my brother's name. Dad held out for Eugene and the name Michael was considered, but the name Edward won out, at my insistence, and I believe Theresa and Connie were in favor of it too.
Ed was very lean and handsome and spent much of his youth "cherrying out" sports cars. I remember one that gleamed like a fire engine with seven coats of candy apple red. He married Melva Jean Nations, and the couple had three children: Jean E., Jacqueline, and Joseph D.
One of my earliest memories of Dad was of him riding home from work on his bicycle. Often times he would come home late and it was my job to go into the street and look for the light coming down 12th Street from Santa Clara, where he turned off. As soon as I spotted the bike light I would tell Ma and she would start setting the table.
Dad would ride his bicycle to work as early as 5am in the morning and would come home as late as midnight, sometimes later, six and seven days a week during the pack season.
I will never forget the night we had a terrible wind and rain storm. Ma pleaded with Dad to stay home because it was dangerous outside with the heavy rain and trees falling over. He shrugged his shoulders and rode the bicycle to work.
was very happy. Papa had agreed to take him for a ride in his car
very Sunday. While Mama was visiting her sister, the boy climbed
car and he and his father set off for the countryside.
They returned late in the afternoon. Mama had already returned home and was busily preparing dinner. Ernesto, bubbling over with excitement, rushed into the kitchen to tell Mama all about the day's happenings.
"We saw lots and slots of brand new cars," he cried happily, his words gushing forth live a fountain.
"And did Papa tell you the name of those cars?" she asked, smiling at her son's exuberance.
"Oh, yes, Mama," said Ernesto. "We saw ten Pintos, 15 Chevies, three Mercuries, two Thunderbirds, one Cadillac, four Chryslers, and 56 stupidi bastardi!"
Dad's boss and best friend, Tunis Both,
CPC into selling Dad one of their obsoleted company cars so he
have to peddle to and from work at all hours and in all kinds of
It seems to me that they sold him the car, a 1922 Studebaker
for about $50. Tunis taught Dad how to drive, and that probably
changed his life.
I was about seven or eight when this happened, and I will never forget the day Dad took the family on his first big trip to Mountain View to visit with Aunt Mary and Uncle Tom Greco. He kept the emergency brake on and couldn't get the car to go more than 30 miles an hour! Dad was ready to trade that Studebaker back for his bicycle before he realized what he had done. Ma smelled the burning brakes and was afraid the car would blow up on the family.
In the years that followed, Dad owned a number of cars, usually recommended and pointed out to him by his nephew, Tony Tomasello. Ma was extremely happy when he traded in the Studebaker for a 1926 Dodge because it had windows all around and the kids wouldn't catch cold like they did in the open air touring car. The guy who bought the Studebaker made a tow truck out of it.
One of Dadís better cars was a Star, or something like that. It had a lot of beauty and a lot of power. One day, he drove it onto the path of a city bus coming down the overpass on San Carlos Street, across from the cannery. The bus had no brakes and was heading for the bus barn. Dad crawled out of the smashed automobile and walked across the street to work. The car was completely totaled!
Al Lardo! Mascalzone! Biccone!
being taken by crooked mechanics. Iíll never forget the
paid for a brake job, only to learn later they had simply adjusted
brakes. I heard him say frequently, "I wish at least one of my
know how to fix cars!"
When I was about five or six I recall Dad coming down the street from the streetcar proudly carrying a new accordion he had just purchased from Sherman-Clay & Company. He paid $485 for the instrument, which was a lot of money in those days. Ma had a fit when he came inside the door. She really gave him hell for "wasting all that money" when he had "a bunch of kids to feed." I'm sure he could well afford the accordion and ignored her comments, as he often did. His kids never starved for a day and the instrument brought him much joy and relaxation. He loved the accordion and played it beautifully. However, when his father died suddenly in 1926, Dad resolved never to play the accordion again in tribute to Mariano Guardino's memory.
On one occasion, Dad took me to the Victory to see world famous accordion player, Guido Dairo.
