Taking the Titanic to Madera


For The Madera Tribune

Argene and Sebastino del Carlo on their wedding day, Feb. 20, 1912. Two months later, they were on their way to Madera aboard the Titanic.

It took a while for panic to take hold of the passengers of the Titanic. Nobody believed the ship could sink, lest of all Sebastino del Carlo and his bride, Argene. Nothing could happen to them; they were coming to America — to California — to Madera.


Sebastino del Carlo and Argene Genovesi had been engaged on Jan. 20, 1912, and one month later they were married in Lucca, Italy. By April, they had determined to seek a new life in a new land, so they made their way to Cherbourg and purchased two second class tickets on the maiden voyage of the Titanic. This was to be their honeymoon. They had no way of knowing that four days later one of history’s greatest tragedies would end their bliss.


Sebastino had decided to come to Madera because his new brother-in-law, Nello Barsotti, had found him a job in his bakery. Nello had married Eugenia Genovesi, Argene’s sister, and the prospect of having another sister close by thrilled the local couple (a third sister, Carolina Genovesi Malanca and her husband, John, lived in Fresno). When news came of the impending arrival of the del Carlos, the Barsottis prepared for a reunion that never came.


On April 11, 1912, the Titanic set sail with the del Carlos aboard. Unfortunately, Argene was forced to stay in her cabin due to nausea, which left her unable to enjoy the trip. It would, however, get considerably worse.


Just before midnight on April 14, 1912, Argene heard a loud noise and felt a shudder. She called for Sebastino to find out what had happened. When he reached the deck, he discovered their dilemma and hurried back to the cabin.


Without much conversation, Sebastino lifted his wife in his arms and carried her topside. There, as the crew gently placed the ill woman in one of the lifeboats, he kissed her and told her not to worry; he assured her they would be reunited very soon. As the lifeboat was lowered, Sebastino waved goodbye, and a tearful Argene returned the wave. That was not the last time she would see him, but it was the last time she would see him alive.


As everybody knows, in the early hours of April 15, 1912, the Titanic sank, and 1,517 people lost their lives. One of these was Sebastino del Carlo.


The survivors, including Argene, were rescued by the Carpathia and taken to New York where she was cared for by a Catholic relief organization. Meanwhile, Sebastino’s body continued to float in the frigid waters near the site of the sinking. He remained there for a couple of days until the MacKay Bennett, one of the recovery ships, pulled him from the ocean.


They delivered Sebastino to a makeshift morgue in New York and then brought Argene there to identify his remains. He was still clothed in his dark, tweed suit and wrapped in his gray overcoat. Beside him were the personal effects that he had taken with him from the ship: a gold watch and chain; a pair of diamond and gold earrings; a gold chain locket; a silver watch and chain; a knife; a pin; a pocketbook and papers along with $5 in notes and 37 francs.


Now Argene had a decision to make. Should she bury her husband in New York and continue to Madera alone, or should she take him back to Italy and remain in her homeland? Argene chose the latter.


On May 18, 1912, Argene boarded the Cretic and accompanied Sebastino’s body back to Italy where she buried him. In four short months she had gone from an engagement to a wedding to widowhood. In a few more months, however, new life would spring from the horror of the sinking of the Titanic. You see, when she embarked on the doomed vessel with her husband, Argene was expecting, and by that time, in addition to seasickness, the ill effects of her pregnancy, confined her to her room on the Titanic. On Nov. 14, 1912, Argene gave birth to a daughter, Salvata del Carlo.


When Sebastino carried his young bride to the lifeboat on April 15, 1912, he knew he held both his wife and his child in his arms. Although she was still in the womb, Salvata became the youngest survivor of the sinking of the Titanic.


The shock waves of the Titanic disaster reverberated around the world, and nowhere were they felt any stronger than in Madera. Eugenia Genovesi Barsotti and her husband, Nello, grieved over Argene’s loss, and over the years, all of the Barsotti children in Madera learned the story of how fate stepped in to keep their aunt and uncle from coming here to live.


Meanwhile, Salvata grew up in Italy, married, and became a mother herself. Then a strange thing happened. Somebody decided to make a movie and called it the Titanic. This turned her nation’s spotlight on the lady who would have called Madera her home if only her parents had taken a different boat to America over a century ago.

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