MANFREDI - MARINO - PERCOCO - GIANGRASSO

Note to wandering genealogists: This genealogical information about the Sicilian and American MANFREDI, PERCOCO, MARINO, and GIANGRASSO families is provided in the hope it will be of use to those who are constructing family trees. You will also find here some information on the REED and MATHER families of Yolo County, California.

My paternal grandparents and their siblings and cousins all emigrated from Sicily circa 1890-1910. They settled in New York City, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. Their descendents continue to live in those locations and in California.

THE MARINO and GIANGRASSO FAMILIES

My father's mother (my grandmother) was Angelina MARINO MANFREDI born July 7, 1893 in Castellamare del Golfo, Sicily.

Angelina MARINO'S mother (my great-grandmother) was Maria GIANGRASSO MARINO of Sicily. I am not sure where the GIANGRASSO family originated, but it may have been in Catania. Maria was born around 1878, according to Federal Census records.

Angelina MARINO'S father (my great-grandfather) was Giovanni (John) MARINO. He was born around 1861, according to Federal Census records.

According to my father, my great-grandfather John MARINO lived in in Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, but his family was originally from Porto Empedocle, Agrigento Province, Sicily, where they "owned almond orchards" and were "intellectuals" "of ancient Greek descent."

My father told me that John MARINO had been "a mounted policeman and a detective" while a young man in Sicily. He wanted to "retire and open a produce shop "like his three brothers," but for some "political" reason, he was "denied a license," so he emigrated to Massachusetts circa 1895 - 1897 with his young wife Maria GIANGRASSO MARINO and their daughters Angelina MARINO and Francesca MARINO.

On the surface, this story makes no sense to me, because John MARINO would have been all of 25 years old when he tried to "retire" from being "a mounted policeman and a detective." And why would an "intellectual" young man who had a promising career as a "mounted policeman and a detective" wish to open a "produce shop" in Castellemare?

At the time of the 1920 federal Census, when John MARINO was 59 years old, his occupation was given as "Maker of Toys." In other words, he was artistic and a craftsperson traits that were passed dwn to his two daughters Angelina and Francesca, to his two grandsons Joesph and John, and to his great-grand-daughter (me).

I suspect that there is another story lurking beneath this illogical tale: Castellamare del Golfo, John and Maria MARINO's birthplace, was also the birthplace of a criminal Mafia gang, well known for its hostilities with other Mafia factions, which had violent repercussions in America when the so-called Castellamarese War broke out among Sicilian immigrants during the late 1920s. It is not unlikely that members of my family were peripherally involved in these events, as detailed below and it is also not unlikely that their comings and goings between America and Sicily during the era before World War One were not always accurately recorded.

According to my father, Angelina first arrived in the United States as a little child with her sister Francesca and her parents, Maria and John MARINO. He told me that the family "lived in Massachusetts for a while," but that his mother "was sent back to Sicily to study in a convent" (circa 1905 - 1910?) and that when she returned to America John and Maria MARINO had relocated to New York City. However, according to the 1920 Federal Census, the entire family -- John, Maria, Angelina, and Frances, had all immigrated to the US in 1900.

According to my father (and i can testify to this as well), Angelina had "an artistic sensibility" and valued fine art, clothing and fabric design, and architectural decor very highly. For a time she earned her living by making silk and paper flowers, a craft she had "learned at the convent, from the nuns." She was always very skilled with her hands, was both a fine seamstress and embroiderer, and was also an accomplished cook. Her sister Frances was employed as a millinery trimmer in 1920, and Angelina had done that work too, before having children. Her father John MARINO was a "maker of toys" -- that is to say, he hand-crafted traditional Italian-style toys and sold them in the streets of New York; he was not employed in a toy factory.

Interestingly, Angelina also told me frightening stories of "The Black Hand," an extortion ring of immigrant gangsters, also known as "A Niura Manu" or "the Camorra," who preyed upon wealthier immigrants during her youth. The activities of the Black Hand in New York can be dated to around 1903, when she was about 19 years old. The Mafia-Camorra War, which took place in New York City in 1916-1917, when she was a young mother in her early 20s, led to the end of the Neapolitan Camorra faction and consolidated the power of the Sicilian Mafia faction in America. The Black Hand gave way during the 1920s to other illegal activities, such as the production of illegal alcohol.

THE MANFREDI FAMILY

My father's father (my grandfather) was Vincenzo (Vincent) MANFREDI, born September 12, 1886 in Sortino, Siracusa Province, Sicily. Sortino is a small village. At the present time the population is about 9,000 people.

According to my father, Vincenzo (Vincent) MANFREDI's father (my great-grandfather) was a Mr. MANFREDI who had a produce shop in Sicily. It is likely that he was from the area around Sortino in Syracusa province. I have found family records of others named MANFREDI in the area.

The name of Vincenzo (Vincent) MANFREDI's mother (my great-grandmother) is unknown to me, as is the province in Sicily where she was born, married, and died. It is likely that she too was from the area around Sortino in Syracusa province.