That same year, Dad bought me a 12 bass La Rosita accordion for $60. He paid $1.25 a week for my lessons from a local music store. I soon outgrew the small instrument in about six months, and the music store tried to sell Dad a larger, more professional model for me that cost about $400. Dad refused and insisted that I use his old accordion, the Galleazzi he had been saving for me for years, since his father died. There was a lot of sentiment, and Dad would not consider trading it in on another accordion. It was the instrument he himself had played and entertained his parents with. No way would he trade it in! I took lessons on the Galleazzi,under protest of my teacher and the music company he represented. I was using an unauthorized instrument and had to pay dearly for the violation. During band concerts they hid me behind the taller players and would never permit me to play solos. On one occasion, they printed a sales brochure for distribution around the Italo-Americano neighborhoods showing kids taking lessons from the music company. Although I was considered a pretty good player, my picture was left off the brochure. This made Dad sore and hurt my feelings. When I was about 18 I traded in the old accordion for my present Guerriniwith Dad's approval. I had worn the thing out and he felt that I was ready to become a professional musician and needed an updated instrument. Frankly, I'm sorry we sold the Galleazzi, now that I fully understand the storia behind it. I still own the La Rosita, which I have given to my son John. It still sounds great and is worth more than the $60 we paid for it. Today, I wouldn't trade it for a fortune!
Trick or Treat
When I was 14, I was invited to a Halloween party about six blocks from home. I spruced myself up, shined my shoes and looked forward to a fun evening with a pretty girl I had met in school. As I was walking down the street between Empire and Jackson streets on 13th, I stepped into a big puddle of dog poop. I recognized immediately what it was. I tried to wipe it off on a lawn. It got on my pants and stunk like hell. I hurried home and Ma soon recognized the problem. She laughed and said, "Maybe God wanted it to happen that way! Stay home and play your accordion" I never went to the party and the girl never spoke to me again--not even in high school five years later!
San Jose High School Prom
"As a parting shot at San Jose High, I
not attend the Senior Prom. I had a date in mind, but came to the
that I was stepping out of my class for the event. Her family was
wealthy and mine, especially me, was notably poor. I could never
up to her status, not even on a rental basis--expensive coursage,
service, which was the current rage, dinner at an expensive
dancing at the County Club, all too rich for my blood.
"I made myself scarce as the prom date approached and practically hid from the girl. She had lovely brown hair and pale blue eyes. I was also embarassed by the sound of my given name--Mariano. It sounded great in Sicialian, but lost much of its beauty in its American translation, sounding more like a girl's name. My family and friends knew me as Mino but to the unimformed I was Morono, Maritone, Marsano, Marconi, etc. I was looking for an excuse not to attend, anything to stay clear of the prom, traditionally one of the biggest days of the high school years.
"On the day of the big event, I wilted and went into hiding. A buddy and I went to see a western movie instead. We drove him father's broken down Chevrolet and went Dutch treat, each pay8ng for his own ticket, each knowing what the other was thinking. The date I could have had went with someone else. She rarely spoke to me again. What a lousy Valentino I turned out to be! I was not as cocksure as I thought I was..." "So Be It!" 2003, page 7
I played my accordion at a lot of home parties, beer joints and the like, usually as a soloist or with a small combo consisting of Paul D'Angelo, who played the drums and tooted a saxophone. I think my greatest accomplishment as a musician came on a Sunday afternoon when I played on the state at HCSS. My first song was the Italian Fox Trot. Then I swung into the controversial Fascist Hymn. It was during the time Benito Mussolini (1922-1943) was invading Ethiopia, and there were many Italians in favor of this action. The audience went wild! They stood up and sang along with me as I played the hero of the hour, although I did hear some "boos!" in the audience.
Shortly afterwards, at age 13 or 14, I entered an amateur hour at the San Jose against my instructor's wishes but in accordance with Dad's insistence and my desire. I was the only juvenile in the contest and had to go through a lot of red tape from City Hall getting permission to perform on the stage as a minor. Dad helped me with the paper work; I placed third in a group of 12 acts. Dad was proud of my accomplishment; to hell with the music company and my instructor! I had played his instrument in a stiff competition and he was extremely proud!
