"Beginning a New Life II: Mary DeGennaro LoBasso" posted July 9, 2005 at 01:32 PM
My wife Marie’s mother, Mary DeGennaro LoBasso, came to the United States in 1930 at the age of 16, along with her two older siblings, Sergio and Antoinette.
When Mary was just 3 years old, and Sergio and Antoinette were 8 and 5 respectively, their mother, Maria Elena Raffanelli DeGennaro, moved to America and left them in Molfetta, Italy in the care of her mother. Maria Elena had been widowed after only nine years of marriage (to Franco DeGennaro), and decided to go to America to try for a better life for herself and her children. She had an uncle living in New York City, with whom she stayed, and the plan was to send for her children as soon as it was financially possible.
Creating a new life in a new country was difficult for a single woman, and within a year and a half Maria Elena re-married, to Mauro D'Alto, who owned an ice delivery business. With Mauro, she had two more children, Annunziata (Nancy) and Ignacio (Danny). It seemed there was never enough money to pay the necessary fare to bring her first family to the U.S. Only when word was received that her mother in Molfetta was gravely ill and could no longer care for the children, did Maria Elena go to her uncle to borrow the money to bring her children to America. By this time, Mary was 16 years old. The three DeGennaro children departed Italy June 25, 1930, from Naples, aboard the Italian ship Augustus. Nine days later they arrived at the Port of New York.
Upon beginning this new life, Sergio (Sam) and Antoinette went to work in order to earn money to repay their mother's loan, and Mary was left to care for Nancy and Danny, and to take care of the home while all the adults went to work. Circumstances being what they were, it was understandable that the three DeGennaro children came to resent their younger siblings. They really did not know their mother, Sergio and Antoinette were working but giving up their earnings, and Mary was left to care for two young children who were enjoying the parental love and family stability that she herself had never known. Besides taking care of her younger siblings, Mary was enrolled in school, but found the language barrier, school assignments and her duties at home more than she wanted to take on. After less than a year in school, Mary rebelled against this situation, and declared her intention to go to work. She allowed her mother a portion of her earnings to help the household, but she decided she would manage her own money, and not put it into a family pot for the parents to decide how it would be spent. This set the pattern for the rest of her life.
Mary married Corrado LoBasso in 1937, and would continue throughout her life to follow the same independent spirit that guided her in her youth--to work and to decide for herself how she would live. At times her methods seemed hard and unbending, but she had a good heart, and managed their finances with an eye toward security for their old age. This fiercely independent attitude about her life was years ahead of the age of women's equality.
Mary and Corrado moved from Queens, N.Y. to Ohio in 1973 to be near Marie and I. In 1988 at the age of 68 her husband of 45 years died. At the age of 86, after living for 17 years in Ohio near Marie and I, she moved to Wilmington, North Carolina to live with her other daughter, Irene and her husband Eugene. After a year and a half she moved into an independent retirement residence, where she lived for 10 months on her own. At age 88, after a fall which caused a broken hip, and after having surgery, she died peacefully.
Mary DeGennaro LoBasso / June 10, 1914 - August 2, 2002