MR. MANFREDI and his first wife both lived and died in Sicily. When Mr. MANFREDI's first wife died, he remarried to another Sicilian woman whose name and place of origin within Sicily are unknown to me, and he had a third child, "The Little Uncle," also known as "The Little Manfredi." (See below for more on this man.)

According to Ellis Island records, my grandfather Vincenzo sailed to America from Genoa (a common point of embarcation) on the ship Lombardia, and he arrived in New York on June 17, 1903. He was 17 years old at the time.

By 1917, Vincenzo was calling himself Vincent MANFREDI. His World War I Draft Registration, Card, filled out on June 5, 1917, tells us that he was 30 years old, was born in the Province of Siracusa, Sicily, had taken out his "First Papers" (toward eventual U.S. citizenship), and lived at 113 West Houstan Street with his wife and two sons. He was 5'6" tall, of medium build, with brown eyes and brown hair. He had no physical disabilities.

The Draft card is very hard to read, but it appears that Vincent was employed as a baker at the National Biscuit Company (now Nabisco), which occupied a factory at 15th, 16th, and 17th Avenues.

Interestingly, Vincent's father was living with the family at the time, but he was probably just visiting, because he later went back to Sicily, where he died.

Vincent's parents had at least two children who emigrated to America, my grandfather Vincenzo MANFREDI and his sister, whose first name is not known to me, and whom my mother always referred to as "Miss Manfredi."

Both Vincenzo and his sister lived for a time in Massachusetts before settling in New York City. (See below for "Miss Manfredi's" marriage to Frank MARINO.)

VINCENT MANFREDI - ANGELINA MARINO MARRIAGE

Vincenzo-Manfredi-Angelina-Marino-Manfredi-Guiseppe-Francesco-Manfredi-Giovanni-Francesco-Manfredi-NYC-1922

Angelina MARINO met Vincenzo MANFREDI in New York City, circa 1910 - 1911. They were married around 1911 in New York City. Vincenzo was around 25 years old and Angelina was 18. They had three children, all boys:

I do not know the name of their first child, a boy who died in infancy. He may have been named Francesco, because this was a common name in the family and, strangely enough, it was the middle name given to BOTH of Angelina's and Vincenzo's next two boys. According to family history, this first son had died from catching a cold at his baptism, in New York City during the winter. This would probably have been in late 1911 or early 1912.

My father Joseph MANFREDI was born on October 3, 1913. His birth name was Giuseppe Francesco MANFREDI. He was born at home in the "Little Italy" area of New York City, at 113 West Houston Street, NYC, NY, where he was delivered by a midwife, not a doctor. I know he was Vincenzo and Angelina's second child, for his birth certificate lists one previous child, deceased.

My grandfather Vincenzo was 27 when Giuseppe was born and My grandmother Angelina was 21. Vincenzo's occupation was listed as "laborer" at the time of Giuseppe's birth and Angelina was listed as a "housewife."

The third son of Vincenzo and Angelina was my uncle John, whose birth name was Giovanni Francesco MANFREDI. He was born on January 6, 1917 in New York City. Like my father, and like their mother, John Manfredi was artistic in temperament and inclination.

At the time of the 1920 Federal Census, the family looked like this to the census-taker:

Name: 	Vincenzo Manfrede [Vincent Manfredo] [Vincenzo Manfredi] [Vincent Manfredi]
Age: 	33
Birth Year: 	abt 1887
Birthplace: 	Italy
Home in 1920: 	Manhattan Assembly District 2, New York, New York
Race: 	White
Gender: 	Male
Immigration Year: 	1907
Relation to Head of House: 	Head
Marital Status: 	Married
Spouse's Name: 	Angelena Manfrede
Father's Birthplace: 	Italy
Mother's Birthplace: 	Italy
Home Owned: 	Rent
Able to Read: 	Yes
Able to Write: 	Yes

Household Members: 	
Vincenzo Manfrede 	33, Immigration Year: 	1907, Papers, Clerk in a Stationary Store
Angelena Manfrede 	27, Immigration Year: 	1900, Papers, Occupation: None
Joseph Manfrede 	6, In School
John Manfrede 	3

In the same building with them, at 113 West Houston -- in fact, in the very next apartment that the census-taker visited -- was the Marino family, that is, Angelina's parents (my great-grandparents) and her young, unmarried sister (my great-aunt):

Name: 	John Marino
Age: 	59 [born circa 1861]
Birth Year: 	abt 1887
Birthplace: 	Italy
Home in 1920: 	Manhattan Assembly District 2, New York, New York
Race: 	White
Gender: 	Male
Immigration Year: 	1900
Relation to Head of House: 	Head
Marital Status: 	Married
Spouse's Name: 	Maria Marino
Father's Birthplace: 	Italy
Mother's Birthplace: 	Italy
Home Owned: 	Rent
Able to Read: 	Yes
Able to Write: 	Yes

Household Members: 	
John Marino 	59, Immigration Year: 1900, Alien, Maker of Toys
Maria Marino  	42, Immigration Year: 1900, Alien, Occupation: None 
Frances Marino  22, Immigration Year: 1900, Alien, Occupation: Trimmer, Millinery

The picture shown here was taken in New York City in 1922. It is by "Iris Photo Studio, G. Fecarotta, Prop., 199 Bleecker St., N.Y." Vincent is 36 years old, Angelina is 29 years old, Joseph is 9 years old, John is 7 years old.

