Monday, September 1, 2014

Uncle Alphonso Famoso – Fine Family Man

Great Uncle Alphonso FamosoFine Family Man

Alphonso was the youngest boy of Giovanni and Anna Famoso. He was born on February 9, 1896 in San Severo (Savario), Bari, Italy.  He was only about 5 when he came to the United States with Anna and his siblings.  I don’t know much about his early life.  I have been told that he didn't have an Italian accent which makes sense because he came to the United States when he was so young. I know he was a handsome young man because I have several photos of him. I imagine he went to school and played with his friends.  He probably got a job when he was young to help support his family. His mother Anna died when he was about 12 years old. There is a story that his father tried to teach him how to play the drums but every time he got something wrong, his dad would hit him in the head. Needless to say, he stopped playing the drums. He was the only boy in the family who didn't play a musical instrument. 

Alphonso and his niece Anna Famoso
circa 1912

Uncle Al ~ Coney Island photo

Alphonso was drafted into the army in April of 1918 which was right near the end of WWI.  He became a Corporal but his son says his nickname was "Sarge" and he was the head of the cooks in his division.  His military record says he was in the 152nd and 153rd Brigades.  He was never sent overseas.  I have to wonder if that may have been because his brother was killed in France.  Alphonso obtained his U.S. citizenship in July of 1918 while serving in the army.  At the time he was inducted into the army he was a Machinist for a company called Bangider or Baugider in Manhattan, NY.  I haven’t found any record of that company yet.

Alphonso married Antonetta (Nettie) Monaco around November of 1928. I am not sure when Antonetta was born. I have found birth records for several girls with that name. She may have been born on February 25, 1905.  The date on their marriage record is November 26, 1928 but that was probably not the actual date of their wedding.  At the time of their marriage, Alphonso was around 29 years old and Antonetta was around 23 years old according to the marriage record.  The two witnesses to their marriage were Santino Cali and Anna Famosa.  Santino Cali was a good friend of the groom (related by marriage) and Anna Famoso was Aunt Katie’s daughter.  Their wedding photos are gorgeous.  Antonetta was an only child and her parents evidently went all out for the wedding!  Her parents were Giuseppe Monaco and Carmela Morella.  I have heard that her father was a junk man or ash collector.  I don’t know how or where they met but probably through family or friends.  They both grew up in the same neighborhood in Harlem.  After they married, they moved to the Bronx to raise their family.

Guiseppe Monaco, Antonetta, Alphonso and Carmela Monaco

Alphonso and Nettie had four children, two boys named John and Joseph and two girls named Anna and Emily.  They appear to be the perfect American family of that time.  Alphonso came home every night for dinner.  He made a good living as a butcher after he left the army.  Nettie was a stay-at-home mother who made her kids lunch and walked them to school.  If it started to rain during the day, she would bring her kids their raincoats.  All of the kids were adorable.  We have many family photos to prove that.  It seems like they lived a happy family life.  The kids all grew up and got married.  Each one of Alphonso and Nettie’s kids had children of their own.  Uncle Al and Aunt Nettie have a great legacy with grandchildren and great grandchildren and they would be very proud. 

Joseph, Anna, Emily, John Famoso
Cousin Christina Famoso

My father says his Uncle Al was always nice – no one he knew ever disliked his uncle Alphonso.  Because he was a butcher, he would give meat to my father’s family for the holidays so they could have a good meal.

Nettie used to work at the post office during the Christmas holiday rush.  Uncle Al would drop her off there at work each day.  She probably did this because she enjoyed it.

Alphonso was a very good dancer.  I have been told about his dancing ability from several of his family members. My father also tells me that he liked to entertain and that he was very funny.  Even though Uncle Al was outgoing, he was a little bit on the quiet side.

One of the things my dad remembers most about his Uncle Al, is that he used to put salt or sand on the linoleum floors, take off his shoes and in only his socks he would “pretend” skate all over the house with his hands behind his back.  My dad says it looked like he was really skating. 

I have also been told that Uncle Al loved to play pinochle with his brothers. According to Emily and Joseph, every week the family would go to their Uncle Louie’s house (my grandfather) so the brothers could play pinochle.  The wives must have cooked and talked while the kids played games together. 

Another story that I heard from Joseph, is that Uncle Al (being a butcher) took a goat to his brother Louie’s house.  They killed it in the basement, he butchered it and they ate it for lunch.  I know that sounds really strange to us now but back in the day, it probably wasn't that unusual.

Uncle Al collected WWI military memorabilia.  According to my father, Uncle Al had a good collection of guns and other military items. I wonder if he had his brother Brasso’s dog tags.

Alphonso’s granddaughter Annette told me that he was a nice, kind man.  He used to babysit for her and her sister when they were young.  He smoked Italian black cigars (called Guinea Stinkers).  He made Annette and her sister go to the store to buy them for him when he ran out. He lived with Annette’s family for a while. He was very handy and also helped fix things around her house. He liked to go fishing.

His daughter Emily told me that he helped her husband build a deck on their house when they first got married.  Emily also said that her dad worked really hard all his life and they didn't have much time to take vacations but she does remember one time when the family went up to Boston to visit their Aunt Loretta.  They had a great time.

I found out what a true family man my Great Uncle Alphonso really was when I called Calvary Cemetery in Woodside, Queens and found out that he had purchased and owned all of the family burial plots. It may have affected him when his mother was buried in a pauper’s grave and he couldn't have her moved into her own plot.  I am not sure about that but it seems possible.

Great Aunt Nettie died in 1955.  She was only about 50 years old at the time.  She had breast cancer and at that time it was pretty much considered a death sentence. 

Great Uncle Alphonso died on May 9, 1965.  At the time of his death, he lived in Glen Cove, NY. My mother tells me that she and my dad took me to his wake.  I don’t remember being there because I was so young.

My Great Uncle Alphonso was a great guy.  He took really good care of his family.  He served proudly in the US Army.  I’m sure he had a difficult childhood but he made the best of it and turned out really well.  I am proud to be related to Great Uncle Alphonso.

Alphonso and his brother Sam in the 1950's

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