Saturday, December 27, 2014

Day 1 - A morning visit to the graves of Guiseppe and Alma Milani at Old St. Raymond's Cemetery, Bronx, NY

My Dad's side of the family had Italian, Irish and German ancestors and today, I will visit the graves represented by all three --  

After an uneventful, but early flight (6:45am) from Atlanta -- to LaGuardia Airport, I found myself in NY by 9am.  I had decided to rent a car.  This decision had been causing me considerable anxiety as the prospect of driving through the Bronx was anything but appetizing.  I survived the short but tortuous trip to Balcom Avenue to Old St. Raymond's Cemetery.  I was on a mission to find Guiseppe (Joseph) and Alma Milani, my paternal great grandparents who emigrated to Tate, Georgia, in 1891, to work as a marble cutter in the quarries of North Georgia.  

 After Joseph left Georgia in the mid-to-late 1890s, he arrived in NYC sometime around 1900 and became a naturalized citizen.  Joseph and Alma had four children -- two girls and two boys -- the youngest boy was my grandfather, Andrew Nicholas Milani.  The oldest boy, George, would become a renowned surgeon and chairman of the Bronx Medical Society.  His sister Lillian, was a milliner or hat maker, working for Lilly Dashe, the famous hat fashionista reported to have said:  "Glamour is what makes a man ask for your telephone number.  But it also is what makes a woman ask for the name of your dressmaker."  Family legend has it that Lillian was the personal milliner for Eleanor Roosevelt -- but like most legends -- its probably more fiction than truth.

Guiseppe Milani with a cigar in his hands ... a man after my own heart!  

St. Raymond’s Cemetery is the only Catholic Cemetery in the Bronx and is one of the busiest cemeteries in the United States with nearly 4,000 burials each year. Famous burials in this cemetery include the brother of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Jazz singer Billie Holiday and Fr. Frank Duffy of the "The Fighting 69th" Infantry Regiment (portrayed by Pat O'Brien in the movie of the same name.)   Ironically just a month ago we were staying in Times Square hotel and right out the front door is a Father Duffy statue.  

The Cemetery of St. Raymond has been active since 1842.  The entire cemetery complex is 180 acres and when filled will be a holy and prayerful burial site for more than half a million people.

I had no trouble finding the cemetery and apparently neither did any other Wop or Mick as the place was full of 'em.  A New York Catholic Cemetery  full of Italian and Irish folks-- who knew?   

S10-R45-P42-G1/2.   I found myself reciting the grave site location and after about 10 minutes of roaming around I finally found Joseph and Alma -- and Lillian and her husband Amos Delmonte in this grave.  

My Catholic faith teaches me that we should pray for the dead and that the dead who are saints in heaven can in turn pray for us.  I like that.  I said the Catholic Prayer for the Dead -- and found myself repeating the prayer several more times today at other cemeteries and family graves.

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