Vincent never had a lifelong career, nor did he hold regular long-term jobs, according to older family members, and he was said to have suffered from, but never succumbed to tuberculosis. He was also said to have been an "Anarchist," in the formal political sense of that term.

During my father's school years the family lived briefly in Paterson, New Jersey, at the time a hotbed of Sicilian Anarchist sentiment, but they soon returned to Manhattan. Both my father and my uncle John got their Social Security cards issued in New York, so the family was living in Manhattan by the time they were old enough to work. My grandmother's Social Security card had been issued in New Jersey, however, so that is where she was living when she first got a job outside of the household.

Vincent-Manfredi-World-War-Two-Draft-Card

Vincent's World War Two draft card gives his address as 6 Bedford Street in New York City, a featureless four-story apartment building on a very narrow old street just off of West Houston Street in the Italian section of Greenwich Village. His occupation was listed as "not working." He described his next of kin as "Mrs. Vincent Manfredi," not even according Angelina her own first name, which was typical of his patriarchal worldview as i knew it during my childhood.

My father did not like Vincent and so as a child in the 1940s and 1950s i did not see him often. He had a dour face and always wore a suit, as i recall. He made Angelina serve him at table, as if they were still living in 19th century Sicily. This too did not sit well with my father, who was a modernist and politically far to the left of center.

I was told that my grandfather was an inventor who had "developed locks and burglar alarms." He was often gone on mysterious trips. There is some reason to think that his burglar alarm company was somehow connected with the protection racket run by the Mafia in New York. His trips to the "sanitarium" for his supposed tuberculosis may have been jail or prison sentences.

As a young child, i knew Vincent as a rather distant figure. He spoke rarely and often seemed to want to stay in a different room from that in which social events were taking place. He read a lot and discussed world politics, but he expressed very little personal interest in individual human beings. I remember my grandmother telling him to come over and give me a hug, for instance, which he did awkwardly and stiffly.

According to my mother, Angelina doted on my father, whom she called "Joey," and she insisted that my mother, a German Jew, learn to cook all of the family's favourite Sicilian dishes "so that Joey would have something to eat." Angelina was a good cook and a good teacher, and my mother actually became a proficient Sicilian cook under her direction.

Angelina-Marino-Manfredi-Circa-1949

When i was young, Angelina still would make paper flowers, as she had once done to earn her living, but just for fun, and she also created rabbit puppets out of linen napkins. She was sentimental and emotional, and she believed in -- and taught me -- a great deal of Sicilian folk-magic, including how to protect against stregheria (witchcraft) and how to ward off jettatore (the evil eye). She also taught me how to make spinach pie, which, she said, was "the Virgin Mary's favourite dish."

As i knew my grandmother, in the 1940s and 1950s, she was a registered nurse who lived in New York and travelled yearly to Saint Petersburg, Florida, where she cared for geriatric patients, often separating from, but never divorcing, Vincent. As i recall, Angelina enjoyed her new life as a nurse after she and her husband broke up. She liked the responsibility.

In this photo, taken around 1949, Angelina is in her apartment (possibly at 6 Bedford Street) with her brand new DuMont console television set. She is about 56 years old. On the wall behind her are two pictures; one of Lombardy cypress trees and the other of Washingtonia palm trees. Her drapes, rugs, and upholstered chair are a riot of art deco ferns, ivy, and philodendron leaves,

During the 1950s Angelina Americanized her name, for her death certificate lists her as Angela MANFREDI, not Angelina MANFREDI. I knew her both as Angela and Angelina, depending on who was talking to her or about her at the time.

Strangely, Vincent and Angelina, while not exactly living together, also never divorced. I have no idea what their relationship was like to them. To an observer, it made little sense. When Angelina retired from nursing, she settled in Saint Petersburg, Florida, for a number of years, but eventually both she and Vincent relocated to California, where their sons lived.

I am the only grandchild of Vincenzo and Angelina. The picture at left, in colour, is of me, Catherine Anne Manfredi Yronwode. I strongly resemble my grandmother, Angelina MARINO Manfredi.

FRANK PERCOCO - FRANCESCA MARINO MARRIAGE

Sometime after 1920, Angelina MARINO's sister, the artistic Francesca (Frances) MARINO, who had been born around 1897 in Castellamare del Golfo, Sicily, was living in New York City, married a man named Francesco (Frank) PERCOCO. He was born December 16, 1897 in Bari, Italy. Like members of the MARINO family, he too had artistic talent, and at one point supported himself as a "painter of picture frames," probably the elaborate gilded gesso frames popular at the time.

