Some recollections of Mary (Pataffi) Giamportone


Grandma Aliotta and Grandpa Giamportone

The Aliotta’s and Giamportone’s both had their roots in Palermo, Sicily. That’s where the similarity ended! The Aliotta family was wealthy; bordering on aristocracy; Grandpa, on the other hand, was a merchant and looked down upon as a “facchino.” Facchino was a colloquialism loosely interpreted as “poor and ignorant.”

Grandma lived in an estate with her parents, two older brothers, and a younger sister (Rosetta). The rest of the household consisted of a maid, a cook, a nanny and a private tutor.  The elder of the two brothers was a sculptor.  One of his statues still graced the center of the main square in Palermo; his signature (Aliotta) clearly etched on the base. This was confirmed by my husband {Victor Pataffi} who witnessed it while stationed in Palermo during World War II.  Her younger brother was in the military, an excellent swordsman which proved to be his downfall.  It seems that a fellow officer insulted his fiancé and he challenged him to a duel.  He was 21 years old and that was the last day of his short life.  Grandma taught in a private elementary school, not for a salary, which would have been quite degrading.  It was solely for prestige.  When grandma and Grandpa decided to marry, her parents disappeared to the paint of disowning her.  This finally came to pass.  She never saw her parents alive again.  Their union produced four children: my father, Joseph, followed by Madeline (Lena), Anita, and Rose.  When they migrated to America they left their children behind in the care of relatives.  Papa followed at age 16 accompanied by his sister Lena, age 14. {note: The Ellis Island manifest listed him as 19, but his birth record indicates that he was 15 }.  She died of pneumonia in Italy at seven years of age.  Rose entered with Rosetta.

Grandpa Giamportone had a deep conviction that man should be the master of his own soul.  Accordingly he purchased a bicycle rental shop and sold it after the fad finally ran its course.  His next venture was a miniature golf course, which was quite successful until his retirement.  He met his maker in his mid eighties.  Grandma followed out at age 93.  


Grandpa Giudice and Grandma Cardinale

Ever regret not being more inquisitive as a child?  Well, at this moment these are my feelings exactly.  Unlike my paternal grandparents, the Cardinales and Guidices were very quiet and unassuming.  Their love and devotion to their children was boundless. 

Grandma gave birth to seventeen children including three sets of twins.  Only one twin survived; my uncle Bennie.  He was the comedian of the family.  I truly believe that all of the humor that the Lord could possibly bestow upon one person was vested upon him.  Needless to say, he was welcome in every household.  Six children reached maturity; my mother Anna  {Onofria} , Steve {Epifanio}, Charlie {Pasquale}, Minnie, Bennie, and Eddie.  Uncle Steve  and Mom were 8 and 6 years old of age when they migrated to America.{Note: Ellis Island  and birth records indicate they were 9 and 7}  The remaining children were native born.  {Note: Ellis Island records indicate than an older daughter, Girolama, age 17, traveled with them.}

Grandpa worked in a macaroni packing plant.  Grandma was a seamstress and on many occasions could be found working well into the night.  They lived on Main St. in Brooklyn, one block from the Brooklyn Bridge. When we went to visit Grandma we eagerly rushed to get out of our Sunday best, get into our “old clothes”, and rush out to play under the Brooklyn Bridge. 

Grandma was uneducated.  The first time she ever set foot in a classroom was when she had my Uncle Charlie registered for 1s grade.  Be that as it may, she had an inborn shrewdness that was uncanny.  At Christmas time we gathered around to play penny ante.  Heaven forbid if one penny was shy in the pot.  She would raise one of her eyebrows clear to her hairline.  You can bet your boots the money was there faster than you could blink an eye! She could also mane every denomination of currency ever minted.  No one ever cheated her out of a dime!

I wish I knew more about their life in Portinico, Italy.  I guess my ignorance is everyone’s loss.  Grandpa seldom took part in any conversation.  He sat in the sidelines whenever an important issue was discussed.  He was by far the best listener I have ever known.  He died of stomach cancer at 75.  Grandma succumbed at 72,  the victim of a stroke


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Last updated: February 03, 2003