Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Spadoni Sisters, by Gladys Para

Photo reproduced by iPad from Gladys Para's Old Town article
"The three oldest children of Mike and Anita Spadoni pose with a cousin at their Grandmother Seghieri's home in Lucca, Italy 1913.  Clara, left, an active child, was expected always to fidget before a camera.  In a photo taken when she was younger, she had been given a watch to hold to her ear so she would stand still.  For this one, she concentrates on standing on only one foot.  In center is infant Lola, Nelda on right.

We are so lucky to have in the Harbor History Museum Research Room several articles written in 1986 by Gladys Para.  In fact, Gladys was also President of the Gig Harbor Peninsula Historical Society.  In 1997 she was replaced when Chris Fiala Erlich assumed the President/Executive Director position and the society became known as the Harbor History Museum.

Gladys wrote a column for The Peninsula Gateway titled “Old Town” and through this column she introduced many people to the greater Gig Harbor community history: the articles included businesses, families and other people that made the community what it was, and remains today.

I ran across the following column and thought you too would enjoy it.

The Spadoni sisters visited Italian cousins during 1912 (Old Town, Gladys Para)

Clara and Nelda Spadoni, born in Pierce County, were dressed in their finest one day for a picture with their new baby sister, a native of Italy.

Their mom, Anita Seghieri Spadoni, had yearned to see her own mother again during her third pregnancy in a small workers’ cabin in Clay City.  Her husband Michele Spadoni accordingly bought a ticket and she journeyed back, across the nation and the ocean to Lucca, where she had a good long family visit.

Traveling alone with two youngsters in 1912 during the voyage over, the following year she made the return trip alone with three, when Lola was 10 months old.

Anita had made her first trip to America as a new bride, after Mike, a career vegetable farmer in Italy, had returned home to marry her.  He had found a man could buy land in America, something nearly impossible in his native region because of inheritance laws that divided property into ever-smaller portions among the families holding it.  It seemed never for sale.

After securing a job at the smelter plant in Ruston Mike discovered Gig Harbor.  He purchased seven acres near the Shore Acres dock, directly across the Narrows from Point Defiance, in 1914.

‘Nothing there but woods and bears,’ Clara recalls.  But father Spadoni had gardening on his mind, and began clearing immediately  for the rows of vegetables and flowers he tended all his life.  Mother Anita, all of whose children were born at home, was as resourceful as other early local settler women.  When she needed a doctor, she used a prearranged signal of rifle shots front the front yard of her home, so close to Gig Harbor’s present daily commerce.

The family increased to include four boys, and the seven Spadoni children grew up to attend school, marry and remain in Gig Harbor.  Eldest child Nelda met her husband James Langhelm when they attended Gig Harbor (Union) High.  They married in 1937 when both were working at the Gig Harbor branch of Washington Co-op.  Clara and her future husband, Harvey McCabe, both were employed for Washington Co-op as well, in its Tacoma office.  They married in 1943.  Lola was busy growing up and didn’t remember she needed citizenship papers until she got a job at the Bremerton Navy Yrad, long after her mother had become a voting citizen.  Lola met Ed Elford in Bremerton, and they married in 1944.

The little girls, after their childhood overseas experience, were joined by brothers Julius, Roy, Claude (called Mike for his father), and Rudolph.  Two of the family are no longer living.  Eldest daughter Nelda Langhelm died in 1968, eldest son Julius in 1984.”

The article was written in 1986, the month and date not shown.

The other members:

  • Anita M. Seghieri Spadoni, Born 12/12/1883; Died 4/18/41
  • Michele Spadoni, Born 10/8/1876; Died 9/15/59
  • Roy Peter Spadoni, Born 2/11/16; died 7/16/94
  • Claude Michael Spadoni, Born 2/27/18; Died 11/8/97
  • Rudolph Michele Spadoni, Born 5/18/21; Died 1/4/91
  • Clara May Spadoni McCabe, Born 2/22/11; Died 6/24/96
  • Lola Ines Spadoni, Born 1912/1913

Note:  Clay City was a small town near Eatonville, and if you click on the link, you can read a history of the town, written by Paul Spadoni.  I believe it is, in its own way, part of the story.  Or, as Paul Harvey used to say “The rest of the Story”.

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