My dad's mom, Diamonte LaBella, lived with us in our tiny house on Orchard Street, and actually for the rest of her life, in our newer bigger place up the street. We were so lucky to have her in our lives for so long.
Dad admired her for many things but particularly her strength, courage and fortitude as an italian immigrant with English as her second language. One story that comes to mind was how she acted as a scribe for her countrymen. She was one of the few women at that time to have a sixth grade education, where she learned more advanced reading and writing. Most people of the working class in southern Italy just went up to third grade and then went out to the fields.
As dad would tell it, people used to come to my grandmother with letters to be read and responded to. They would pay her in small gifts like fresh tomatoes, cheese or fruit. He said he always remembered a crowd of neighbors milling around the front porch waiting for their turn.
My grandmother knew everything about everyone in our little hamlet, but because she believed in keeping confidences, and respected her position, she developed a reputation that she could be trusted with ones deepest secrets.
I love this painting of her with the sparkle in her eye, by her loving son, Nick LaBella.
Here she is on the back porch.