In future years, from ages 13 through 18, I played the accordion frequently at parties, school functions, Sunday School stage, etc., usually as a soloist, but often with a small combo of two or three instruments.
One time I played my accordion at Gene King's wedding at the Portuguese Catholic Church on East San Jose. Some of his friends invited me to play for a dance in the Santa Clara Church Hall. I played a few Italian and American songs. They gave me hell and insisted that I play "Chamarita." I played it over and over most of the night and was well paid for it.
At age 18, I had a steady Saturday night job playing at a night club on Alum Rock Avenue. They guaranteed me $3 per night from 9pm until 2am, and I would pick up another $2 or $3 in tips. Dad would let me take his car to these engagements, but I remember he went with me the first night and stayed there the whole evening to make sure I was in good company. We got home about 2:30am, and Ma was awake to inquire, "Where have you been? I've been worried all night!"
After playing in this joint for about six months, my boss called me one Saturday morning and said she didn't want me to show up that night. I asked if I was being fired and she said, "No, just don't show up tonight. I don't need you!" I asked about the following week and she said, "I'll let you know; just don't show up tonight. Understand?" The next morning, I read in the paper where this particular night club had been blown sky high in an early morning explosion. Dad and I went to the place and all that was left was a few crooked, dangling pipes from the plumbing, a black toilet bowl and a burned-out piano laying next to the spot where I used to play. The owner was a piano player and she often played duets with me. Arson was suspected in the explosion, and 48 years later I am certain the diagnosis was correct.
Grandma Guardino had moved in with us for a while after Grandpa died in 1926. They moved in her gigantic all metal poster bed into our back bedroom, and I still donít remember where the rest of us slept. This was long before the back porch was made into a bedroom. The noise was too much for her and she pleaded to go home. The family divided her house into a crude duplex and she lived with her dear old friend, Donna Rosa, until her death in 1945.
Donna Rosa had been a beautiful woman in her younger years. She was an extremely interesting person. She knew about 50 words of English and often translated our kiddie messages to my grandmother. One day she gave me a penny and told me to buy five cents worth of candy. Everybody loved the old woman and she had a good sense of humor. She and Grandma Guardino got into a lot of playful arguments.
One cold morning, Ma noticed that Donna Rosa had an object under her dress across her chest. It turned out to be a warm stove lid to keep her body hot in the very cold weather. She grieved when Grandma Guardino died. Later, her family put her in a nursing home. This killed her spirit and she died a sad woman.
The Sicilian Jesus
At age seven or eight, I was called upon to play the part of Jesus in a home celebration at the Bagase house on Sunal Street. Every year they built an altar in their home and decorated it with fancy laces, religious pictures, tons of food, flowers and Italian delicacies. They were thanking God for having done them favors in the past. Mary, Joseph and myself as Jesus sat at a table near the altar, and people came throughout the day to pray and pay their symbolic respects to the three of us. As part of the ceremony, they put food in front of us to nibble on. The plates were then taken from The holy family and passed on to the guests as blessed food for them to enjoy in a divine way. They didn't know I had a bad case of hungry pinworms at the time, so I ate everything they put in front of me instead of nibbling in the proper manner. The guests were shaking their heads and looking at me cross-eyed. They didn't call me back the next year; that was the first and last year I ever played Jesus!
Worms, Worms, Go Away!
Speaking of pinworms, I got them
a very young age, and Ma's treatment for them consisted primarily
me to bed at night with a garlic necklace around my neck.
smell of the garlic necklace would chase the critters away! I
from worms for a number of years, and often went to school
Gilroy on a hot day (Gilroy is the garlic capital of the world).
treatment for worms was a foul smelling plant called "rootha,"
in Grandma Lesei's back yard. They dipped it in olive oil and
on my stomach while my grandmother chanted something in Sicilian,
probably meant, "Worms, worms go away!"
