Lucia Colosi

Lucia Colosi was the mother of Angelo Colosi. She was the daughter of Professor Angelo Colosi. And she had been the wife of both Dominick Colosi and Albert Colosi.

Lucia was born in Italy on December 13, 1872. Italian traditions often dictate naming children after their grandparents, but it is possible that Lucia was given her name because she was born on the celebration day of Saint Lucia.

Our earliest written record of her, which comes from a passenger list that originated in Italy, lists her name as Lucia. However, records in the United States have shown her name as Lucy Beatrice Colosi, Beatrice Lucy Colosi, and Lydia Maltese. She went by several names, but we aren’t certain why.  One thing we do know is that Lucy is the Americanization of the name Lucia.

Lucia’s birthplace is also uncertain.  We know it was listed as Gualtieri on the passenger list, but there are four possible locations for a town with this name. One is in the far northern regions of Italy, another is a place called Monte Gualtieri near the far eastern coast, another is a tiny hamlet farther south than Naples, and the other is a place called Gualtieri Sicamino, often called Gualtieri for short, located in the Messina area of Sicily in the south.

(NOTE: The Peninsula of Italy, known as the “boot,” is somewhat comparable in size to California)

Childhood in Italy

In 1871, the year before Lucia’s birth, Rome had become the capital of the Kingdom of Italy. After Italy’s unification, Pope Pius IX initiated a policy that prohibited its Italian members from participating in politics. This was because the newly formed Italian nation had deprived the papacy of its lands in central Italy.

The teachings of the Roman Catholic Church would have had a strong influence on Lucia as a child growing up in Italy. One of the holy precepts taught to every girl in Italy was “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you”.

Her parents had somehow parted prior to Lucia’s teen years.  I don’t know the circumstances of why or even how they would have divorced because divorce was both outlawed and frowned upon in Italy. But her mother married again, this time to a doctor, and had at least one more child. Lucia’s half-brother Mariano Siro Bongiovanni was born when Lucia was 14 years old. Her brother went by the name of Anthony or Tony for short.

Lucia had been fortunate that her birth was in Italy, because Italy had been the only country in that day to have allowed women to study and lecture in universities. This level of education for women was not seen in other nations until the 20th century. The education of Italian women from higher social classes was exactly the same as for men.

Lucia had apparently studied medicine in Italy because she became a doctor; probably a midwife. Her father had been a scientist of sorts. She referred to him as a chemist. Her mother had been an opera singer.

Music has always played a big part in Italian culture. Opera was at its zenith during Lucia’s young years. One of the most distinctive sounds in Italy was the tremolo melody of the mandolin. The mandolin was apparently a meaningful instrument in Lucia’s life. I have a photo of her holding a mandolin.

The Journey to America

The Italy of Lucia’s childhood had been shaped by warfare, struggle and the desire for independence. These factors influenced the land, the food and the people. Most Italians, especially those in the south, were struggling and very poor. Wealthy European landlords had hired southern peasants to tend their lands, which created the basis for the emergence of Mafia organizations.

A large number of people had begun leaving the nation even while Lucia was still a child. People had heard the wonderful stories of a land of opportunity that lay across the ocean, and during the last years of the 1890s they were leaving their native land of Italy by the hundreds of thousands.

It was at the age of 34 that Lucia would make the journey to America.  As far as we know, Lucia never married or had children while in Italy. If she did, they must have met a tragic end, because it was just her and her father that made the trip across the Atlantic.

Lucia’s son, Angelo, had claimed the family owned land in Italy, but he never said what happened to it. If she or her father owned any property, it was either sold, left for other relatives or abandoned.

Their journey to America began at the port in Naples, Italy. Their tickets were for second-cabin, which would allow them to bypass the fearful and sometimes humiliating procedures and inspections at Ellis Island after reaching New York Harbor.

On the ship’s manifest, both Lucia and her father were listed as having been born in Gualtieri and that Gualtieri was their last place of residence. As stated earlier, we are not certain which Gualtieri they were from. Lucia’s son Angelo claimed the family was from Rome, if this is true, then it would be the tiny hamlet just south of Rome. Although we have not been able to confirm this claim, the prosperity and higher level of education that Lucia and her father had gives credence to the idea they were from a northern area such as the hamlet near Rome or the Gualtieri farther north near Bologna and Parma.

