As many may have heard Rose Mazzei, the matriarch of the Mazzei & Argento family passed away on March 9 at the age of 97. Rose touched many of the lives of the employees and customers of Pompilios Restaurant.
The following tribute to Rose was presented at her funeral by her grandson Tony:
Buongiorno. A nome di mio padre, Frank Mazzei,benvenuto e grazie per essere venuti a questa celebrazionee per onorare la madre, Rose Mazzei.
Good morning. On behalf of my father, Frank Mazzei, welcome and thank you for coming to this celebration and to honor his mother, Rose Mazzei, Mom, Grandma, Zizi, Granny, Nani, Mama Rose.
We have 97 years to celebrate. And in case you’re keeping track, in 1918 when Grandma was born, Woodrow Wilson was President, she’s been alive for 16 more President’s since then, a gallon of gas was 8 cents, and the average salary was just over $1000/year. I’d venture to say that Grandma is the only 97 year old that most of us have known. God bless, we should all be so fortunate.
Today is a day to celebrate and what we have to celebrate are the older ways that Grandma spent her life making sure that we learned. Traditions about hard work, family, and of course food.
Grandma is among the last of a generation for whom hard work was essential to survival. Their easiest days would leave us exhausted. Hers is the generation of immigrants that built this country. And though she was not an immigrant, she was born in Cincinnati; she moved to Italy as a child and her father, Frank Argento, died while she lived there. When she returned to the United States, she was not yet a teenager. Married at 17, few have worked as hard as her for as long as she did. Many are here today because we know her through her work. She may have taken our name while we waited for a table at Pompilio’s.
This was her last job and she often credited it with keeping her going, seeing and greeting so many people kept her vital and alive. Or we ate the ravioli, or the lasagna, or the 1000’s upon 1000’s of meatballs that she made. At 95 she still had her crew and was working.
As a young girl she worked with her mom to prepare food for the men laborers they took in in order to make ends meat. She’s certainly the only person we’ll ever know who made food as a child laborer and 90 years later was still making meals as a senior laborer. Not that she would have ever considered herself a “child laborer” – at both ends of her life she was making food with and for family.
And as she often said, “what did we know, that’s just how we did things”
Undoubtedly her hardest work though was living life as a Polio Survivor. She lived 73 years as a Survivor – 73 years! She had to work to overcome the effects of polio her entire life, every day, and it never slowed her down.
And there’s not a one of us here today that ever heard her complain either. She raised two boys, put them through catholic school and college, scraped and saved, and with family and an entire community of immigrants, built this country. But what did they know, that’s just how they did things.
Grandma and her mother, Teresina, my Nani, and her brother, my Godfather, Uncle Carmen, only had family and their community and they knew that those were the people you could rely on. Grandma knew how important it was to keep close family and tradition. She was a Founder of the Fuscaldese Society and kept those close friendships dear and alive; her club was so important to her, she was always thankful for the love and kindness she was given in return, being with family kept her vital and alive. Again, remember, Grandma is of the generation that built all these societies and businesses, and raised all the children, put them all through college, built neighborhoods and parishes, including the one we’re in right now, and passed on their traditions and values.
We have another 4, maybe 5, generations here today because of those 3, because of that family, a single mom and her two kids, living through the Great Depression, World Wars, and polio. All of their hard work and reliance on family is what allows us all to be here today. We so owe this generation and we thank you Grandma.
Or maybe Grandma just knew that if you feed people they will stick around. And feed people she could do. All of our memories of Grandma, Zizi, have food in them. The summer picnics, holidays, the trays and trays of cookies for every Baptism, First Communion, Wedding, and yes Funerals too, sneaking the dry meatballs, and of course, the Christmas Eve dinner of dinners, holiday of holidays. Grandma is the reason we had to explain to other kids why our family eats pasta and fish at Christmas.
I believe she enjoyed doing it as much as we enjoyed eating it. She knew this was the important stuff and we’re lucky she did. In her recipe book she wrote, “Now I can pass all of this on to you. It is my hope that each of you will carry on some part of the traditions that my mother passed on to me. If everyone continues just one tradition with their family, then I will know that the older ways will be remembered.”
All of us here today have experienced some of the older ways through traditions that she made possible for us, through her family, through her Fuscaldese heritage, through her faith, and through her recipes that have been shared with 100’s of thousands, across state lines for crying out loud. That little girl that made meals for boarders with her mom in the Over-the-Rhine, hauling groceries from Findlay Market, polio survivor; she ended up providing the recipes that have touched an entire city.
When Nani says to carry on the traditions, she means it, capeesh? And if she has to take 97 years to get us all to understand it, well, what does she know, that’s just how she does things.
And that’s how we honor a life. We do the things we did with them and we remember them when we do; we remember the older ways. That’s how we keep our loved ones alive.
So thank you and goodbye Grandma. We honor you, we will honor this family, and we will all find some small way to carry on the older ways that you have taught us with our families.
Quindi grazie e arrivederci nonna. Vi onoriamo, noi onoreremo questa famiglia, e noi tutti trovare un piccolo modo per portare avanti le tradizioni che ci hai insegnato con le nostre famiglie.