Something worked, because for many years I got rid of the worms. When I was about 15, they reoccurred and I decided to cure myself. I got hold of a fistful of garlic--about half a cup--peeled them and made a pot of garlic soup with lots of olive oil and some pasta. The Linsmeiers had just moved in across the street. John Linsmeier came over and wanted to know if maybe our house was on fire, or we had some garbage burning! He said he could smell it all over the neighborhood. I offered him some. He gave me a dirty look and said, "No, thank you!" He walked away holding his nose. For many years he reminded me of this incident. The garlic soup apparently worked; I was cured of pin worms permanently.
When I was ten or 12, I inherited a pair of "nickers" or golf pants from my cousin, Tony Tomasello. Aunt Maria had bought him a suit of clothes; it came with a second pair of pants, the "nickers." Tony wouldn't wear them, so they gave them to me. I hated them worse than he did. The pants and socks both fell to my ankles and were a real nuisance. One day, I got hold of a pair of scissors cut the "nickers" to pieces. Ma beat me up on that one, but she never stuck me with "nickers" again.
When I attended Peter Burnett Junior High School I wore "Long Johns" underwear with the trap door in the back. The other kids laughed at me when I took a shower, so I refused to wear them anymore and insisted that Ma buy me Americanized shorts and T-shirts. She argued that I would catch cold too easily with the abbreviated underwear, but she bought what I wanted and that was the last of the "Long Johns" for me. I suspect she passed them along to Dick, Bob and Ed.
One of the joys of the Guardino family was our weekly visit to the Jose, usually on Sundays and holidays, when Jennie could get Joseph away from giving free haircuts. We usually went by streetcar H and later by automobile. The Jose always showed Westerns, and we loved them immensely--Tom Mix (1880-1940), Buck Jones (1889-1942), Bob Steel, Hoot Gibson, and many more. We rarely missed a Sunday movie. Ma loved the serials, and she couldn't wait for the following week to see what happened. She loved movies and I recall her reading the titles out loud for the kids to understand.
One Sunday afternoon, a man sitting in front of us told her to "shut up!" Dad felt insulted and wanted to fight the guy. They swore back and forth at each other. The usher and manager came running down the aisle and restored peace. The cost of admission was 15 cents for adults and five cents for children.
One day when we went to the Jose ticket office, Dad learned that the price of admission had been raised five cents a ticket. This infuriated him so much that he argued with the cashier, then took the family across the street to the Lyric--a real flea house if there ever was one! They had a rotten cowboy picture, but the price had not been raised! Ma insisted that she wanted to go to the Jose and see the next chapter of a serial she had been following.
During the showing of the rotten Western and during the intermission, when they sold popcorn and candy up the center aisle, the men could be seen moving toward the screen and going out a door to the right where they urinated up against a fence. I was right there with them. That was unfair to the women, and after that Ma yelled to Dad, "Don't you ever take me to that dump again. Meeska! No toilets!"
The following week we went to the National where Joe reluctantly paid the extra five cents a ticket, and Ma was happy because, "At least the National had toilets!" It was a long time before Dad forgave the Jose for raising their ticket prices, but he finally got over his mad and once again took the family to their favorite theater, where they had the best Westerns in town and Ma could once again get involved with the weekly "chapter pictures."
Although Jennie Guardino was a great lover of Westerns, her true movie hero was Rudolph Valentino.
"I had long been a movie buff and seldom missed a Saturday matinee at the Jose Theater, prepferring westerns and war movines, and the rougher the better. I was usually accompanied by a buddy or two. In school I became interested in drama and acted in several short plays and skits. I was truly smitten and felt that I had found my goal in life, to be a movie actor in the mode of Ruldolph Valentino, whose handful of movies I saw over and over. I particularly enjoyed he relationships he had with his leading ladies. If he could do it, why couldn't I? It was interesting to note that my mother adored Mr. Valentino, while my father was more into Tom Mix and Buck Jones." "So Be It!" 2003, page 6
When I was 12, Dad finally bought me a radio, after a lot of begging and pleading. And when he finally decided to buy one, he bought an expensive, good one, the Grunow Console,complete with shortwave. I loved that radio and played it day and night when I wasn't practicing on the accordion. I listened to the comedy shows, plays, and everything that came along. I enjoyed the shortwave--police calls and the like--and thoroughly enjoyed the communications between Akron and Macon Dirigibles as they communicated with Moffitt Field and other planes. I got a kick out of the military jargon, and that radio was my best friend for many years.
