Saturday, July 11, 2015

"Conoscere il mio sangue"

  Federigo Pierini - paternal great-grandfather of Pierini Fitness
One of my many middle-aged man interests is getting to know my ancestors and about ten years ago I spent a lot of time doing this until eventually “hitting a wall” unable to learn more about them without expending extraordinary effort.    One such hitting the wall episode was when I realized there was no photo of my paternal great-grandfather for me to visually know who he was and how he looked.   

But many wonderful conversations with my Dad gave me a clue including one when he once shared a boyhood memory of his grandfather and my great-grandfather.  According to my Dad, my great-grandfather was a short, light-skinned man with a happy disposition known to family members by his nickname of “Walkie”. 

My Dad recalled how his grandfather encouraged him and other grandchildren to walk by uttering the command “walkie, walkie!” in his broken English accent.  Like many Italian immigrants, Walkie only spoke enough English to get by, preferring instead his mother tongue Tuscan-dialect Italian.

Another memory my Dad shared was a photograph he once viewed of a younger Walkie wearing a tall black hat and sporting a very long handlebar moustache.

Federigo Pierini was born in the Lucca area of Italy on September 19, 1856 to parents Pietro Pierini and Fruguina Morelli.  According to a newspaper obituary, Federigo immigrated to California when he was 15 years young and was “a leader of the Sacramento Italian colony and resident of Sacramento for 65 years.”

Upon arriving in America, Federigo initially called home the gold mining area of Amador County in California where he worked as a horse trainer.  It was there he met his wife Elena Garbarini and sometime later, the young married couple moved to Sacramento to begin raising a family.  Three boys were born – Joseph, John and Edward – and the family residence was a Victorian home, purchased with hard-earned money saved, and relocated to the southwest corner of 27th and G Streets in midtown Sacramento.

Federigo financially provided for his family by working as a self-employed vegetable peddler as did many other Italian immigrants of this era.  He sold vegetables, home grown in the family’s backyard, from a horse-drawn wooden carriage along the streets of midtown Sacramento. 

He also made money selling home-pressed olive oil from olives from a small orchard of olive trees grown in the family’s backyard.  Extra money was made by sharpening kitchen knives, perhaps for the same customers who purchased his home-grown vegetables and olive oil.

Federigo’s amazing yet simple life of 80 years as an Italian immigrant in his adopted country came to an end at 7:15 a.m. on July 11, 1937 and all that is known about him this day primarily rests with me to pass along to other family members who may be interested.

A recent photo discovery provides the only visual clue that may ever exist about Federigo.  I felt like a blessed and rich man when recently viewing it for the first time.  So today, on the 78th anniversary of his death, I cherish this photo because it has helped me to know my blood - “conoscere il mio sangue”.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

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