Stop at New York Harbor Changed Man’s Fate

Italian forfeits arranged marriage when he falls in love with a young widow.

| Good Old Days

One of the better aspects of aging is the pleasure of remembering, not only the things you have witnessed, but true-life stories passed along by those who lived them. Take, for instance, the one about Mama and Papa and how they met.

In the 19th century, life in Italy was quite stereotypical. Like most of his contemporaries, my father-in-law, Pietro Ettore Riola, was a student of languages, law, medicine and philosophy at the university. After graduating in 1899, he was sent on an extended tour of Europe and the Western Hemisphere, after which he was expected to settle down in a properly arranged marriage.

The scenario was set. Fate changed all that. At a stopover in New York Harbor.

Amelia DeCesare Valentino joined the other passengers, including Pietro. She was a young widow, barely 20, and much too young to sink into permanent mourning. To get her out among people again, her doctor had recommended a sea voyage. You've guessed the end of this narrative, I'm sure.

Amelia and Pietro met aboard ship, immediately fell in love, and, by the time the leisurely voyage was over, were thinking in terms of marriage.

Of course, it wasn't as simple as that. Back in Naples, Pietro's family did not look favorably on his sudden wedding plans. Especially since this unknown bride-to-be was not of their choosing.

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