Dad had no use for the radio when we first got it, until one day he heard me listening to the fights. He listened too, and liked what he heard, so he started listening to the fights with me and tried not to miss them. Soon he became interested in the news and Western music, especially the Nevada Night Herders, which he listened to almost daily in the morning and again at night after supper. The Nevada Night Herders appeared in person at the Victory, and Dad took the family to see them.
Dad owned a second house on West Court
in San Jose. He rented it and often had serious tenant problems.
occasion he rented the house for $18 per month. The guy missed a
and asked Dad if he would take a young goat in trade. Dad agreed
the goat home. He didn't have the heart to kill it, so he took the
out for a ride and asked me to slaughter the animal. I was about
15. I slit the goat's throat and hung it up to dress--like I would
I then salted the hide and put it out to dry on the back fence.
our neighbors apparently stole the skin. I recognized it on his
line several months later. We devoured the goat meat in about a
Dad had many acquaintances, but few of what you would call very close friends. In later years, he valued the friendship of John Linsmeier, Fr. Maurice O'Brien, Tunis Both, Joseph Enos, who was always good for a laugh. I recall him putting Dad in a good mood in the hospital a few days before he went to San Francisco for his big operation toward the end of his life. One of his friends, Mariano Mosso, became my confirmation godparents.
Fists: Before "Time Out"
or four years old, I ran away from Ma into the backyard. I had no
on! She paddled me good and hard, as I remember.
Dad was a kind hearted man, but he was also a strict disciplinarian. Ma would make a list of my faults during the day, such as beating up on my sister. She would tell Dad what I had done as soon as he came through the door and before he took off his coat. Then he would punish me and never listen to my side of the story. Ma's word was authority, and he would never question her decision for punishment. Oftentimes, she would punish me in the morning and then wait for Dad to give me a double dose in the evening, regardless of the time he came home, and even if it meant getting out of bed. He punished me frequently with his razor strap, his open hand, and in later years, he tried his fist a few times. I became calloused to his punishment, and he couldnít hurt me anymore. I would laugh at him and this made him angrier and more frustrated. He didn't know what to do next. I recall the times he punished me in the evening, then came to my bed and kissed me with tears in his eyes. He was trying to be the perfect father, but he was up against a bullheaded son like myself. I was the first kid he had to raise, and I guess we both had a lot to learn.
One of the neighbors used to pick on me a lot. He was older, bigger and stronger than me and seemed to enjoy wrestling me to the ground. Then he would fill him mouth with spit and let it drool down on my face, as I squired to get away from him.
One day, he chased me up a tree and tried to pull me out of the tree by my shoe. The shoe came off and I climbed higher into the tree. He came after me with a stick and tried to force me out of the tree, poking me all over and giving me real punishment. I got mad and urinated down on him, squirting him smack in the face and head. He climbed down the tree and ran home to his father. His old man was furious and complained to Dad over my behavioróand guess who got a licking with the razor strap!
Dad figured I was tough like him, so he
when I was about 12 or 13 to give me boxing lessons, and he did a
job teaching me. I looked forward to his boxing lessons, and he
working with me, so in between the accordion lessons and my
we boxed, usually in the kitchen. As the result of this, we became
friends. I then took my boxing training and beat up on
I didn't like. Later, I took up boxing at San Jose State and was
a good boxer in US Navy boot camp. At San Jose State I had the
try out for the boxing team or act in a Shakespearean play. I
play, because I was a Speech-Drama major, and that ended my boxing
As I mentioned earlier, Dad loved boxing. He frequently took me to the auditorium to see Charley Manina fight and his cousin, Anthony Guardino from San Francisco. Anthony looked enough like Dad to be his brother. They were about the same size, had very little hair on their chests, not an ounce of fat on their bodies, and you could easily see the family resemblance. He was a club fighter and started out like a house afire, but seemed to run out of gas in the third or fourth round. Charley Manina was also a club fighter and a brawler, who would take five punches and land one. He tried this against a black boxer who made hamburger out of him and helped to cut his career in the ring short. Charley was the hero of Little Italy in San Jose, and just about everybody went to see him fight. He always put on a good show--win, lose or draw!