My great aunt Francesca (Frances) MARINO PERCOCO and her husband Francesco (Frank) PERCOCO had 4 children: Joseph PERCOCO, Virginia PERCOCO, John PERCOCO, and Maria PERCOCO. All the PERCOCO children -- my father's cousins -- were born during the 1920s.

When the Federal Census was taken in April 1930, the household was living on Van Dam Street, and looked like this:

Frank Percoco, 31 [born circa 1899], Head, Immigrated 1920, Alien, Painter of Picture Frames
Frances Percoco, 29 [born circa 1901; this is wrong], Wife, Alien, None
Joseph Percoco, 5 [born circa 1925], Son
Virginia Percoco, 4 years, 1 month, [born circa March, 1926], Daughter
John Percoco, 3 years, 3 months [born circa January, 1927], Son
Marie Percoco, 1 year, 11 months [born circa May, 1928], Daughter

According to his World War II Draft Card Record, Frank Percoco was unemployed (on relief) in 1942, living at 211 Chrystie Street, in New York City, with his wife Frances Percoco. His date of birth was given as December 16, 1897, his age was 44, and his borthplace was Bari, Italy.

According to my father, all four Percoco siblings married and had children. His cousin Maria PERCOCO married an African American man during the late 1930s or early 1940s and moved from Manhattan to Queens, New York.

I found the picture at right above, in black and white, via a google search on the name Percoco. This is a photo of an artist named Anne Percoco, born in 1984. She looks so much like me, my father, and my grandmother that it is not funny. There are many artists in my family. I would bet ten dollars she is a not-too-distant cousin of mine. If she sees this picture, maybe she will confirm my theory that we are related -- or maybe she will disprove it.

FRANK MARINO - "MISS" MANFREDI MARRIAGE

At some point before 1910, my grandmother Angelina's cousin -- Frank MARINO -- emigrated to New York City from Sicily.

Frank MARINO was related to my grandmother through her father's MARINO family; he was Giovanni (John) MARINO's nephew.

Around this same time, my grandfather Vincenzo MANFREDI's younger sister also came to NYC from Sicily. I do not know her name so i will call her, as my mother did, "Miss MANFREDI." This "Miss MANFREDI" married my grandmother Angelina's cousin Frank MARINO around 1915 and they had a son, Giuseppe (Joseph) MARINO, born in New York City, about 1918.

"Miss MANFREDI" MARINO was known in the family for her "terrible migraines" which lasted three days at a time. During these episodes she would draw closed all the curtains on her bedroom windows and lay in the dark on her bed, sometimes crying out loud with pain. My mother tried to meet her a couple of times in the late 1930s, but she was always "indisposed." This was after the "feud" (see below), but the excuses given were that she had "a migraine" and later that she was "having the change of life."

THE FRANK MARINO - VINCENT MANFREDI "FEUD"
AND THE CASTELLAMMARESE WAR OF 1929-1931

Vincenzo MANFREDI and his brother-in-law (and also cousin-in-law) Frank MARINO went into business together in the 1920s, "manufacturing burglar alarms," which my grandfather had "invented," according to family history. I have researched patent records but have been unable to locate any evidence of this activity. There is probable cause to think that they may have been engaged in another line of work, such as bootlegging, counterfeiting, or the protection racket.

According to my father, in 1928, when my father was 15, Frank MARINO and Vincent MANFREDI "had a falling out over the burglar alarm business that they co-owned." My grandfather never spoke to his sister again, because she took her husband's side in the dispute. The "excommunication" (as my father called it) of the former "Miss MANFREDI" and Frank MARINO from the family was so complete that my father Joseph MANFREDI never saw his cousin Joseph MARINO again.

It may not be a coincidence that the great falling out among the family factions -- the MARINOS versus the MANFREDIS -- coincided with the beginnings of a violent gang war among Sicilian Mafia members in America. This event, known as the Castellammarese War of 1928 - 1931, was primarily waged between families with roots in Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily (also known as Castello Mare and Castellamare) and other Sicilian mobsters with roots outside of Castellammare.

My grandmother and her sister were born in Castellammare del Golfo. Their moother Maria GIANGRASSO and father Johhn MARINO, who were living in New York City with them, were from Castellammare del Golfo. My grandmother's cousin Frank MARINO was also Castellammarese. In fact, many American Mafia members were born in Castellammare, and were contemporaries of my grandparents, including Michele Adamo, Girolamo Asaro, Joseph Barbara, Francesco Buccellato, Joseph Buccellato, Joseph Bonanno (b. 1905, d. 11 May 2002 - Tucson), Giovanni Bonventre, Vito Bonventre (b. 1875, d. July 15, 1930 - New York, murdered), Pietro Crociata, Pietro Caiozzo, Giovanni D'Anna, Gaspare DiGregorio, Sebastiano Domingo, Giovanni Fiordilino, Camillo Galante, Francesco Garofalo (a.k.a. Frank Carroll) (b. 1892, d. in the 1970s, drug trafficker) Stefano Magaddino (b. 1891, d. 19 July 1974 in New York), Salvatore Maranzano (b. 1886, d. 10 September 1931 in New York, murdered) Gaspare Milazzo, Michael Monte, Francesco Puma (b. 1886, d. November 4, 1922 in New York, murdered), Joseph Ristuccia, and Giovanni Tartamella.

