Today is the 4th of July. The day to celebrate the independence of this great country. The most common ways to celebrate are barbecues, fireworks, and parades with lots of American flags. I would also like to celebrate by telling you a little about my paternal grandfather. Celio “Jay” Gordon Capelli lived the American Dream.
|Jay Capelli, March 1942|
Jay was born in Cassano Canavesse, Turino, Italy on December 31, 1914. His parents were Matteo Ciardonei and Adele Siletto. On March 22, 1920, Celio (5 years old) and his father, Matteo Ciardonei, arrived in the United States on the SS Dante Aligheri. According to the ship’s manifest, Matteo was deported March 31st because he had been diagnosed with tuberculosis. Matteo was a strong man because he left his young son in the United States with his sister-in-law, Mary (Siletto) Capelli.
Jay grew up in the Capelli household in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with his 3 cousins, Mabel, Bruno, and Elsie and his aunt and uncle, Mary and Alfredo (Fred) Capelli. Jay became a citizen of the United States on February 25, 1937 when he was 22 years old. He also changed his name at this time to Capelli. My grandfather attended Duquesne University, majoring in accounting. He also served as a Quartermaster in the Army during World War II.
My grandfather met my grandmother, Mary Dempsey in Pittsburgh and they married February 15th, 1947. Later that year, they migrated out west to California with my grandmother’s brother. They settled in Los Angeles and had three children. The oldest boy being my dad. The kids grew up in Anaheim and my grandparents moved to Mission Viejo during the 1970’s.
|Jay & Mary Capelli, 40th Wedding Anniversary, February 1987|
Jay was ninety four when he passed away just over 2 years ago. He was a hard working man who loved his family deeply. I remember being in high school when he finally retired from being a CPA at 80. He loved to go bowling and did so until his late 80’s. There are many family photos of Jay camping with his family.
He was hard of hearing in his later years. I will never forget the first time I visited him after he got his hearing aids. There was a look of astonishment on his face when I spoke to him. I realized that my voice had been out of his hearing range for years and he was excited to hear what I sounded like.
One of my most favorite memories of my grandfather is from Christmas about 7 or 8 years ago. I had found the passenger manifest for his arrival in the U.S. on EllisIsland.org and ordered a copy of the manifest and a photo of the ship to give to him for Christmas. He was so amazed by the gift! It made me so happy to be able to bring a piece of his past to him.
It is amazing to think that my grandfather did it all in this country. He immigrated here as a young boy, learned a new language, grew up in a loving family, attended university, became a U.S. citizen, served his country in war, found the love of his life, followed his dreams out west, and raised a family. He really did live the American Dream.