One night, after watching Anthony fight, Dad and I went into the dressing room to talk to him. He had won his four round fight and acted like a champion.
On one occasion, Dad took me to San Francisco to see Vincent De Malta fight in the Golden Gloves. Vincent was somewhat of a neighborhood champion, having knocked out his older brothers and other kids in the neighborhood in backyard boxing matches. In his San Francisco fight he was knocked out in the second round. He said his opponent caught him with a lucky punch behind the ear. One of his 11th Street buddies broke his right hand in one of the fights and his father wanted to kill him because it happened during the wine making season and the poor kid couldn't help lifting grape boxes and operating the grape crusher and presses, since his father was in that business.
In 1944, toward the end of WWII, when I
drafted into the US Navy, Dad was concerned about my safety. I was
with a friend of his from the cannery, a guy I will call
the bus was leaving San Jose for San Francisco for the swearing-in
induction, Dad took "Alfredo" to one side and said to him, "Keep
on my boy. He hasn't been around much like you, and he's a good
him; I'd appreciate it." I heard Alfredo says to Dad, "Joe,
worry about your boy. I'll take good care of him and bring him
you safe and sound."
Alfredo kept an eye on me for about an hour and then went about his own business of gambling and shooting off his big mouth, and then said something about having to "babysit the boss' kid." He added that he "could hardly wait to meet the Japs and win the war by himself."
In boot camp, Alfredo fainted when they injected him with an inoculation needle. On the parade ground he was all feet and had the coordination of a dead horse. He was a stupidi bastardi,and all he had going for him was a big mouth! Alfredo's big test came when he had to jump off a 40-foot diving board into a swimming pool wearing a life jacket. Everybody in the company of about 100 men, including myself, jumped into the water--except Alfredo! They picked some guys by the feet and arm pits and threw them in. They went down screaming but they made it! When it came Alfredo's turn to jump, he turned coward. He fell to his stomach and wrapped his arms around the diving board. He cried like a baby and pleaded for mercy. The company commander finally told the sailors to lay off Alfredo and he didn't have to jump. I can still see him up on that diving board hanging on for dear life and kicking at the sailors who were trying to throw him into the pool. A few days later, they booted Alfredo out of the US Navy as being unfit for duty. He went back to the cannery and told everyone he had a bad ear and was given a medical discharge. He told Dad, "Don't worry about your boy; he's doing well at boot camp."
Dad was a second father to Tony Tomasello, who came to San Diego to visit me at boot camp for the purpose of checking up on me at Dad's request.
His father, Tony Tomasello, had been killed in a Los Angeles train wreck two months before young Tony was born. He was on his way to work with a couple of friends when the tragic accident occurred. He was in the back seat of the car and was killed when the train smacked into them. The other two men survived the impact.
Tony called my father "Uncle Joe" and had a lot of respect for him. He got into a lot of trouble as a teenager, and Dad was always available to help him out.
On one occasion, Tony and one or two of his friends climbed into Tony's hopped up Model T Ford and threw rotten tomatoes at people on the sidewalks. It was Halloween, so why not! Tony wound up in Juvenile Hall for a few days and Dad was there to help his nephew. He brought him candy and books and visited him after getting off work at night. He did the same for his nephew, Mario Greco, when he got into trouble with the law.
Toward the end of WW I, Dad was selected for duty in the US Army but deferred in early 1918 at age 23 because he and my mother and my baby sister, had the flu.
One of his friends went overseas and thought he could win the war by himself--just like Alfredo. He stood up in his trench on the Western Front, swore at the Germans and yelled, "You can't kill me, stupidi bastardi!"A sniper put a bullet right through his head.
