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Italian immigrants gave up a son

For The Madera Tribune

The Ferretti Family.


Eugenio Ferretti and Maria Ceccarelli were married in 1920 in Marlia in the Italian Province of Lucca, and in February 1921, they left Italy for America. Eventually, they settled in Madera where they had four sons. Sergio (1921), Nello Dominic (1923), Edward (1927), and Roland (1931). Today, Roland is the only one of the family left to tell their story.

He remembers a closely knit family that was united by love. “We didn’t need anything to keep the family together,” Roland remembers. He recalls his mother as a very quiet, delicate person who cared only for her four boys.

As for Eugenio, his father, Roland remembers him as “a man of vision” and of honor. His word was his bond, and he conducted his business on a handshake.

“He didn’t know a word of English when he came over here — I can remember him talking about the Cunninghams and all of these people. He wasn’t ashamed because he had a little bit of an accent. He would converse with judges and supervisors — he wasn’t afraid. The people of Madera were willing to help. That’s why he loved this country.”

In time, Eugenio purchased 40 acres, which was located just south of the campus of Madera South High School, and there he raised his family. Originally, the Ferrettis lived in a two-bedroom house. The parents had one bedroom and the four boys had the other. The brothers’ bedroom was furnished with two double beds and two dressers — no closets — no mirrors — no frills — just two beds and two dressers, which more than met their needs.

Roland remembers that his family spoke primarily Italian at home; therefore when it came time for him to start school, he knew only a few words of English. There were no bilingual classes for Italians in Madera at the time, so Roland was more or less on his own. He began school at Lincoln Elementary in Mrs. Coffee’s class, but because of the language difficulty, he failed the first grade.

Never one to be denied, when school began the next year, Roland just went right into the second grade room and took a seat. It was some time before Mrs. Coffee found out that he had enrolled himself in the second grade, and for some reason she just left him there.

Things went well for the Ferrettis. They worked hard and raised their sons, and then came World War II. Nello Ferretti wound up serving in General Patton’s 3rd Army and earned three battle stars, including one for action in the Battle of the Bulge. Although he had suffered severe frostbite to his feet and had to be sent to England for treatment, in time the doctors determined that he was fit to return to the battlefield, which he did.

Meanwhile, the European theatre in World War II was fast drawing to a close, and it began to look like the young Maderan would make it home safely. Back in Madera, Nello’s family held out hope. His parents, Eugenio and Maria, and his brothers Sergio, Edward, and Roland waited for the end of the war, and when V-E Day came on May 8, 1945, the entire family must have breathed a sigh of relief. Now all they had to worry about, or so they thought, was the war in the Pacific.

When Japan surrendered on Aug. 14, 1945, and V-J Day was proclaimed the next day, the Ferrettis were relieved. Now their son could come home.

In time, Nello Ferretti did return to Madera, but it wasn’t until December 1948, after he had lost his life in Germany three years before.

You see, Maria Ceccarelli Ferretti became a Gold Star mother with the arrival of that War Department telegram, which announced Nello’s death on Nov. 21, 1945. His war had been over for 6 months, and he had been transferred to the 398th A.A.A.W. Battalion as a driver for high-ranking officers of the Third Army. As fate would have it, on November 17, just four days before his death, Nello wrote a letter home telling his parents that he was in Italy and had just met his father’s mother, Stella Stefanelli Ferretti.

Nello left Italy after writing the letter and began the drive back to Germany. He was just 60 miles south of Munich when the vehicle he was driving slipped off the icy highway and plunged into the ice-covered waters of Lake Walchensee, and he drowned.

They buried the Madera man in the U.S. Military Cemetery at St. Avold, France, and there he remained until his family brought him home three years later and interred him in the family plot at Madera’s Calvary Cemetery where his mother had been laid to rest just a year before.

It was a terrible loss to the family — first the son and then the mother — but they were strong people, and they had overcome obstacles before.

Life went on for the Ferrettis after the death of their mother and brother, then in 1962, they lost Sergio to illness. In 1968, Eugenio died and was buried in the family plot beside Maria and their sons. He had completed his task in this life.

“He loved his family. He took great pride in his vineyards and in his vegetable and flower gardens. And — Oh — how he loved to dance! He was a diversified rancher, retiring in 1952, and also had many rental properties. He was an excellent cook and an honorable man. He lived in Madera 48 years.”

“Although he enjoyed going to Italy and made many trips, seeing brothers and sisters and their families, he truly loved his adopted country, The United States of America.”


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