The early years
Angelo Colosi was born to a 37-year-old widowed mother who, three years earlier, had made the long trip from Italy to America in the company of her father, Professor Angelo Colosi. They made the journey on the award-winning transatlantic ocean liner named the SS Deutschland (pictured on main page).
After Lucia arrived in America in 1906, she married her Uncle’s son, Dominick Colosi. Dominick and Lucia were first-cousins and they likely married in a local Catholic Church. Lucia became pregnant in 1908 and prior to their son’s birth, Dominick died.
Detailed information and photos on Angelo’s father, Dominick, have never been found. The only record with any information is Angelo’s birth certificate where Lucia had given the information that her husband, Dominick, who was her cousin, was dead and had died at the age of 38. Their residence at the time was 443 East 13th Street in Manhattan New York.
Angelo was born on Sunday, June 27, 1909 in the Manhattan borough of New York City. On his birth certificate, his name was listed his name as Lucifero Colosi. In Roman mythology, Lucifero was the god of light and the morning — corresponding to a Greek deity given the name Morning Star. In a small notebook Lucia wrote, “Morningstar Colosi”. And on a baby picture she wrote, “Lucifer Colosi as Angelo”. I never learned what she meant by this, but when he was older, Angelo said that Lucifer was his middle name and that, in his adult years, he had his middle name dropped and simply went by the name Angelo Colosi. And that is the name his 3 children and 10 grandchildren know him by.
Not long after Angelo’s birth, Lucia married again. Her second husband was Alberto (Albert) Colosi — likely another cousin, perhaps even Dominick’s brother. Around this time the family moved several blocks north (uptown) to 444 East 20th Street.
It’s possible that Angelo never knew that Albert was not his real father. Albert had been a naval captain in WWI and died during the war. Angelo had told his family that his father, Dominick Colosi, had died in the Navy during the war and he never mentioned having a step-father. Angelo wasn’t much more than an infant when Lucia married Albert, and with the last names all being the same, it’s very possible that Lucia never told him. I’ve wondered if he knew and just never told anyone. Surely he’d have seen his sister’s birth certificate at some point, but maybe not. I guess that’s something we will never know.
Lucia became pregnant with her second child and on the 22nd day of September 1911 Angelo’s little sister was born. The birth certificate lists her name as Mary Colosi, but Mary has said that her full name was Mary Inez Constance Colosi.
Just months earlier, Lucia’s brother, Mariono – better known as Anthony or Tony – welcomed the arrival of his first child; a little girl. She was named Minnie Maggie Bongiovanni and was born on April 21, 1911 in Washington, Pennsylvania. I’m not sure how many times the families rode the train back and forth to see each other, but I know that Anthony had been visiting Lucia in New York around 1913 because I have a photo of Angelo with his Uncle Tony.
I can only imagine the devastation Lucia must have felt when the news came that she was a widow again. Albert Colosi had died during WWI after the United States got into the war. His death was in 1916 or 1917 and Angelo would have been in his first years of grade-school at that time. It wasn’t long before the family moved away from New York. Perhaps Lucia wanted to get away from the reminders of the deaths of two husbands. Their new home was at 4 Bridge Street in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania; just 60 miles north of Lucia’s brother and his family.
Mary had been born with some mild disabilities and minor physical handicaps and I’m not certain if she attended school, but she did learn to read and write. Lucia’s father, Professor Angelo, helped raise the children for the next few years after Albert’s death, but met his own death in 1923. Mary would have only been 6 or 7 years old when her father died and she may not have had many memories of him due to him being away in the war. We learned that Mary had been under the mistaken impression through her lifetime that her grandfather had been her father.
Lucia didn’t stay in Beaver Falls. Not long after the death of her father she moved the family to Carnegie, Pennsylvania. The city of Carnegie was a borough of Pittsburgh. It had a prosperous steel mill and a rail yard that connected to several railroads. It was also the home of the Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall.