At the same time, we can’t dismiss the possibility that their home was Gualtieri Sicamino of the Messina area of Sicily. The Colosi name is well established in Messina even today. In addition, the Bongiovanni family who was from the Messina area, married back and forth for several generations with the Colosi family. Regardless of location, Lucia and her father were born in Italy, and were now leaving their home country to journey to the land called America.

The ship’s manifest listed both Lucia and her father as being 5 feet, 3 inches tall.  Lucia’s hair and eyes were dark and she had a medium complexion. Both she and her father were listed as being in good health. And for the question asked about who they were going to join in America, Lucia listed a friend, and her father listed his sister’s son, Antonio Bongiovanni, who lived in Newark, New Jersey.

The steamship they were to travel on was called the SS Deutschland. It was the largest steamship ever built and had won an honor for being the fastest. It was a luxurious ship with much attention given to the passenger’s comfort. Lucia and her father had second-cabin tickets and would enjoy most of the same benefits as first-cabin.

They would have had rooms to themselves, with beds, fresh water and bathroom facilities. They would have had access to the best food and to the upper decks of the ship. They also would have had access to all the large public rooms included the Dining Saloon, Social Hall, Writing Room, Ladies Parlour, and Smoking Room

When they finally arrived in New York Harbor on March 3, 1907, it must have been an amazing sight. I can only imagine the reactions of the passengers; some shouting, some thanking God, some pointing as they saw the statue of Liberty and realized they were about to set foot in America.

After docking at one of the piers, Lucia and her father would have been interviewed by immigration authorities onboard the ship before disembarking.  It would be a quick and courteous inspection, nothing like the Ellis Island experience that so many others would go through.

Life in New York

Lucia and her father were in a new land with a lot of new and unfamiliar sights and sounds. They spoke only Italian at the start. Family and friends who had come before were likely a big help to them. Not long after their arrival, Lucia became the bride of her cousin Dominick, and by early fall 1908 she was pregnant. But in the midst of what should have been a joyous time, tragedy struck. Dominick died and Lucia was left a widow even before the birth of their child.

I never found any further information about Dominick, so I don’t know how he died. I don’t when he came to America or the date of his marriage to Lucia.  I only know that his name was Dominick, he was a laborer, and he was Lucia’s cousin.

On June 27, 1909, Lucia gave birth to a son. Though his name would be Angelo, after Lucia’s father, she wrote “Morningstar Colosi” in a little calendar booklet. Her writing was in Italian….Nato il 27 giugno 1909 – Born June 27, 1909….alle ore 10 a.m. – the hours of 10 a.m. She went on to tell that he was born in America and listed their address as 443 E 13th Street.

Professor Angelo, Lucia and her newborn son were all living in the Manhattan borough of New York City.  They were close to the northern boundary of the area known as the “lower east side”. This area and southward had been the starting point for hundreds of thousands of immigrants. Much of the lower east side was a densely packed district of tenements, factories, and docklands. The farther north or “uptown” you went, the nicer the neighborhoods and buildings would get.

Lucia’s father was working as a builder for some sort of building industry during those first years in New York. Lucia was working as a dressmaker for a dress shop.  I don’t know if she had been working there ever since she arrived in New York or if she took the job after her husband died. She apparently could not yet put her medical knowledge to use. This may have been due to the need for meeting certain requirements and licensing.

Not long after Dominick’s death, Lucia married again. The man’s name was Albert Colosi. He may have been another cousin, possibly even Dominick’s brother.  He was around 40 years old when they married and Lucia was about 38.

Lucia referred to Albert as a Sea Captain. Since Lucia’s son Angelo spoke of his father being in the navy, I assume Albert was a Captain in the military, but he also could have been a Captain of a transport vessel. I don’t know if Angelo knew that Albert was his step-father. He never spoke of it and the family only learned of it sometime after Angelo’s death.

On September 22, 1911, Lucia gave birth to a daughter and named her Mary. She was likely named after Lucia’s mother, Mary Inez Colosi Bongiovanni. Mary’s full name was Mary Inez Constance Colosi. Lucia wrote the time and day of Mary’s birth in that same little calendar booklet where she had written about  her son’s birth, but this time she listed their address as 444 E 20th Street; they had moved 7 blocks farther uptown and out of the lower east side district.