These men and others in their crew, who referred to themselves as "The Good Killers," were responsible for about 125 murders in New York, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Denver between 1907 and 1931. Many of them met violent deaths before and during the Castellammarese war, which was fought by the Joe Masseria clan against the Salvatore Maranzano clan for the leadership of the Italian Mafia in New York City.

Meanwhile, my grandfather Vincent MANFREDI may have been related to Alfredo MANFREDI (a.k.a. "Al MINEO" a.k.a. "Manfredi MINEO"), a non-Castellammarese Mafia leader (born in Palermo in 1880), who was killed on November 5, 1930 by the Castellammarese faction during the Castellammarese War.

By the time i was born, none of my elders would talk about why the "burglar alarm company" debacle had destroyed so many family ties in 1928; the "feud" was long over and done with, and the fences were never mended.

THE "LITTLE UNCLE MANFREDI" IN SYRACUSA PROVINCE

Meanwhile, my grandfather Vincent's father, Mr. MANFREDI of Syracusa province, had remained in Sicily. After his first wife (my great grandmother) died, he remarried and had a third child, born circa 1920, who was called "The Little Uncle" or "The Little MANFREDI" because he was younger than my father but was his half-uncle. The Little Uncle never came to America, but Vincenzo sent money to help support him and his mother (Vincenzo's step-mother) after the elder Mr. MANFREDI died.

JOEY AND JOHN BECOME AMERICANS

As my father Giuseppe MANFREDI adopted American ways, he chose to be known as Joey MANFREDI, Joe MANFREDI, Joseph MANFREDI or Joseph F. MANFREDI and, after reaching adulthood, by the nickname Fred MANFREDI. I knew him primarily as Fred MANFREDI. He and my mother Liselotte Fransiska ERLANGER MANFREDI were married in 1940. He was an abstract artist when i was a child, but also had a long career as a petroleum geologist and geological cartographer for Standard Oil of California.

My father and his brother Giovanni (who had Americanized his name to John Manfredi) both studied painting at the Art Students League under George Bridgman.

My father also took personal lessons from Beauford Delaney (1901-1979) [often misspelled Buford Delaney] and Joseph Delaney (1904-1991), a pair of African American brothers from Knoxville, Tennessee, who lived and worked in Greenwich Village. He paid for his lessons with the Delaney brothers by modelling for them; he had been a champion swimmer in high school and had a slender, athletic body. Under the tutelage of Beauford Delaney, my father painted portraits; durung the late 1930s he worked in the "easel section" of the WPA as an artist.

My father told me that Beauford Delaney, who was homosexual, was briefly in love with him. My mother told me that for a while my father had lived with Beauford. I have been asked by those interested in art history if they had an affair, but i do not know. My father never said they did, although my mother thought it was possible, given my father's inclination toward sexual experimentation in his youth.

Right before World War Two, my father went to Italy to paint, touring and living in the small hill towns of Tuscany and studying late Medieval art. While he was abroad, getting "in touch with the spirit of Dante," as he later put it, his lover and fiancee, an Italian-American woman whose name i only know as Catherine or Caterina, died suddenly of pneumonia. He was devastated by her death and returned home. He would later name me after her -- and i possess a portrait he made of her holding a red Anthirrium flower. He often painted these flowers, and used them as symbols of sexuality.

1942 Bombshell Artists Group Exhibt Catalogue Riverside Art Museum

Shortly after he returned to New York, my father met my mother, a Jewish woman who was a recent immigrant from Hitler's Germany. Around this time his work became progressively abstract, The painting shown above is "Skyscapers," one of my father's New York cityscapes. It was shown at a group exhibit by the Bombshell Artists Group at the Riverside Museum in 1942. It was also reproduced in the New York Post newspaper article about the Bombshell Group and its members, which appeared on March 2, 1942. In 2000, under the spurious title "Cityscape," it resurfaced and it was sold at auction under the spurious name "The Modern City of Babel." In 2006 it again sold at auction, this time titled "City Skyline."

The Bombshell Artists Group had formed in the fall of 1941 as the result of a controversy over modernist art that was conducted in part in the pages of the New York Times newspaper. The Group held its formal self-inauguration in late 1941 at a meeting at the New School for Social Research to promote the mounting of a show by living artists working in a variety of media.

According to an article by Henry Beckett in the New York Post newspaper, membership in the Bombshell Group was restricted to artists who submitted three paintings apiece and whose work "was approved by a general vote." From this general membership a "council of 15" was picked to lead the group, also on the basis of the paintings they had submitted. Becket reported that "The artists meet in a cellar that they call The Bomb Shelter at 51 West 10th Street." With war in progress, he also noted that "Air raid wardens occupy the room adjoining."

