Lucia Bisceglia Lariccia

Lucia Bisceglia Lariccia, Italian Passport Photo, 1917.

Lucia Bisceglia Lariccia was born July 18, 1891, in Montelongo, Campobasso, in the region of present day Molise, Italy. She was one of six children born to Anna Antonia Mucci and Michele Beniamino Bisceglia. Her siblings were Vincenza, Angiolina, Caterina, Luigi, and Concetta.

As a small child, Lucia and her family left Italy for Brazil where many Italians of that era were drawn. Unable to adjust to the new climate and conditions, Anna Antonia and her daughters returned to Italy leaving Beniamino and brother Luigi to remain in South America permanently.

Lucia learned to write in Italian at the village school but continued using the local language for everyday communication just as most people of the region did. Consequently, her letters often show the influence of the Abruzzese dialect, though her aim always was to write in standard Italian.

After finishing her schooling, Lucia opened a room in Montelongo to teach sewing and embroidery to young girls. This was a wise choice considering that her brother-in-law Francesco Musacchio, one time mayor of the village, owned a fabric store (tessuti) where Lucia could supply her storefront sewing school with thread and cloth. Records show that she eventually purchased the storefront school. Future generations in the US would marvel at the creatively embroidered pillowcases, sheets, and doilies that Lucia crafted in her years in Italy, now precious family heirlooms.

Three of Lucia’s four sisters: Caterina, young Concetta and Angiolina. Montelongo, Italy.

In addition to her skills as a fine seamstress, the young woman excelled in the kitchen and beyond. Like most of the women of her region, she prepared a variety of pastas by hand: gnocchi, fussili, cavatelli, and more. Her yellow and lemony Easter bread was legendary. She could even make soap and other laundry aides.

Most likely through arrangements made between her mother and her fiancé’s mother, Filomena Casilla Lariccia, Lucia was engaged to marry Giuseppe (Gioso) Lariccia, a resident of the same town who had immigrated to Youngstown in 1901. By 1907, he and his brother Gennaro operated a grocery store that continues today as Lariccia’s Imported Foods in Boardman, Ohio.

Lucia’s plans to join Gioso in the US were complicated by the dangers of World War I; German U-boats often torpedoed transatlantic passenger liners. After a few delays, Lucia and traveling companion Fiorentina Ritucci, Gioso’s niece, left Naples on board the Giuseppe Verdi for New York City. They arrived in the United States on October 26, 1917. In a month she and Gioso were married at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Youngstown, where they continued as lifetime members. From the wedding until 1922, the couple lived above the Lariccia store at 233 East Rayen Avenue. Daughters Philomena (Mae), Antoinette, and Concetta (Connie) were born there.

Once landed in the US, she replied to the constant stream of correspondence arriving from Italy, Brazil, and Canada: from her mother, her sisters, cousins, Francesco Musacchio, and from the nuns in Bari. In fact, Lucia was a dedicated letter writer throughout her entire life. The very sensitively written condolences she penned to future brother-in-law Gennaro Lariccia on the death of his young bride reveal a writer skillful at reflecting on the needs of the human heart in crisis. Only one of her letters to Gioso, already arrived and well settled in his Youngstown store, survives. In it she shows that both of them had an established correspondence where they discussed family news and tried to fix the date of her departure amid all the newspaper accounts of dangers on the high seas.

In 1922, the Lariccia family purchased the large former Fitch estate, referred to as Thorn Hill or “the farm,” on Thorn Hill Road

Italian Picnic, Thorn Hill (Lariccia Home), mid-1930?s Youngstown, OH.

in the city’s northeast side. There they set up a truck farm with Gioso’s family and enjoyed the ample gardens and lawns which they rented as weekend picnic grounds to many of the Italian associations in the Youngstown area. At Thorn Hill, Benjamin, Michael, and Amy were born to the couple.

In 1925, daughter Antoinette suffered severe burns as a result of a fire spread by some unsupervised boys. The trials of this period led Lucia to venerate St. Anthony of Padua, whose intercession she always attributed to Antoinette’s recovery. With the young girl on the road to health, Lucia dedicated Tuesdays as a day of abstinence from meat. Probably at this time she began to contribute to St. Anthony’s orphanage for girls in Bari, Italy.

Owing to financial difficulties, Lucia and family left Thorn Hill in 1945, and moved to Tacoma Avenue on Youngstown’s north side. In 1956, long after her husband and many of the men in the large family clan had become naturalized, Lucia gained her long sought citizenship papers. The pain caused by a government wartime designation of “enemy alien” no doubt had given her the resolve to achieve this goal. Ten years later she and Gioso moved to what would be their last home, in Girard, Ohio, just outside Youngstown.

After Gioso died in 1963, Lucia and daughter Connie continued living at their Girard home. Despite the 1968 loss of a leg to a diabetes-related infection, she continued to be the heart of an ever-growing family.

A decade before her death most of her mail was with “the girls.” Three unmarried nieces, her sister Caterina’s daughters, held on tight to a lifeline that stretched from the poor village of Montelongo across the Atlantic to Lucia in Girard. Lena, Marianna, and Rita had lost their father Francesco Musacchio during World War II. Family stories tell that the young women survived the German occupation of their village, including the bivouacking of Nazi soldiers in their home.

After the war, Caterina and her daughters existed on the income derived from the general store they owned and the steady flow of used clothes Lucia and other relatives would send to boost inventory.  When Caterina died, the well being of the nieces became an even greater concern to relatives in the US.

Macular degeneration did not stop Lucia Lariccia from answering her correspondence. Keenly aware of her nieces’ situation, she would send ten and twenty dollar bills to Montelongo via the regular mail. Postal clerks, here and in Italy, must have made a second income by snatching up her undeliverable envelopes. By then, her handwriting was mostly illegible.

At this time, letters would arrive from Italy just about every week, maybe spurred on because mail from nearly blind Lucia was failing to arrive in Montelongo the way it used to. The nieces would alert Lucia to the needs of the village church, for she was a regular contributor to the feasts of St. Anthony and St. Rocco. They wrote to ask about the latest news of Lucia’s grandson Joseph Lariccia Marinelli, who was making great progress at the county school for children with developmental disabilities. Often they reported the arrival of Lucia’s relatives in the village. In an increasingly weak hand, Lucia also communicated baptisms, graduations, illnesses, marriages, and deaths to Lena, Marianna, and Rita. After a life touching three continents and untold correspondents, Lucia died at home on November 9, 1972, at the age of 81.

Ben Lariccia, Jr, Lucia’s grandson

March 31, 2009

2 Responses to “Lucia Bisceglia Lariccia”

  1. Ben says:

    Josephine Webster,
    The webmaster here forwarded me your email address Please check your electronic mail for information about the book you requested. Ben Lariccia

  2. Josephine Webster says:

    Hello Ben,
    My name is Josephine Webster and I am one of the daughters of Regina Pallante. My mother is the second oldest daughter of Concetta Pallante (my grandmother, your great aunt). I was so pleased to read this family history information you have posted. I have never seen the photo above which includes my grandmother. I would be very interested in receiving the complete book you have completed on the Lariccia family. Are the pictures you have posted with this information included in the book?

    My grandmother, Concetta Pallante had 5-daughters, Bersi and her family who live in Toronto, my mother Regina and her family who live in the Hamilton/Toronto area, Laura, Mary and her family who live in New York and Benita and her family who live in San Francisco.

    I live with my husband in the town of Waterdown, Ontario, Canada.

    I would be most appreciated if you could respond to this comment and let me know if the book is still available. Your post was dated 2009 and it is 5yrs later that I am responding. I look forward to your response. Josephine

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