The new area was much nicer; more upscale and fashionable. It was just a few blocks east of Gramercy Park. There were brownstones and carriage houses in the area all around the Park. Businessmen and politicians as well as playwrights and actors had lived in this area around Gramercy Park. Even Alfred Ringling, founder of the Ringling Brothers Circus lived there.

It was during these years that the assembly line began. The model T was the popular car of the day.  Fashion included tea gowns which were worn at home, furs, and fancy hats. With the suffragettes came more comfortable fashions and hemlines that inched above the ankles.  Men tended to wear striped trousers and morning coats. Top hats were popular and so were dinner jackets in the evening. Angelo and Mary likely played with popular toys such as Lincoln logs and tinker toys. And everyone likely enjoyed the music of Alexander’s ragtime band. Jerome Kern and George Gershwin were still producing music and musicals, and Al Jolson began on stage in blackface. Also popular during this time was Vaudeville and the Ziegfeld Follies.

News of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 must have gripped Lucia and her father’s hearts. It could have been them just a few years earlier. Lucia had several nice photos take while she lived in New York. Her brother, Tony Bongiovanni, came from Pennsylvania to visit at least once and photos were taken.  Lucia had one taken with her children. She is seen wearing a good amount of jewelry in photos we have of her.

Then came news of the war with Hitler and the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. It would have been the next year that little Angelo would have started school.

Albert was either already in the military or had registered and been called, because soon after America entered the war, news came of Albert’s death. Lucia would be a widow once again. She wrote on a photograph of Albert, “My Husband his dead in big war”. She added the year, but the photo was torn and I couldn’t read the last number, but it would have been either 1917 or 1918.

Around the time of Albert’s death Lucia had photographs taken. One was of herself and her children, and the other of just herself. I don’t know the exact year, but I’m guessing she could be in widow’s clothes. The dress appears to be black, she’s wearing gloves and she has a veiled hat on. She is still wearing her jewelry, though. In the photo that shows her with her children, Mary looks like she could be about six or seven so I estimate the photo was taken between 1917 and 1918.

Within a short while after Albert’s death the decision was made to leave New York. Perhaps Lucia wanted to get away from the sad memories or maybe the town was just getting too filled with crime and violence to be a good atmosphere for her children. Professor Angelo and the family moved to a small town in Pennsylvania called Beaver Falls. It was about 45 miles north of Pittsburgh.

I’m not certain whether they lived at more than one place in Beaver Falls, but I do have an address of 4 Bridge Street in Ward 2. By the 1920 Census, Lucia was 48 years old, Mary was 8 and little Angelo was 10. Lucia’s father was 69 years old and was listed as Professor for trade and doctor for industry. Lucia listed herself as the head of the household. She had become a doctor by that point and she  listed her name as Dr LB Colosi-Bongiovanni.  I’m not sure why she added the Bongiovanni name. Is it possible she married a Bongiovanni after Albert’s death? If she did, then he also died right away because no husband was listed on the 1910 census. Lucia had written her mother’s last name as Colosi-Bongiovanni on a picture.  Her mother had been married to both a Colosi and Bongiovanni. This is one of the mysteries that we may never have an answer for.

Lucia and her father had learned English, but still would speak in Italian most of the time. Angelo and Mary were both in school, but Angelo quit after sixth grade. It appears Lucia may have gotten a pony for the children because I have a photo of Angelo and Mary sitting on a pony in front of their house.

Professor Angelo had been helping raise the children during these years. Mary had been young enough when her father died that she always thought her grandfather was her father.

In 1923, just before his 72nd birthday Professor Angelo went into heart failure and died. The funeral services were held on May 23rd and he was buried at the St. Mary’s cemetery.

Little Angelo had a lot of anger. I don’t know if this developed after his grandfather died or if he’d always been that way. Later on, sometime between his teen years and 20, a situation arose where he went to prison. Someone had been shot and killed. It’s likely that Angelo was on death row. From all that I’ve read, it seems there was no mercy for someone convicted of murder in those days.  I’m sure Lucia was devastated. She sold everything she had and was able to get Angelo released.  I’m not sure how she did that, it’s possible she made some underhanded deals, and perhaps even knew mafia members that might have helped.