Somehow out of all the submitting of paintings and voting, my father was chosen to be the group's "exhibit chairman." In March, 1942 the Bombshell Artsists Group held a large exhibition at the Riverside Museum of Art, featuring the work of 60 artists, among them Joseph Delaney, Abraham Yurberg, Fred Buchholz, Anthony T. Pisciotta, Ben Wilson, Arthur Deshaies, and Harold Ambellan.

"This is a fight against the smugness of establsihed and smoldering taste," the group announced. "It loosens the grip of cultivated, but stagnant, appreciation."

laocoon-by-Joseph-Manfredi

In November, 1942 eight members of the Bombshell Group (Fred Buchholz, Edie Else, Jean Morrison, Patricia Phillips, Hyde Solomon, Ben Wilson, Dr. Abe Yurberg, and my father), now styling themselves The Hetero Painters, held a group show at the Pinacotheka gallery at 20 West 58th Street in New York City. According to the catalogue of this show, Joseph showed the paintings "Ecclesia," "Decorative Motif," "Laocoon," and "Composition." The show was written up in the New York Times, the New York Herald Tribune, Cue, and Art Digest.

"Laocoon" attracted quite a bit of attention at the time. Arts Magazine (Volume 17, Art Digest, Inc., 1942) reported "Joseph Manfredi's Laocoon took top honors with the critics, the artist sharing the show's highest place, in the opinion of Carlyle Burrows of the [New York] Herald Tribune." Howard DeVree of the New York Times also praised this painting, writing on November 8, 1942 of a exhibit which included "four diverse paintings by Joseph Manfredi, whose canvas of a distorted tree, called 'Laocoon,' rather runs away with the show." In 2006 "Laocoon" resurfaced and was sold at auction under the spurious name "Piazza."

In 1942, even as the abstract "Skyscrapers" and "Laocoon" were attracting favourable notices, my father had a sudden change of direction. He decided to leave behind "the literal" and to embrace abstraction more fully. From this point forward, his earlier interest in "architectural juxtaposition" (the treatment of architectural elements as materials for visual collage) waned and he became interested only in the "line and form" of non-representationalism and non-objectivism.

non-objective-painting-by-Joseph-Manfredi

During the time that my father was active with the Bombshell Group, Peggy Guggenheim opened a gallery-museum called Art of This Century and purchased one of my father's paintings. I have no record as to which one it was. It may have been "Skyscrapers," as that had been published several times by then, or it may have been "Laocoon," but i beleive it was the painting reproduced here from a small black-and-white photo.

I don't know the name of this piece, and i don't know what colour palette it was executed in, but the photo was pasted into an album by my father, underneath the letterhead of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, along with a review from Art Digest dated June, 1942 and headlined "Non-Objective." Describing the "non-objective" paintings in the Guggenheim exhibit, the writer noted "Among other Americans in the upper gallery, the staccato Manfredi gives off a sharp rat tat of drum-sticks."

As can be seen by this little snap-shot, the painting was framed, and i recall being told that it was around this time that my father became a dedicated frame-maker, buying professional carpentry tools and crafting his own modernist frames from a variety of unlikely woods. The frames themselves were also often painted, and they sometimes took the form of shadow boxes or were otherwise integral to the works of art they contained. It is interesting to note that his aunt, Frances MARINO, the former millinery trimmer, had married the artistic Frank PERCOCO, a man who made elaborate picture frames for a living; i have wondered if my father's interest in framing sprang from watching his uncle at work when he was young.

The Hetero Painters disbanded rather rapidly, the Bombshell Group held a second show, and in 1944 another remnant faction of the Bombshell artists emerged under the name The League of Present Day Artists, but by then my father was on the West Coast and no longer a member. The Group / League continued to hold annual group shows for a number of years in New York City.

My father did not wish to bear arms against his fellow Italians during World War Two and he knew that by working in a defense plant he would be exempt from the draft, so in 1943 or 1944, he and my mother, who had separated, moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and reunited. My mother worked at the Air Reduction Company (now Airco) in Richmond and my father worked in a nearby shipyard, where he made a series of wonderful semi-abstract paintings of shipyard workers and machinery, using paints he "liberated" from the shipyard itself -- rust-red primer, battleship grey, and signal yellow. These have all been lost, as far as i know, for although i kept them in a hidden crawl space in our attic, my mother found them and threw them out when i was in college.

My father's brother Giovanni MANFREDI was known by the Americanized name John MANFREDI or, in later life, when he was a beatnik, as Man Fredi or Man Freddy. He was famous in the family for having worked as a taxi-cab driver in New York City while studying art and literature and then, shortly after my mother and father separately moved from New York to California during World War Two, for having "abandoned his taxi in the middle of Times Square" with a note on the windshield that read, "There is no more poetry in my life." He then hoboed his way to the Bay area and joined up with my parents.

