I usually write about my own blood family, but today is a special day. Today I am attending the memorial service of my husband’s grandfather.
Dante Cicchetti (pronounced Seh-KEH-tee) was born 7 Dec 1920 in Italy. He was the third child of Nicholos Cicchetti and Maria Leonarda Scarlato. He had an older sister and an older brother. Following him was a girl born in June of 1924, and 11 Oct of the same year, the family landed on the shores of America in New York.
Through the early 1900s, many Italians were not treated well in Italy. I won’t go into the gory details, but they were used, starved, women were raped, men suffered, and most were desperate to escape. They did anything they could to scrape up enough money to book passage to America. America was in the middle of an industrial boom and needed laborers. Hardworking, desperate Italians fit this bill.
Not all were happy about the Italian boom. In the 1911 Dillingham report, propaganda reigned supreme, and most of the crime was blamed on Italians. This led to the Immigration Act of 1924 which barred most Italians from entering the country. I’m not sure how the Cicchetti family even got into the country, but standing by my husband’s side at his grandfather’s mass, I’m glad they did.
Following their arrival, the family found their way to Michigan and took up residence in the Detroit area. This is where Dante’s youngest sister was born in 1927.
In 1940, Dante served in the United States Navy as a Hospital Corpsman. He spent time in the Philippines and in Bermuda, among other places. I remember looking through the old photographs that line the walls at the Royal Naval Dockyard Museum in Bermuda, searching for his face, but I wouldn’t know a 20-year-old grandpa if I saw him.
Dante married Bettylee Joyce Stewart 19 Sep 1942 and had five daughters and one son. The following decades saw his family expand to a host of in-laws, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Dante and Bettylee traveled the world, they wintered in Florida, and they were by each other’s side for 66 years.
In 2008, he lost his bride and he was never the same. He missed her deeply and kept himself busy taking care of his home. Until the last few months of his life, he lived alone in his house, shoveling his snow, tending his garden, cutting his grass, and cleaning his gutters. Imagine the frustration of family members arriving at his house and finding 92-year-old grandpa on the ladder again.
He was an entertaining gent with tons of stories of his Italian family, raising his children, and traveling around the world.
He died 31 Dec 2017 following complications of surgery while repairing his broken hip. I’m surprised he didn’t break it many times before while climbing ladders.
Rest in peace, Grandpa. We love you.