Lucia’s financial situation was never the same after this. And it was decided that it was time for Angelo to settle down.  Arrangements were made with Lucia’s brother that his oldest daughter, Minnie, would marry Angelo. The wedding took place on Minnie’s 19th birthday, April 21, 1930. (the rest of Angelo and Minnie’s story can be found on the page titled Angelo & Minnie)

I don’t know if it was before or after Angelo’s prison sentence, but at some point after 1926 and prior to 1930, Lucia met and married a man named Paul Maltese (in a 1926 city directory, Lucia was listed as the widow of Dominick). Paul had come to America from Italy in 1900. He had become naturalized while living in Pennsylvania, and he had a job as a machinist at a Steel Mill.

It is likely that it was at the time that Lucia married Paul that she moved 45 miles south to Carnegie. I don’t know if Paul already owned the house, but by the 1930 census they listed the house as being owned and worth $6000; an average price for a house in those days. Houses at that time were often built to accommodate more than one family. It is possible Lucia’s son Angelo and his bride lived with Lucia and Paul for a short time before moving to Washington, Pennsylvania, because Angelo’s first child was born in Carnegie.

Lucia, for some reason, began calling herself Lydia at this point.  Her business cards read Dr Lydia Maltese, midwife, 513 Third Ave, Carnegie PA. She was in her late 50s and she brought babies into the world, but she also did illegal abortions on the side. Lucia even taught her daughter-in-law, Minnie, how to do them. I don’t know if Lucia had been doing this all along or if she began after her financial situation changed. The Great Depression had begun around this time and finances were growing worse for everyone.

In February 1931, Lucia’s first grandchild, Beatrice. Later that summer Lucia had a will drawn up and gave her son Power of Attorney. Around this time Lucia moved 30 miles west to Washington, Pennsylvania Brother and his family lived. Her new address was 251 West Wheeling Street. Angelo and Minnie had either already been in Washington or else they moved there at this same time.

As far as Paul Maltese, he is a mystery to me. The family had never mentioned him. It has made me wonder if his marriage to Lucia was brief. He was older than Lucia by about 4 years and would have been in his 60s. It’s possible that he became ill and died. The family members in Washington don’t seem to remember anything about him, so he may have died prior to Lucia making her will and moving to Washington. This is all speculation at this point. These are things we may never know.

It was not quite 4 years later that Lucia and her granddaughter, Beatrice, were walking along the sidewalk together and as they crossed a street, Lucia fell to the ground. Bea still remembers that cold February day in 1935. She was just days from her fourth birthday. The incident scared her and left a lasting impression that was still clear in her mind more than 75 years later.

Lucia was taken to the Washington Hospital. She died at 5:40pm on February 18, 1935 at the age of 62. From what I read on the death certificate, it appears she had high blood pressure and on the day she died there was a hemorrhage in her brain. I’m guessing it was from an aneurism that burst.

On the death certificate, Angelo listed his mother’s name as Lucy Beatrice Colosi, and put her occupation as housekeeper. I’m not sure why he didn’t list her as a doctor. Perhaps she had retired from her medical practice.

Angelo also wrote that she was a widow at the time. If that is true, then Paul must have died. As I mentioned earlier, this could be the reason she moved from the house in Carnegie. When his mother died, Angelo carefully wrote the information on a post card: Mother died Tuesday, February 1935 – 19th day at 5:40P.M. at Wash. Hosp. of Cerebral-hemorrhage. Her death certificate says February 18th,  which was  a Monday. I’m not certain which date is correct. Angelo may have written the information the next day and wasn’t thinking clearly due to his grief. Either that or the certificate had the wrong date.

Lucia had told Angelo she didn’t want his sister, Mary, to ever be put into an institution. It had been his mother’s last wish. So Angelo took Mary in, and she lived with him the rest his life.  On Lucia’s gravestone, her name is engraved: Dr Beatrice L. Colosi.

All family pages will continue to be updated whenever new information is discovered. (Last update for this page was made January 3, 2016)

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