According to my mother, during World War Two, while John was living with my folks, he had "a notorious affair with a very wealthy California heiress" who had "run away from home." Her name was Catherine. She moved in with them and John wrote poetry for and about her. One day John was busted for shop-lifting tampons for Catherine. In order to raise money to bail John out of jail, Catherine called her parents, and this led the detectives who were searching for Catherine to show up at the house and, according to my mother, "she was underage or something and they took her away while John was in jail." At his point, apparently the authorities were bribed, John was bailed out, and the charges he faced of shop-lifting and statutory rape were dropped on the condition that he "never try to contact her again." My mother had contempt but a bit of pity for the hapless Catherine: "She went back to her upper-class world, where all of her tampons were provided for by Mommy and Daddy, and we never saw her again." John's lover was always referred to by my mother as "the Second Catherine," the first one having been my father's dead lover of his youth, whom my mother had never met.

It was my fate to be named after "the two Catherines," my father's ex and my uncle's ex. My mother did not like this idea much. She had wanted to name me Clara, after an aunt of hers, but, she said, she was "overruled."

My parents' marriage was tumultuous, with several separations as they moved back and forth between Berkeley and San Francisco, together and apart, with and without Uncle John. They took on other lovers (on both sides), smoked marijuana, experimented with communal living and open relationships, and even had one illegal abortion during the early 1940s. when it seemed that having a child would put further strain on their unhappy partnership. Eventually they settled down together long enough to have me, their only child: I was born Catherine Anna MANFREDI in San Francisco on May 12, 1947.

1947 Contour Magazine volume one number one cover by John Manfredi Berkeley

Shown at left is the cover that my uncle John drew for the art and poetry magazine "Contour Quarterly" No. 1, edited by Chris Maclaine and published in Berkeley, California in 1947, the year of my birth. It contains works by Robert Duncan, Bern Porter, Jack Spicer, Philip Lamantia, Hugh O'Neil, Larry Pitt, Thomas Gill, Chrisrambo, Janis Mark, John W. Aldridge, Roff Thomas, George P. Elliott, Madeline Gleason, Richard Moore, Albert Wyman, Neely, Jordan Belson, Ken Curran, Leonard Wolf, Thomas Parkinson, Marshall Neel, and Howard Rogers. Most of these people were friends of my parents. One of them, Ken Curran, went on to be an art teacher at Berkeley High School.

An aside: Kenneth G. Curran was immensely important to the unfolding of my artistic work. The world-famed wire sculptor Elizabeth Berriean also studied under Ken Curran and cites him as the seminal influence on her artistic development. Strangely, when my soon-to-be son-in-law David Greenstone showed me his own wire sculpture, circa 2005, i recognized at once the techniques that Ken Curran had taught us forty years earlier. Berrien's tribute to the teaching skills of Ken Curran are here: http://www.wirelady.com/berrienwirecurranpage.html and well worth reading. Like her, i too have awed and fond memories of "the supply room."

After the War, my father's art changed as he moved more strictly toward non-representationalism and non-objectivism. He found work for a while by painting designs for upholstery cloth and coffee table tiles -- giant philodrendron leaves, sexy anthirrium flowers, and the exotic fruits of magnolia trees -- but his own art was more rigorously limited, often utilizing repetitive variations of shapes that were personally meaningful to him and that appeared over and over in his paintings, in various contexts. Among these shapes, which generally were presented in distorted or cut-and-reassembled form, i can often recognize (because he told me what they were) the skeleton of a fish, a bird sitting on a telephone wire, and a rounded shape with a hole in it, apparently derived from a naturally holed rock he had picked up on his travels, and which he carried with him for decades.

My father also made many paintings with applied surfaces of sand as well as colour-fields of paint. The sand was selected from specific and often remote areas to which he had hiked for the purpose of acquiring it. These works are quite different than his early portraits and cityscapes. They are notable for the precision with which the fields and lines of paint were laid down. Many of them feature unusual "earthy" colour combinations, including chartreuse and deep forest green with stripes of bright cyan, ochre, and white. I remember him painting some of these and building frames for them in the back yard when we briefly lived in Fresno, California, where my mother was attending college in 1951 - 1952.

My father eventually bought professional photographic equipment, to document his paintings, and by the late 1950s he built his own dark-room, embarking on a mid-life hobby of black and white photography featuring ruined and weathered buildings, gnarled trees, and wind-sculpted desert rock formations. (I used to refer to him as "the Ansel Adams of aridness.") During this same time-period, he took up the making of abstract modernist enamel jewelry on copper bright, jewel-tone brooches, screw-back and clip-back earrings, and pendants with applied wire spirals that he baked in his own enamel kiln.

My uncle John MANFREDI was a talented artist, but his creativity was stunted because during the 1950s he became a heroin addict. He was incarcerated and institutionalized for drug abuse and petty theft a couple of times during my childhood.

1953

This photo of my uncle John Manfredi (Giovanni Francesco Manfredi) was taken in late 1952 or early 1953, when he was about 36 years old. It appears in a strange underground film by Christopher Maclaine called "The End," -- which is a nihilistic montage of images dealing with themes of sexuality, shoe fetishism, male violence, suicide, drug addiction, beatnik and bohemian life in San Francisco and Berkeley, and the threat of nuclear war.

