The Monetti's Make their Way in America
Six Brothers and Sisters Stick Together Through it All
Alfonso probably didn’t spend a lot of time mourning his wife and kept up with his extramarital activities. A player apparently, Alfonso’s infidelities were no isolated incident, and Carmine almost bore the brunt. Holding his son’s hand one afternoon on a walk, a jealous husband took a shot at Alfonso, and one branch of the Monetti line was almost cut.
Nonetheless, two years after Gabriela died, Alfonso made an honest woman of his long time mistress, and Rafaella actually gave birth to a child. However, the little girl died a day after being born.
The step mother might not have been up to the task anyway. “The kids didn’t like her at all,” John Stoeppler recalled.
So the home life was pretty dire, and Mary’s account says a lot. The third Monetti daughter loved to read and had to hide in the closet to do so. An unnecessary dereliction of duty, according to Alfonso. He felt Mary’s time was better spent cooking and cleaning.
A unified front did emerge and solidified the Monetti bond. “Everybody protected my father. He was the baby,” said Gay Maguire of her father Willie Monetti.
That said, it’s not known whether Alfonso used the family discord as an excuse for his next selfish move. He returned to Italy with his second wife. Interestingly, the couple offered to take Mary back to Italy on what they claimed was a “vacation.”
The youngster refused, and by the time the Monetta’s were on their way out, the siblings knew the excursion was permanent. In fact, Jo’s employer’s offered to have the police block the Monetta’s exit, but the new head of the family knew the way forward. “We’re better off without them,” Jo implored.
The teenager’s job as a designer at Hattie Carnegie certainly allowed for latitude, and her good work eventually paved the way for Mary, Willie, and Anna to join the renowned design firm. “It was lucky that they had so much talent,” remembered Gay.
Carmine never went that route, though. In 1920, he joined the Navy at 15. “The recruiters got $50 for every man they signed up so it wasn’t that difficult,” said Ada Monetti of her father-in-law.
Of course, the money Carmine sent home helped make up for any family shortfalls. But this wasn’t the first time Carmine put others before himself. “He changed his age older to get in the Navy after the first war, and he changed his age younger to get into the second World War,” John remembered.
In actuality, as WWII broke out, Carmine deferred on the post-WWI identification that had his birth set in 1903. Instead, the old Navy man offered up his real birthday of 1905. Without the revelation, a recorded age of 39 would have exempted Carmine, so in a sense, John’s take is true.
Otherwise, the sibling dynamic between Jo and Carmine often butted heads before always coming around. “They were both thick headed, but whatever Jo needed, Pop made sure she got it,”said his son Bill Monetti. “He was the one who negotiated and put everything together.”
The proof of their closeness - despite the struggles - played out prominently at Mary’s wedding many years later. Jo initially said she couldn’t make it. But she flew up at the last minute, and the heads of the family did more than meet in the middle. “The two of them were talking nonstop all the way through,” said Gay
Carmine may have gotten a head start in the family way, though. As a little boy, he would walk the train tracks looking for twigs and coal so the apartment could be heated. “Pop was everything for the family and organized everything to keep them together,” beamed Bill Monetti.
The New York State and Federal Census turned out to be a key player in remaining a unit. The forms required a parent name, and with none to supply, family lore supplies some tongue and check to mark the continual movement. “Whenever an apartment needed to be painted, they moved,” the story goes.
But upwardly mobile was not part of the equation. The apartments usually had one bathroom to the building, and at one point, the three brothers slept in a single double bed.
Either way, Jo always had an eye on getting the first month free for every new apartment, but she did come up short in one aspect. “There are people who can drive and people who can’t,” joked John. “She was one of the one who couldn’t.”
So the car had Jo on the sidewalk pretty often. However, it was Mary who stayed in between the lines when the time came to putting together the family meals. Onion gravy, a staple we still enjoy, the tween was also ahead of her time when it came to healthy eating. “She got the kids to eat their vegetables by always serving greens in the pasta,” said Gay.
However, the good eating habits weren’t the only thing that stuck. The family dinners went on for decades, and Gay still cherishes all the Sunday’s that brought the Monetti’s around. “We were very fortunate to have such a close family,” she concluded.