“Truth and Love never have a beginning or an end.” - E. Rossomanno
I first began my correspondence with Uncle Eddie in 1992. Although he was technically my grandmother's first cousin, in my desire to address him with respect when I initially wrote him, I called him Uncle; and did so always after.
I had the very good fortune of meeting him not long after when my mother, myself and my daughter, stayed with him and his sweet wife Mary when we visited St. Louis that fall. In the weeks leading up to our visit, we exchanged several letters – all filled with anticipation of our arrival. Here I share a fragment from a ten paged letter he penned me on August 12th. Its contents are but a glimpse of his poetic words: “... I sit here with my head in my hands, at a momentary lull in my thoughts, just simply bewildered by the beauty surrounding me, the kaleidoscope of Love that inundates me – wondering what I did to deserve this – I accept!! I am so content – at peace – that I've arrived at Point 0.”
This was a hint of the man I would come to know through nearly twenty years of letter exchange. Eloquent, vibrant, passionate, sensitive, honest, opinionated, intelligent, and keenly aware of those people and things all about him. His words were like music, beautiful and flowing with emotion. Since our Italian heritage was profoundly important to him, he truly enjoyed responding to all the questions he “sensed were in me” and his sentences sung out to me like songs from the Old Country.
My desire to learn of our ancestry, coupled with his love of family, often compelled him to share with me these treasured memories and the emotions he felt for our Southern Italian roots. He first explained how “The regions in Europe such as Calabria, Sicily, the Island of Sardina, and others were for many centuries inhabited by exiles from the great religious pogroms of East-Central Europe.” Because of this, he added, “There was an intense focus on family, and a drive for survival that our ancestors possessed even after they came to America.”
Using his father as a role model of those family values so admired, Eddie embraced the meaning of family with an unmatched intensity. He was counselor, friend, and adviser to those of us who were open and willing to tap into his wisdom. He loved this role, and after poring over nearly a hundred of these beautiful letters this past week, I was touched at how often he seemed to give testimony to his family. He never condemned or judged, and so kindly shared his keen and detailed observations of the family who came and went with the ebb and flow of his social life. When the right words failed to convey his sentiments, he wrote me in Italian with a flair and flavor that our American language lacks.
The picture he painted for me of his parents follows:
Giosúe who came to this country in 1907: “Although he was a small man in physical stature, he commanded respect in his environment through his innate lack of fear and his positive sociability; and was a good role model, a symbol of security, a very good shoemaker and a thorough taskmaster. I learned to work under him, the discipline imparted by him served me well throughout.”
Mama Caterina: “Very earthy and possessing this brand of humor, a great safeguard against mental chaos and disorder as a result of greatly depressed beginnings. Famiglia – Famiglia. My mother's religion – her whole purpose for being – and her great power down thru the generations. My mother, really, was the Rock of the family combining in her such virtues as sensitivity, courage, Power, charisma, love, tyranny and magnetic animal-ism as to cause the mind to boggle – What a Survivalist!! The only person ever to intimidate and dominate me with the only real power on Earth – Love.”
He repeatedly reminded me I had an open door to him and that I could avail myself at will to any fresh food or water that may remain in that used soul of his. Often reflecting on that soul and his own mortality, he wrote: “I've been through a few strange dimension as engineer and navigator in the past, now as passenger, observer and mentor maybe, as some of my vital fires have lessened I try to accept my chronology without losing my youth – to leave my spirit and experience of this trip on earth to the eternity of the universe.
Professing me to be “As worthy an heiress as I've ever known,” he lovingly persisted that he could pour into me the writer he could have been, and asked me on many occasions to “Give me eternity, dear niece, thru your heart, your soul and mind.”
And so I attempt to do so. To honor this man who shared so much with me. Of his family, I can say that each of you were deeply loved, and that he had profound faith in all of you to survive, overcome, and achieve. He believed this to his very core because he believed with all his heart that our Italian roots dictated nothing other.
As a young man, Eddie served during World War II and assisted as an interpreter during interrogations. When he returned to Italy in 1994, and re-visited with dear friends the battlefields and the camps, bivouacs and cemeteries where many of his friends rest, it left him shocked and speechless. He was simply overcome with emotion during his visits to Italy - the birthplace of his soul.
Upon his return from serving in the war in Europe, Eddie worked as a letter carrier until his retirement. In 1947 he was married to Rosemary Scarpelli, and to this union were born two children, Richard and Victoria . After Rosemary's passing in 1987, Eddie married Mary (Heffington), the widow of his childhood friend Louis Pulos. Together they blended their families creating an even deeper extension of love, friendship, and family.
As a genealogist and historian, I am all too aware of how summarizing one's life in so short a space, leaves vacant the fullness of one's life. By including his own words, I can merely strive to draw you into the abundantly rich world in which he chose to live: “I no longer know the lines drawn by men on political maps and social dogmas, - I only wish to live and die in this universal paradise of human fire, emotion, and tranquility.”
Eduardo Giosúe Rossomanno, aged eighty-six years, six months and seventeen days, passed from this life of ours on 25 Mar 2011. He was laid to rest with military honors beside his first wife Rosemary at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.
Referring to me as his biographer, and knowing I would one day miss him dearly, he wrote: “Save this poetry for a future when you'll need to remember.” That time has come. In echoing his own words to me … I will always be very grateful for his love, his words, his thoughts. He will be with me always - for Life and Love are like a semicolon; they never end.
In eterno – Sempre.