Angelo & Jo

A New Start and a Discovery of Love

After leaving Minnie, Angelo moved to Pittsburgh. And sometime after returning from the Army at the end of 1942, Angelo met and fell in love with Josephine Setta.

Josephine Imelda Setta was born in Pittsburgh on November 24, 1915. She was the oldest child of Steve and Mary Setta. The Setta family was Croatian. They were also Catholic and had eight children. Jo’s siblings were Ann, Helen (died as an infant), Mary, Lil (Lillian), Aggie (Agnes), Steve (nicknamed Sonny), and George.

Jo could speak Croatian, and she also understood Italian. I had heard she had attended Duquesne University, but I have not been able to verify that. The 1940 census shows her highest level of education as 8th grade.  She was very good with English and grammar. She could also type and take shorthand.

I’m not certain how they met, but Jo worked at a shipyard.  Angelo fell deeply in love with Jo and wanted to marry her, but Minnie would not give him a divorce. He and Jo married anyway, though it wasn’t legal. The marriage took place on September 20th, but I’m not certain of the year. I suspect it was 1944.

Climbing Upward

During the years in Pittsburgh, Angelo had continued to learn and to advance in whatever ways he could. He said he taught at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. I’ve not been able to verify that he was a teacher rather than a student, but he did have an instructor position in 1940 under the W.A.P. prior to the war.  The photo to the left shows a group of young men — Angelo is in the front row to the far right. On the back of the photo is written, “Johns Hopkins University Class of 1945”. Angelo also had a class ring from the university.

The photo was likely taken prior to 1945 with a class that would graduate in ‘45.  I suspect he was there during the 1944-45 school year. And it is likely that he married Jo at the start of that year in the state of Maryland where Johns Hopkins University is located.

Angelo also worked for Westinghouse during the later 1940s. The company was into research and new technologies. And in 1946, Angelo was given a company car. It was a brand new 1947 Studebaker Champion Regal Deluxe 2-door Sedan — just off the assembly line, and available to the public starting in April 1946.

I have some photos of Angelo standing by that car. They were taken in August 1946 on the street outside the Fayette Street house where Minnie lived in Washington, Pennsylvania.

Angelo would send support money to Minnie for the girls, but he wanted his daughters to come live with him and Jo. He felt he and Jo could provide a better environment for the girls. And in the summer of 1945 Bea and Betty went to live with them in Pittsburgh.

Angelo still had a lot of trouble with anger and would easily get upset and punish the girls over little things.  But Jo began to intervene, and little by little Angelo began to change. Jo seemed to have a mellowing effect on Angelo. She could calm him, and he would take things she said to heart and think about them. Little by little over the next several years Angelo grew into a much gentler man; the anger seemed to disappear.

The girls stayed with their father and step-mother for just one school year.  Jo made sure the girls went to church, and Betty was baptized during that time.  Betty liked living with her dad and step-mother. She said it was cleaner and they ate better, but Bea didn’t get along with her step-mother and soon wanted to go home.

Jo didn’t want the girls to leave and tried to talk them into staying. But Bea won out in the end, and since Betty tended to follow her big sister, the girls both went back to Washington, PA to live with their mother again.

New Beginnings

In March 1947, Jo became pregnant. Angelo pleaded with Minnie to give him a divorce, and I was told that she finally gave in, but I’m uncertain how this played out because it was Angelo who filed and accused Minnie of the desertion. Apparently there was concern about Angelo’s marriage to Jo being made legal since a baby was on the way.

As Christmas time approached in 1947, Jo gave birth to her first and only child; a little girl named Angela, who was immediately nicknamed Cookie.  Angela Mary Colosi was born on the 6th day of December 1947. It had been almost seventeen years since Angelo’s first daughter was born. Angelo was 38 years old when Cookie was born, and Jo was 32.

Angelo’s divorce from Minnie was finally granted in June 1948. On December 18, 1948, Bea married. Then in January 1950, Minnie gave birth to her third and last child, Robert. It was at this same time that Angelo made a life-changing decision to move to Flint, Michigan; “the vehicle city”, which was soon to be dubbed “the happiest town in Michigan” and receive an “All-American City” award.

