"Little Italy" Monument Dedication | Events

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"Little Italy" Monument Dedication
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There may be hundreds of "Little Italys" across the nation and across the world, but for Millinocket folks who bear such familiar Italian names as Manzo or Colangelo or Brigalli or DiCentes or Pasquine, there is only one "Little Italy" - the one that began in 1899 on Prospect St. and York St. in Millinocket - the "Little Italy" that now lives on mostly in peoples' memories.

This week, fourth generation Millinocket descendants of the original Italian laborers, brick layers and masons, whose back breaking labor built Millinocket's Great Northern Paper mill, will gather to celebrate their heritage and to honor their fore bearers with a special dedication ceremony at 10 a.m., on Saturday July 5, at the Millinocket Cemetery.

On that occasion a special monument dedicated to those early Italians will be erected at the cemetery. The ceremony and monument recognize those original workers' commitment to building and working at the mill, the solid values they imparted to their families and their contributions to the town.

                The inscription on the monument reads:

                1899...

                Our founding fathers arrive...

                Little Italy flourishes...

                Rich in faith, rich in family, rich in togetherness

                In God they trusted

                In memory of the families of Little Italy

                Little Italy Heritage 2014

 

The money for the polished, black granite monument and special, laminated memorial cards that will be available at the time of the dedication ceremony comes from funds that remained in the bank account of the popular Little Italy Heritage Day event celebrated at Granite Street School on the 4th of July weekend every fives years from 1980 to 2005. The now defunct event in its hey days attracted 1,000 people of Italian heritage and still has people talking about the 400 pounds of lamb, as well as the huge amounts of chicken and sausages consumed at the event.

On the back of the laminated cards is told the story of what life was like in the golden days of "Little Italy" for those illiterate Italian immigrants, many of whom came to the north Maine woods from central or southern Italy with only a suitcase and a name tag pinned to their shirts. Those descriptive words were written by Mary Lucci for an initial heritage day.

Today, many of the descendants of the early settlers have become professionals, doctors, lawyers, dentists, educators, clergy and members of religious orders. Sadly, there are probably only eight families left with ties to the 40 or so families who once populated "Little Italy".

Millinocket's original "Little Italy" may be a thing of the past, but when more than one Prospect St. or York St. folk get together reminiscing is sure to take place. In fact, it might go like this:

"Don't you remember the penny candy Colangelo sold from her cellar - I can see it now."

Or they may talk about playing Bocci, or about Chief Picard who growled and never smiled, but was a nice guy. Or how close knit and friendly that Italian neighborhood was. Or how the thump of hammer on wood or the cutting noise of a saw was a magnet that drew men to their neighbor's to help with a project. Or about the chickens, pigs or "milkers" the families raised. Or how in the fall, when the pigs were slaughtered and the bladder removed, the bladder became the boys' and men's new basketball. Or how the traditional Sunday dinner was home made pasta, and mostly "lots of ravioli".

Those involved in planning the dedication ceremony include: David Oliver, Shirley Oliver, Dorothy Howard and Herbert Clark, who were assisted by the staff of Lamson Funeral Home of Millinocket.

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