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Philomena Iacovelli Mazzarella

Filomena Iacovelli was born 4 March 1926 in Camden, New Jersey. When she was a small child her family moved to Brooklyn, New York, because her father, Giuseppe Iacovelli, was offered work there as a foreman.

But when in 1929 he died in an accident at work (Filomena told me that her father was a supervisor, that he worked for the Tirro family, and that he was inspecting the sewer work when it collapsed on him), his wife and children moved back to Camden.

As the first born daughter Filomena was named after her father's mother, Filomena Monforte (born 1857) of Gambatesa.

Filomena died on 2 August 2012 in Moorestown, New Jersey and was buried in Calvary Cemetery, Cherry Hill, a few steps away from her cousins Carmina ("Millie") and Esther Valente.

The following two photographs are from an old scrapbook album that belonged to Filomena's first cousin, who is shown in the second photograph with her.


Umbrella, 32 KB

This photograph was taken in Camden, New Jersey, about 1931.

Dressing Up, 37 KB

Dressing Up

Filomena and her cousin Vittoria Donata Valente, dressing up, in the backyard of the Valente house at 520 Mickle Street, Camden, in 1944.

Vittoria thinks that because she had diphtheria four times she was held back for a year, that she began first grade a year late. She was born in August and her cousin Filomena was born the following March, but they were in the same grade together at school, the same classroom, at Stevens School at 4th and Berkley Streets. When Filomena began school she did not know English. (Vittoria understood the Italian dialect, but she could not really speak it.)

How life used to be in Camden

Many years later when Filomena came to visit her cousin and was there almost until supper time, Vittoria said to her, "My mother would never have let you go home without eating. My mother would have made something up real fast the way she used to do."

Nunziata DiRenzo (Mrs. John Valente; she was called "Nancy" in English) and her younger sister Pasqualina DiRenzo (Mrs. Joseph Iacovelli; she was called "Pauline" in English) were very close. Nunziata used to visit her sister every day in Camden. Pasqualina's children liked to go to their Aunt Nancy's house because, with all the children there, there was always something to do.

At 3rd and Royden Streets, near where Pasqualina lived, there were gangsters (It was a better part of town). Everyone knew who they were. They used to give gifts at the holidays to the people who lived there, Pasqualina's family included, e.g. bottles of whiskey, turkeys; Filomena remembered this. But that was only at that one place, not on Berkley Street where Nunziata's family lived. But Vittoria thinks that, although they wanted nothing to do with gangsters, that her mother would have accepted their presents too.

At 337 Berkley Street her cousin Carmina Valente taught them how to dance. Filomena liked to dance. (Vittoria never learned to dance. Filomena does not think she was interested in doing things like dancing.) This was in the large room that served both as living and dining room, and there was lots of room to dance. Filomena does not know how Carmina learned to dance (She called her "Millie", as does Vittoria).

Birthday Party, November 2nd 1936

A birthday party given for Louis (Luigi) Valente (1919-1950) in the living room of the Valente house at 337 Berkley Street, Camden.

The living room at 337 Berkley St, Camden, 33 KB
Photograph Key. Extreme foreground on the viewer's left:
Danny Aceto.
First row, from viewer's left to right:
unidentified boy, Marie Salerno, Inez Balestra, Angie (Angelina Serafina) Valente, Mike (Michele) Iacovelli, Phil (Filomena) Iacovelli (1926-2012), Lou (Luigi) Giorgi (1928-1993).
Second row:
unidentified, unidentified, Joseph (Giuseppe Antonio) Valente (1923-1986), Nunziata DiRenzo in Valente (1897-1983), Louis Valente.
Third row:
Antoinette DiTitto, unidentified, unidentified, unidentified, Hilda Ciccarelli (1910-1993).

This photograph had also been pasted in an album Vittoria Valente kept as a girl.

Last Thoughts

The last time I spoke with her (2 July 2012), I said how short-lived the Italian colony in Camden had been -- and Cousin Phil, which was how I always referred to Filomena, said that was her generation's fault. They moved to the suburbs all at the same time. She thought it was very wrong what they did to their parents; in the city they had been able to walk every place, and they did not like being isolated in the suburbs at all (For one thing, they did not drive, and no one would visit until the evenings because of work, and if they wanted to go anywhere they needed someone to take them).

"Everyone wants to sleep," Cousin Phil said. That was what most of the old people in the Brandywine Senior Living's rehabilitation center, where Cousin Phil died (She did not want to go the hospital to die and so the center kindly let her stay there until the end) were doing, sleeping, as we slowly walked by them and then sat on a bench beside the window.

I was deeply honored when her family asked for me to be a pallbearer at her funeral.

Related Pages:

The URL of this Web page: https://www.roangelo.net/iacovelli/filomena.html
6 October 2012 : 2012-10-06 by Robert [Wesley] Angelo.

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