When Angelo’s oldest daughter, Bea, learned of the decision, she diligently persuaded her father to take Betty with him. I’d heard stories about the strong sibling rivalry that had gone on between the two sisters, but never really understood why Bea, now married, would so strongly crave for her sister to move away. But I’m so glad she did because Betty, my mother, had a better life in Michigan and it was there that she later met and married my dad.

It was during the summer in 1950 that Angelo left his rented apartment in Pittsburgh and headed to Michigan. Jo, little Cookie, Betty and Angelo’s sister Mary were all with him. He had purchased a Cape Cod house just north of Pasadena Avenue to the northwest of the center of Flint.

The address was 3605 Proctor street, and this is the house were Angelo and Josephine would live out the rest of their lives. I lived there during my early childhood. I loved that house and I loved Flint in those days. I’m what you call a Flint Expatriate. There are many of us, and there’s even a website devoted to our memories of Flint.

Flint was a prosperous town in those days and it boasted the best schools in the country. It was home to General Motors and several other industries, but Angelo would be working at its hospitals. He became an x-ray engineer and was self-employed. He was on call for the hospitals throughout most of the state.

During those first few years, Angelo spent much of his time fixing up and remodeling his house. The property had a small lot of 5500 square feet. The house had 3 bedrooms. The two smaller bedrooms on the main floor consisted of Angelo and Jo’s room and Angelo’s office. The girls and Mary would share the extra-large room that filled most of the second floor.

The most unique feature to the house was the area we called “the tunnel”. In the 1950s it was fashionable to have a bomb shelter in your home and Angelo built a doozy. Contractors were hired to dig an underground tunnel with side rooms that extended from the house to a detached 2-car garage at the back of the property. You could enter the tunnel through an open doorway in the corner of the basement or from a hatch, complete with submarine style ladder, that went up through the garage floor.

Angelo fashioned the shelter to be functional. The largest room, which was under the garage floor, was his workshop where he had metal-working equipment. He also had a small laboratory with all sorts of instruments and equipment, even a small self-built x-ray machine.  There was a small room where the off-season and extra clothing was stored and a room with a large chest freezer. The tunnel, as it was called, was truly unique.

Angelo built a little sewing room for Jo on the second floor.  Jo did alterations to bring in extra money, and her sewing table fit into a nice little nook with a window right in front of it that looked out over Proctor Street. Several years later Angelo added onto their kitchen and he also put in a second kitchen in the basement where Jo would make wedding cakes. Jo also worked outside the home at one point at a place called The Farm.  It was a restaurant and she was a cook on the night shift.

Half of the basement had been sectioned off for a game or family room. There was a small three-quarter bath at one end, and Angelo built a small projector booth at the other end. Angelo would show film clips from that booth, including excerpts from Abbott and Costello movies or cartoons such as Wood Woodpecker’s Barber of Seville.

Angelo, the Man

Angelo was 41 years old when he moved to Michigan. He had become a different man by that point. He had gown gentler and more responsible over the years. He was not only a husband and father, but with the birth of Bea’s oldest daughter, Susan, he had become a grandfather as well.

Angelo had always been intrigued by new technologies. For years before it happened, he believed that one day people would be able to see movies in their home and not just at theaters. Angelo was full of ideas for new inventions; always coming up with something new and better.  Today we’d call much of what he did tweaking.

Angelo also was gifted when it came to mathematics.  He had an understanding that very few share in this area, and in his later years began working on a book that would simplify the way we do math. He felt the method was so revolutionary that he would perhaps be awarded the Nobel Prize. Unfortunately, through a turn of events, the book was never completed.

Memories of Angelo’s home bring feelings of peace and security. The tranquil atmosphere was always filled with a feeling of love even though the family members did not openly display a lot of affection. Hugs and kisses and saying “I love you” to one another was not as prevalent as with lot of families, yet there was never any doubt of the strong love each had for the other.