He told another classic story about one of his 12th Street neighbors who was born in Italy. Uncle Sam wanted to induct him into the army, but he said, "Hell no, I'm an Italian citizen; I will fight when the king calls me." The Italian king never called him, and he was spared military duty for the Italians and the Americans. However, a few years later, after the war, he studied and became an American citizen and went to court to be naturalized. The judge looked at his file and noted that he had refused to be inducted into the US Army. He called him a "slacker," denied him American citizenship, and ordered him out of the courtroom.
Dad was no slacker and, even though he didn't serve his country during WWI, he did a good job raising his family. He was a good citizen and took his voting privileges seriously. I don't think he ever missed an election. Ma became a citizen because she was married to an Italo-American, and, she too was a good citizen. I remember staying outside with the buggy when she went inside to vote, usually at Grant Grammar School. Dad was a registered Republican and Ma was a "Democrack!"
to Southern Oregon 1945
In his May 31, 2002 letter to his oldest daughter, Mariano Guardino wrote:
"In response to your email of May 6, I
to point out the following: Grandma Guardino did not, as your
"died on the operating table while surgeons rushed to install a
In reality, she refused a pacemaker several hours before she died
83, tired and ready "to go home." Her sister Mary lived to 94;
died at 94. Catherine's daughter, Jenny, lived to 88. My
Concetta, died in her 80s. Grandpa Lesei died in his 80s.
"On your mother's side, Grandma Smith lived to 99; Aunt Helen 99. Aunt Virginia is doing well at 86. Your
father is all of 82, and your mother a healthy 81. Grandpa Dobbie was 92.
"My sister Mary (Connie) is 80 and Theresa 78. Your three sisters are health oriented and in good shape. John is a prize winning weight lifter. Dave, of course, has ruined his once excellent physique by eating too much...
"Also, your Guardino ancestors landed in New York from Sicily, then to Omaha, San Francisco and San
Jose. Your Lesei ancestors landed in New Orleans, then to San Francisco and San Jose! Dear Old Dad"
Expanding Generations of Guardinos
Harriet Smith and Mariano Guardino II
11 natural grandchildren and one adopted grandson. They are:
Hodges (born 10-21-72, Eugene, OR-daughter of M. Constance
and Delbert Hodges); Erin Kathleen Cummings (born 8-6-75, Aberdeen
of Patricia Guardino and Bruce Cummings); Matthew Walter Hicks
Eugene, OR-son of Barbara Guardino and Walter Hicks); Hilary
(born 9-20-77, Corvallis, OR-daughter of M. Constance Guardino III
Delbert Hodges); Shaun Michael Cummings (born 1-18-75,
OR-son of Patricia Guardino and Bruce Cummings); Alexander
(born 11-12-86, Newport, OR-son of M. Constance Guardino III and
Hodges-adopted by John and Elizabeth Michels of Gladstone, OR);
Groat (born 2-26-88, Salt Lake City, UT-son of Lori Guardino and
Groat); Kari Ann Groat (born 12-12-90, Salt Lake City, UT-daughter
Guardino and Jeffrey Groat); Gracelyn Sue Guardino (born 10-11-93,
OR-daughter of John Guardino and Nancy Bick); Ella Chandler
1-14-95, Eugene, OR-daughter of John Guardino and Nancy Bick);
Guardino (born 7-29-99, Eugene, OR-son of John Guardino and Nancy
Mariano Guardino III is the adopted son of David Guardino. The
are the pround great-grandparents of: Annelise Joy Helbling (born
Tillamook, OR-daughter of Erin Cummings); Tristan James Hodges
Lincoln City, OR-son of Heather Hodges and Ricky Bird); Lauren
(born 4-12-10, Portland, OR-daughter of Erin Cummings); Trinity
Bird (born 7-8-03, Medford, OR-daughter of Heather Hodges and
and Sophia Bella Augard-Cummings (born 11-26-03, Eugene,
Shaun Cummings). Sophia has a half-brother named Devon Augard.