Angelo was almost 14 when his grandfather died. He attended school through the sixth grade, but no further. He was smart. He was self-taught and ambitious. But Angelo had a temper that would soon lead his family’s prosperity to ruin.
It was sometime during Angelo’s late teen years that an incident occurred and someone was shot. As the story goes, Angelo ended up in prison and Lucia sold all that she had to get him out. That was a turning point for the Colosi family. Where once there had been prosperity, now there was hardship. And with the Crash of 1929 about to hit, things would get even worse.
Time to Settle Down
It was decided that Angelo needed to marry. It would settle him down. Lucia made arrangements for Angelo to marry her brother’s oldest daughter, Minnie. The wedding was held in Washington, PA at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church on the 21st of April 1930; the day of Minnie’s 19th birthday.
Minnie had a beautiful wedding dress and wore a necklace around her neck. She had a lovely bouquet of roses and Angelo wore a carnation on his lapel. A lovely portrait was done of the two of them (see it on the home page).
Minnie had become pregnant shortly after the wedding and her first child was a little girl. Beatrice Eleanor Colosi was born on the 20th of February 1931. Angelo now had the full responsibility of a family, but times were very hard. The Great Depression was in full swing, and 1932 would become known as its cruelest year.
Minnie became pregnant again at the start of 1935 and along with the news came another tragedy in Angelo’s life with the sudden death of his mother. Little Beatrice, who was just about to turn four, had been with Lucia that day. It was a terrifying experience for a little girl to see her grandmother fall to the ground as they crossed the street hand in hand. Lucia experienced a hemorrhage in her brain. She died on the afternoon of February 18, 1935 at the Washington Hospital.
Angelo was devastated. He carefully wrote the words down in his best penmanship on a post card with his return address — Mother died, Tuesday, February 1935, – 19th day at 5:40PM. at Wash, Hosp. of Cerebral-hemorrhage. He had written the 19th, but her death certificate shows the 18th in three different places including where the doctor signed his name. Was he too upset to realize what day it was or had the doctor filled in the wrong date? I guess we’ll never know for sure because even her gravestone has only the year.
Just seven months after Lucia’s death Angelo’s second child was arrived. Betty Lee Colosi was born on the 22nd of September 1935. It was the day of his sister’s birthday. Mary was now 24 years old. Lucia had told Angelo to always keep Mary with him and not let her end up in an institution. Angelo said he would, and he kept that promise right up until his death.
Angelo was 26 years old when Betty was born. He had a wife and two lovely daughters, but Angelo was not happy. He was young and ambitious, and the life of prosperity he had known as a child had turned into a life of struggle. His ambitions and his abilities were driving a desire to better himself and his situation.
I don’t know the details of Angelo’s employment during those years, but I know he had worked on radios for a while. During the depression years people did whatever they could find to do to bring in another dollar. Then came news of war in Europe. Another world war was beginning and people began gathering around radios every night listening to news of the war’s progress. Images of the war were seen at local movie houses where government news reels were shown before the feature.
In the fall of 1940 peacetime registration of all men ages 21 to 35 began. By September 1942, Angelo enlisted and looked forward to furthering his skills and education by going into the Army Air Forces, but he soon learned things weren’t as he thought they would be. He wanted out and he soon began working on a scheme. Angelo had been born color blind. His plan was to fake total blindness. It worked, and he was released in December 1942.
From Difficult Years to Lasting Love
Angelo’s marriage to Minnie had never been based on love, and from the start it was lacking in commitment. With disillusionment about the benefits of military service, and still driven by the powerful force of ambition, Angelo made the decision to leave for the city of Pittsburgh 30 miles to the east. It was there that he met Josephine Setta. (Angelo’s story continues on the “Angelo & Jo” page)
Minnie on Her Own
Angelo left Minnie around the end of July 1942. Minnie was left with the girls and Angelo’s sister Mary. They were lived in the middle section of a house on Fayette Street that Minnie’s father had built years before. Minnie and Mary were cousins, and Mary was a big help with the girls. Betty turned 7 soon after her father left and Bea was 11. Betty remembers running barefoot, going to the movies with Mary, and starting 1st grade at 8th Ward School. She and her sister, Bea, and their Aunt Fran Bongiovanni, who was the same age as Bea, used to sing at school plays.