Angelo and Jo had a unique marriage by today’s standards.  They had the type of commitment and faithfulness that most only dream about today. You never heard a cross word spoken toward each other. Heated discussions or any arguments there may have been would always be saved for the privacy of their own room after others had gone to bed.

Home Life in Flint

Music played a big role in Angelo’s home.  Angelo played the mandolin and was teaching himself to play the saxophone and clarinet. He also had a record played in his projection booth in the basement. From there, he would play records and the sound would permeate through the whole house by way of the heat-vent registers. If it wasn’t the instruments or the records, it was Mary, and sometimes others, sitting and watching Mitch Miller and his orchestra on TV.

Josephine’s days were mostly spent with preparing meals, sewing, and washing clothes. Angelo’s sister, Mary, had her daily routine. She was in charge of caring for the pet Boston Terrier, Tippy. Mary helped with errands to the corner grocery store, mailing letters, and doing other simple tasks. Cookie was a preschooler during those early years in Flint. And Betty was attending Northern High School and working summer jobs.

Another Baby in the House

By the middle 1950s Betty met and fell in love with a man named Jerry Miller Cooke. They were engaged in December 1955 and married on August 2, 1956, just prior to Betty’s 21st birthday. They moved to an apartment, but within five months, Betty moved back in with her father because Jerry was being drafted and would spend the next two years overseas.

In those days, during both peacetime and conflict, men were being drafted into the armed forces. But a newly married man with a baby on the way, shouldn’t have had to go. However, Jerry learned that paperwork was supposed to have been filled out in advance, so he had no alternative, but to serve his country.

Betty’s first child, Ginger Marie Cooke, was born on March 7, 1957. Having Jo there all the time was a big help to Betty. There hadn’t been a baby in Angelo’s household since Cookie was born nine years earlier. Cookie was in her first years of grade school when Ginger was born. To Ginger, Cookie was like a big sister.

Betty and Jerry never got back together after he came home from overseas.  Jerry wanted to stay in his hometown in North Carolina. He wanted Betty to move there, but now that she had the responsibility of a child, Betty had concerns about whether Jerry, who had jumped from job to job in his earlier years, would be a good provider. Jerry would come to see Betty and Ginger off and on, but Betty’s indecision went on for several years until finally she wrote and said she’d come to North Carolina if Jerry could show he had a good job.  Jerry never wrote back and a short time later Betty filed for divorce and charged him with desertion, just as her mother had done with Angelo years before. (Nearly 25 years later I learned that, due to the intentional intervention of a third party, my father never received the letter my mother had written)

Ginger was five and a half years old when her mother filed for divorce. She had not been told that Jerry was her father; Ginger only knew him as someone named Jerry who came to visit now and then.  In her early years, Ginger had asked her grandfather if she could call him daddy.  Ginger reasoned that since everyone else in the household seemed to call him daddy, she should, too.  Betty remembered how Angelo beamed with delight at the idea.

It was less than a year later that Betty met the man who would become her second husband. On December 8, 1963 at the age of 28, Betty married Leonard Glen Overmyer II. The following month she and her new husband and daughter moved to a newly purchased house in the nearby town of Davison.

Angelo’s house had been home to Ginger for almost seven years of her life, and she was very close to her grandparents. Over the next few years she would frequently spend weekends with them.  Mary had always taken the time to play games with Ginger, and they often played card games when Ginger came to visit. Cookie continued to spend time with Ginger still in the role of big sister. But in time the visits came to an end and Angelo’s home from that point on consisted of he and his wife and daughter, and his sister Mary.

Christmas at the Colosi House

Christmas time had always been a special time in Angelo’s home.  The traditional celebration was usually held in the game room of the basement where a fully decorated Christmas tree, complete with Lionel train underneath, would stand in one corner. Josephine often made pizza late on Christmas eve and served it while Angelo poured traditional Christmas drinks at his home-made bar.

