Sentimental Sunday: If You Try Hard Enough, You Can Do Anything

Joan Joyce (Schiavon) Huesca
1928 – 1987

In her own words  (Part Five)

On June 24, 1987, a couple of months before she died of lung cancer, my mother, Joan Joyce (Schiavon) Huesca began writing the story of her life. Earlier, she described her earliest memories of life with her parents until the Great Depression cost her father his job and she had to move in with her grandmother, Mary Jane (Gaffney) McGinnis and Mary Jane’s sister, Elizabeth “Lyle” Gaffney and life at the family cottage at Big Blue Lake, Michigan.
In this excerpt from her book, Joan Joyce Schiavon Huesca:  an Autobiography, she recalls her first days at school, her paternal grandmother, Emanuella Sannella, and lastly, her beloved father, Ralph Schiavon:
“Grandma [Mary Jane McGinnis] and Aunt Lyle [Elizabeth Gaffney] didn’t want me to go to Kindergarten, as they wanted me to stay home with them, and that was just fine with me.  I was so happy there in that home of love, they petted and praised me all the time, and I loved every minute of it!
Emmanuella (Sannella) Schiavon,
Chicago, Illinois

“Finally, though, it was time to start first grade, and I couldn’t escape from that reality.  My cousins Jane and Buddy* took me to St. Dorothy’s School, dutifully placed me at the end of a long line of children, then got in their respective lines, and in all the confusion of so many children in the school yard, somehow, I would manage to break away and walk home.  There I would be found sitting on the front steps waiting for Grandma to come down and let me in.  I didn’t want to leave my two darlings, and school became a terrible drudge to me.


“My Grandmother Emanuella Schiavone had come to live at my parent’s home.  I remember that my parents took a trip to Cuba during these years, and when they returned, they decided that I should return home to live.  My Father had started his own business as a Tax Consultant, and was beginning to prosper once again, though we were far from being rich in those days.  I don’t really remember much about my Grandma Schiavone at that time, except for one visit to my parents’ home while she was there.  She was in the kitchen frying up what my Father called “ladyfingers,” made of mashed potatoes rolled up, with parsley and garlic flavored.  I remember they tasted very good.  Grandma couldn’t speak any English, so we really couldn’t communicate very well, for I couldn’t speak Italian, either.
“Let me take the time now, to tell you about my Father.  For all of my life, he has been a sort of hero to me, his early years were very humble.  He was born in a small village called San Sossio**, in Italy, just south of Rome, and north of Naples.  Through the years, Daddy would tell us a few stories about his background and his youth, and these I’ll try to relate to you now.
“Daddy told us that there were records in the village church tracing his family back to the time of the early Romans.  But, he didn’t seem to know where his Father, Emanuel Schiavone***, had originated from.  Grandpa turned up in San Sossio one day, and must have been a dashing figure in his day, dressed in a long black flowing cape with a gold earring in one ear!  He courted my Grandmother, who was Emanuella Sannella, and married her, and they lived their first years of marriage in San Sossio.  My Uncle Pat (Pasquale) was born, then my Father, and after his birth, since he was such a big baby, my Grandmother wasn’t able to care for him, so he was sent to live with some maiden ladies, who sort of adopted him for the first few years of his life.  They were apparently very well to do, and my Father grew healthy and well fed.  He used to tell us, he especially loved goat’s milk, and would go right up to the goat, for a fresh drink of it!  He even used to ride on the goat’s back, until he got too big for that, and transferred to a donkey!  
Note the submarine
name, “USS South
Carolina” inscribed
in Ralph Schiavon’s
sailor’s hat.

 joined the United States Navy during World War I, and was active on a submarine.  He used to say how frightened he was, especially since he and his shipmates would be locked into a compartment when the ship was submerged.  Daddy…was stationed at Great Lakes Naval Training Station, near Chicago.  There, he met my Mother.  When they married, a few years later, Daddy got a job working in a shoe store, and he attended a night school, until finally, he received a degree to practice government tax laws.  The purpose of this long tale, is to relate to you, something which has always impressed me, with the drive and ambition of this great man who was to be my Father.  His example has been a part of my being since I can remember.  I guess I have believed, because of him, that if you try hard enough, and put your goals high enough, you can do anything.  

“Through the years, my Father prospered, and was quite well to do, but he never forgot his humble beginnings, and he had a devotion to his family, and his Mother and brothers and sisters, throughout their lifetimes…My Father adored his Mother, and his devotion to her was inspirational. Each year of his life, until her death, he would make two trips all the way from Chicago to Boston (one trip, always for Mother’s Day), to spend with her.”
                                                                                      – Joan Huesca

*     Jane and Buddy were Benita Jane and Phillip McCormick, Jr.  Their parents were Phillip and Benita (McGinnis) McCormick, and Benita was the oldest child of Thomas and Mary Jane McGinnis.
**   For reasons of accuracy, I have changed my mother’s phonetic spelling of my grandfather’s birthplace from “San Saucio” to  the official spelling of the village, namely, “San Sossio (Baronia).”  The village is located in the province of Avellino, Italy.
***   My mother, who never met her grandfather, believed his name to be Emmanuel Schiavone.  In fact, his name was Vito Isidoro Schiavone, and he was known as Vito.
Copyright ©  2012  Linda Huesca Tully

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