Minnie was still a young woman when Angelo left. She tried to enjoy her life. Times had started getting better after the war, but life was still a struggle for a woman on her own in those days.
It was the summer of 1945 that the girls went to live with their father for a year. They went to school in Pittsburg. Betty was in the 4th grade at the Chatham Elementary school during this time. Betty remembers that life with her dad was different than with her mother. She said they ate better and the place was cleaner. And Betty liked the woman her dad had fallen in love with, but Bea wanted to go back to Washington. Bea was a teenager and I’m sure she missed her friends.
Back at her mother’s home, Betty went to the 5th through 7th grades, again at 8th Ward School. She was in the choir, which sang at local hotels at Christmastime; she was a cheerleader for the basketball team; she enjoyed times at Sunset Beach.
Angelo married Josephine Setta on September 20, 1947 even though he was not yet divorced from Minnie. Jo had become pregnant and was six months along at this point. Betty remembers how her dad begged her mother to give him a divorce, but Minnie refused. Betty said it seemed her mom finally gave in, however we are not certain of the details because Angelo was the one who got a lawyer and filed for divorce charging Minnie with desertion, which makes no sense because Angelo is the one who left. The divorce was finalized in June 1948.
Minnie & Jake
It was around 1948 that Minnie had fallen deeply in love with a man named John “Jake” Wilbur Laird. Minnie and the girls soon moved in to Jake’s house on Buena Vista Street, but Bea wasn’t there long. Bea had met a young man named Calvin Brownlee who fell in love with her. Bea was not yet 18, but she very much wanted to get out on her own. Bea and Calvin married in December 1948. Betty was finishing her last year at 8th Ward School and would go on to Trinity High School the next year.
Minnie had become pregnant in the summer of 1949, but the relationship between Jake and Minnie was in trouble, and Minnie soon moved to a house on Brookside Street that her parents owned. On January 6, 1950, Robert John Colosi arrived prematurely. He weighed only 2½ pounds. Minnie had a son and she loved him dearly.
Minnie’s Final Years
Bobby grew and entered into his teen years, and soon Minnie was called upon to come live with her daughter Betty to help with Betty’s children. Minnie and Bobby traveled to Michigan by Greyhound. They went go back and forth between Michigan and Pennsylvania several times over the next five years.
I am Betty’s daughter, and when I was very small my mother told me that Minnie was my Grandma Bongiovanni. She used the Bongiovanni name for her to distinguish her from my other grandma Colosi — Angelo’s second wife. I could never pronounce the name Bongiovanni when I was little, so I called her Grandma Banjo!
Minnie had developed rheumatoid arthritis as grew older. Her fingers began to cripple and she would do a lot of crocheting to keep her fingers busy and moving. She also began having a lot of trouble in her feet. Interestingly, Minnie and Angelo never disassociated with each other after the divorce. After all, they were still cousins; still family. I can remember the Christmas get-together we had at Angelo’s home in the 1960s. Minnie and her son, Bobby were there, and everyone was friendly and loving with each other.
In 1970, Betty moved to Arizona. Minnie then moved in with Bobby and his girlfriend, Lana, but Minnie’s health was failing. Lana’s parents helped take care of Minnie, but Minnie grew worse and on March 4, 1971 at the age of 59, Minnie Maggie Colosi died.
Rheumatoid arthritis is not supposed to be fatal, but “advanced rheumatoid arthritis” is what the doctor wrote as the cause of Minnie’s death. Minnie is buried at the Mt. Morris Cemetery on Genesee Road in Mt. Morris, Michigan.
Angelo Colosi’s story continues on the page titled Angelo & Jo.
All family pages will continue to be updated whenever new information is discovered. (Last update for this page was made January 10, 2016)