It was the Christmas of 1964 that everyone was at Angelo’s house for Christmas.  Angelo had given everyone a musical instrument for Christmas that year, except for the older ladies who received a portable radio. Bea and her husband and four children were there. Betty and her family was there. Even Minnie and her son, Bobby, were there. Minnie had come to live with Betty to help with Betty’s new son. It was a grand time and Christmas to be remembered. This was the last, and I think the only time, that all the family had been together since the days in Pennsylvania.

Making it to the top

Cookie graduated in 1965. Angelo was 56 years old and Jo was 49 at the time.  Cookie graduated from Northwestern High School, which had just been built and opened in Flint for that same school year. The school colors were green and white and that was the color of Cookie’s cap and gown. She wrote on the back of a photo she gave to her sister, Betty, “I finally made it. Love ya, Cook”.

In 1967, Angelo made a trip to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He spent a week at Duquesne University and aced a large number of CLEP tests. The College Level Examination Program (CLEP) is a group of standardized tests that access college-level knowledge. Many colleges grant credit to students who meet their minimum qualifying score by having obtained their knowledge outside the classroom. Angelo walked away with a doctorate degree in philosophy. From that point forward, Angelo would have a title. His name would now be Dr. Angelo Colosi Ph.D.

An Unexpected Turn of Events

On September 20, 1972, Angelo and Josephine celebrated their wedding anniversary. Little did they know it would be their last. Josephine died unexpectedly the following summer.

Jo had been overweight for several years and had developed heart troubles.  She was taking medication, and I don’t know that anyone was expecting her to die so soon and so suddenly.

The 4th of July had just passed with all its loud celebration. The following morning Angelo had risen early and was in his office, which was located right next to their bedroom. All at once Angelo heard a loud thud and went rushing to the bedroom. Jo apparently was having a heart attack and was reaching for her pills when she fell out of bed, hit her head on the night stand, and fell to the floor. She was unconscious and Angelo couldn’t revive her. A neighbor, who was a nurse, was alerted and came quickly to the house, but Jo was already gone.

A fit of anger came over Angelo as he hit the bedroom door with his fit. He couldn’t believe this had happened.  I can only imagine the many things that must have gone through his mind. It was too soon, Jo was only 57 years old. Her 58th birthday would have been in November.

Betty remembers that Jo had said she wanted to go before Angelo. I don’t know if Angelo knew that or not. Betty also remembers a final conversation she had with Jo. Betty had taken her to work and they talked for a while. It was a heartfelt conversation, and after Betty dropped her off they hugged. It was the last time she saw her before her death.

Josephine Imelda Colosi died on July 5, 1973 and is buried at the Avondale Cemetery in Flint, Michigan. As a final honor to his wife, Angelo had the title “Dr” engraved on her stone. He said, “She deserved it.”

Over the next years, Angelo sunk into a tormentful depression. His anger soon turned to bitterness. Every year on the fourth of July, with all the loud noises, must have been a painful reminder of that day when Jo died.

Cookie, was 25 years old when her mother died. Her nickname had slowly changed to Ang or Angie as she grew older, but for Betty, Ginger, and those who had known her when she was little, she would still be Cookie.

Angie had met and fallen in love with the man who would be her first husband, Stuart Grant, and on the following month after her mother died, they married.  Her wedding day was August 1, 1973. A photo was taken in front of Angelo’s house. Stuart, Angie, Angelo, Mary, and Stuart’s mother were in it. Angelo looked happy, a smile was on his face, but inside he was in torment.

Things didn’t work out for Angie and Stuart and they soon divorced. I’m not sure of the detail of what happened, but I’m pretty sure Angie moved back in with her father until she married again.  I don’t know the full name of Angie’s second husband, but I think his last name was something like Staukus.   Angie moved to Arizona sometime between 1974 and 1976.

Angelo and Mary were the only ones living at the house now. Mary still continued on with her daily routines, but she didn’t have the family pet to care for anymore.  Tippy had grown old and sometime prior to Josephine’s death, Tippy had been put to sleep. But Mary was content to still be with her brother.

