Courtesy of Helen Vannucci
Sam and Joy Pistoresi are shown here in their wedding picture.
It has been well over 100 years since three Pistoresi brothers, Settimo, Adolpho, and Ottavio, sons of Alessio and Virginia Pistoresi, came to America, and because they left their native Italy and settled in Madera, more than 100 of their descendants live here today.
Sadly, however, that extended family has been reduced by one. Sam Pistoresi, son of August Pistoresi, grandson of Settimo Pistoresi died last week at the age of 87. The Madera Tribune called him the “Godfather,” and perhaps he was. I know that he drew people to him like a magnet, especially his Italian friends and relatives. The annual family reunions held at his home were rich traditions. I will never forget the one I attended in 2011.
A huge crowd had gathered at the home of Sam and Joy Pistoresi to celebrate their ancestry and common heritage.
In the coolness of the backyard patio, with Italian music wafting across the gathering, conversations of past and present filled the air as descendants of Settimo, Adolpho, and Ottavio Pistoresi enjoyed a glass of wine, delicious Italian food, and each other’s company.
The quick-witted master of ceremonies, Monte Pistoresi, kept things going at a lively pace with introductions, raffle drawings, and impromptu presentations of Italian culture through coffee cups, t-shirts, and hats.
Satisfaction appeared to be the operative word for the annual event.
“It has been a wonderful day,” said Chris Mariscotti, owner of the Vineyard Restaurant. “It’s great to see all of these relatives and all these people having a good time. It’s a beautiful day; we’ve got a great family, and that’s what it’s all about,” Mariscotti added.
Bill Valorosi echoed Mariscotti’s sentiments. “It has been a wonderful day that we’ve been able to spend with family and friends with the Pistoresi clan. It’s amazing to get together with all these wonderful people and hear all the stories of what’s been going on — not just the year past, but in all the years past,” said Valorosi.
Although it was called the Pistoresi family reunion, it included several other well-known Italian families, including, but not limited to, the Bandoni, Bernardi, Bomprezzi, Falconi, Loquaci, Mariscotti, Sciacqua, Valorosi, and Vannucchi families. All were connected through either Settimo, Adolpho, or Ottavio Pistoresi.
Settimo, the eldest Pistoresi brother came to Madera around 1900 and met Creuffe Gile, a local girl whom he later married. They farmed alfalfa and other commodities, and after harvest he would load up his wagon and hitch up his mules to deliver his crops to Firebaugh and other towns.
They had three girls and one boy. The oldest daughter, Emma, married Antonio Vannucchi. Eda, the middle girl, married Urbano Loquaci, and the youngest daughter married Luigi “Bomba” Bernardi. Their only son, August “Augi” Pistoresi, married Norma Morini and became the father of Sam Pistoresi, the host for the 2011 reunion.
Adolpho was the next Pistoresi brother to settle in Madera. After finding work with the Madera Sugar Pine Lumber Company, he sent for his wife, Italia, their daughter Pia and sons Sam and Pete.
When Pia grew up, she married Rasmeo Mariscotti, and they became the parents of Maybelle (Red), Ethalae (Hoag), Robert Mariscotti, and Dino Mariscotti. Maybelle, at age 93, was honored at the reunion for being the eldest member of the extended Pistoresi family who was present that day.
Pete Pistoresi married Irene Martinazzi, and they became the parents of Larry, Monte, Irene (McMullin) and Violet (McClaughery).
When Ottavio arrived in Madera, he went to work for the Barsotti Bakery where he met and later married Anunziata Panelli in 1908. They had six children: Gina, Jennie (Bandoni), Annie (Bomprezzi), Italia (Sciacqua), Mary (Falconi), and Edward, who married Barbara Conklin.
A show of hands revealed that the group was almost evenly divided among descendants of Settimo, Adolpho, and Ottavio, and as one circulated among the crowd, a veritable oral history of Madera could be heard.
Some talked of Pete Pistoresi and how he earned the name “Chevrolet Pete” for being Madera’s champion car salesman when he worked for Conrad Shebelut. Others remembered Maybelle Red and her husband, Charles, who operated Red’s Market in Chowchilla.
Just across the patio, memories of Rasmeo Mariscotti and the Berenda Cafe were exchanged. This, of course brought to mind the Vineyard Restaurant, and Rasmeo’s son, Bob, and his grandson, Chris, who now operates the restaurant.
Standing at one end of the patio and surveying the reunion, one could not help but to be taken by the legacy that these three Italian immigrants had left to Madera County.
Here were farmers, restaurateurs, government officials, grocers, and a variety of other entrepreneurs celebrating their memory.
Here were people who turned the sacrifices of their parents and grandparents into monuments of success and civic pride, and they were not going to forget it. I’ll bet they never do forget.
Sam is gone, and there will be others as the years pass by, but he will be remembered, just as those who came before him are remembered. There is strength in that “Pistoresi clan,” as some have called them. Sam was proof of that, and someone will emerge to take his place. The Godfather is gone, but he won’t be forgotten.