Bitter End

Angelo tried to continue on with daily life, but Angelo was miserable without Jo. He began feeling that life wasn’t worth living without her. He moved his room into the basement game room; partly because he couldn’t handle being in his old room without Jo, and partly because Mary was in her sixties now and she was getting too old to be climbing the stairs to sleep in the big open bedroom on the second floor.

As the months passed, Angelo kept sinking deeper and deeper into depression. The house must have seemed like a tomb for him. He didn’t go anywhere. He was miserable. And on top of everything else, his health was not good.

Angelo had often worked on the x-ray machines without proper protective clothing.  He had gotten x-ray or radiation burns. He developed patches on his skin that very likely were becoming cancerous.

I was perhaps the last one to visit Angelo. I was 20 years old and hadn’t seen Angelo for several years. My fiancé, Dave, and I had traveled from Nebraska to Michigan to see my mother, and on the way back we stopped in Flint to visit my grandfather. It was June 26, 1977, the day before Angelo’s 68th birthday. I had given him an Avon pipe for his birthday.

We spent the day and into the evening with Angelo. He looked different to me. He had a beard, and he was shorter than I had remembered. It had been a number of years since I had seen him.

Dave had never seen the house before, so Angelo showed him around. We went down to the tunnel and looked at all his equipment. We also ended up watching his animated film on electricity in the game room as he sat in his projection booth. It was like old times.

I took a picture of Angelo sitting at his desk in this office when he opened his gift, but I don’t think I took any other pictures that day. I wish I had taken dozens. As far as I know it was the last photo ever taken of him. It never occurred to me that it could be the last time I’d see him.

While sitting in his office I briefly told him about my wedding plans, and I told him that if we had a son, we planned to give him Angelo as a middle name — which I did four years later.

Angelo talked to me just a little about Jo’s death. He told me how he had grown bitter. I could see his pain, but I had no idea what was going on in his mind.  Angelo was planning suicide. He no longer wanted to live without Jo, and I’m sure he was seeing a miserable future with the deterioration of his health.

Angelo made sure everything was in order. He left notes and a tape recording. He made sure everything would be worked out for the continued care of his sister, Mary. He proceeded very formally with the plans…..body weight….a timer….calculations. He worked out how to rig his car so the engine would shut off after he was dead. When the police arrived and examined his paperwork, they commented that he must have been a genius.

He’d written and left a six-page letter to my mother, Betty, and her husband. It was on his letterhead and it started by saying “Read this carefully”.  He began with an apology for having lied about why he’d asked Betty to be there that day. He wrote that Betty’s husband should call the police before opening the garage door. And he said that this was something he should have done four years ago after Jo died, but he had made a promise to Jo that he would never do anything till all their children were married and settled.

He gave instructions for the clothing he was to be buried in and for how to disconnect the line plug from his car window. All his belongings were to be left to his three girls, Bea, Betty and Angie, except for certain items that he tagged for certain people.

He wished everyone, including his grandchildren, the very best fortune, health and peace, and the hope that none of them would have to experience the pain that he had felt for the past 4 years, 2 months, 11 days and 9½ hours.  He wrote that he’d always been able to solve the most difficult problems, but not this one. And he closed by saying that September 20th was his anniversary and he’d like to be with Jo and hoped the burial could be arranged for that day. And he signed it “Love to all of you, Dad”

I can’t tell you how heart-wrenching it is to read his words even after all these years. Angelo took his life on September 17, 1977 at the age of 68. The cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning. He was buried next to Jo at the Avondale Cemetery in Flint, Michigan on September 20th,  their wedding anniversary.

All family pages will continue to be updated whenever new information is discovered. (Last update for this page was made February 10 2016)

1 thought on “Angelo & Jo”

  1. Anthony Strother said:

    Hello, my name is Anthony Strother. My Grandfather George Setta is Josephine’s brother. My uncle Steve, aunt lil, aunt Ann, and aunt Aggie are all related to me. I have recently become more interested in my family history. I have never heard of Josephine, Mary, Helen or Ronnie. My Grandfather, uncle and aunt Aggie all live in Virginia. Do you have any more information on her relationship with them? You can contact me at srfobx03@gmail.com. thank you.

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