Thanks to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), Brecht Andersch, and Wilder Bentley II for posting the image and captioning it so that i could find it online. This is my uncle as he looked during my childhood, as i remember him well. For more on "The End," see http://blog.sfmoma.org/2011/03/christopher-maclaine-17-the-end-tour-15-climax-b/

THE BREAK-UP OF THE FAMILY

While in Fresno attending college, my mother had been having an affair with a librarian named Henry Madden (the library at Fresno State University was named after him when he died). By this time my father was as tired of my mother's infidelities as she was bored with him. In May of 1952, when i was about five years old, we moved back to Berkeley, where my mothered embarked on getting a master's degree in library science, and my parents separated. They saw each other off and on, but eventually they divorced around 1954 or so. I remained with my mother in Berkeley. She supported herself as a librarian, writer, antiquarian book dealer, publisher, and teacher.

My father then moved to Sacramento and got a day job with Standard Oil as an oil-field map-maker and, eventually, by lying about his (nonexistent) credentials from Princeton University (which he had never attended), he became a very well paid and respected oil-field geologist. In Sacramento he met and married his second wife, a social worker named Rose Mary REED. By the late 1950s they had moved to Monterey Park in Southern California. When i was in my early twenties, they were back in San Francisco, and they later moved to Davis, a small town near Sacramento.

I rarely saw my father after the divorce -- only once a year for two weeks during each summer's school vacation, until i left home. He had some of the distant personality of his father, Vincent. He was extremely interested in world politics, modernist classical music, and his own hobbies of photography, enamel jewelry-making, and exploring the arid desert areas of the West with Rose in their Volkswagen Combi Camper, but he had little to say to me.

By contrast, after my father moved away, I saw my uncle John fairly often, as he remained in Berkeley. He always greeted me effusively and lovingly when we met on the streets and he came by our house to see me every once in a while, even though my mother had remarried and did not like him coming around. He wrote illustrated poems for me, and he also embarrassed me by being so obviously stoned and weird on Telegraph Avenue while i was trying to fit in socially with a group of much straighter kids.

My uncle John died on August 16th, 1962 in Norwalk, Los Angeles County, California, according to the Social Security Death Index. Why he was in Southern California at the time i do not know, but around that time my mother told me that he had gone to Mexico, where "he took peyote with the Indians" and that he "had an Indian woman he was shacked up with." After i reconnected with my father in the 1980s, i was surprised when he told me that uncle John had "died from throat cancer, caused by smoking," because according to my mother, John had "died from a drug overdose." I can give no preferential weight to either account of the cause of my uncle John's death because both of my parents would have had reasons for telling the truth and also for not doing so. In any case, my uncle John was only 45 years old when he died. He had no children, to the best of my family's knowledge.

In 1970, when i phoned my father to tell him that he was a grandfather, his immediate response was, "Do you know who the father is?" -- which i found very insulting -- but the conversation went downhill from there when he said that my partner Peter and i were not to bring our baby down from Mendocino County to visit him in San Francisco because, as he put it, "my house is not a crash pad."

At that point i stopped attempting to relate to him, and i did not see or hear from him for almost 20 years, until we resumed contact at the behest of my second daughter Althaea YRONWODE during the late 1980s.

Vincenzo and Angelina lived well into their 80s. Vincent died on January 15, 1974 in Long Beach, California, at the age of 87. Prior to his death he had also lived in Signal Hill and Angela, who lived with my father Fred and his second wife Rose toward the end of her life, died on December 19th, 1976 in Davis, California. She was 83 years old.

The older my father got, the brighter the colours he used in his paintings, until, toward the end of his life, he was working in an array of festive hues such as turquoise, cerulean, rose, white, peach, sienna, and yellow.

Even though he disdained representationalism in his later life, he enjoyed sketching rural California landscapes on paper with pastels and watercolour -- although he never kept these pieces around the studio and never painted such scenes on canvas.

Rose and my father had no children but had a very happy marriage. Rose died in Davis, California, of a stroke, on September 1, 1990. She was 78. Shortly thereafter, my father moved to Nogales, Arizona, to resume his old life as an abstract painter. He died there, at Holy Cross Hospital, on September 13, 1996 from prostate cancer. He was 82.

Unbeknownst to my father, his name -- Joseph / Joe Manfredi -- was used by my writer friends at Marvel Comics as the legal name of a Sicilian Mafia boss character better known as the villain Silvermane. The homage was intentional, not a coincidence, and it has always given me a grin to know that my father is a Marvel villain.

MARINO-MANFREDI-PERCOCO-GIANGRASSO SUMMARY

If you think you are related to me, please drop me a line. I would like to contact any family members to exchange photos and information. I have a few photos of the GIANGRASSO, MARINO, and MANFREDI families, but none of the PERCOCO family.

Summary (with the inclusion of unsourced records from The Church of Latter Day Saints, which performs a lot of free genealogical research):

1. Giovanni John MARINO -- my great-grandfather
According to LDS records, he was born "About 1870, Castellamare del Golfo, Sicily," married in "About 1892, New York City" and died "About 1934, New York, New York." Note that his marriage date does not easily accord with my father's statement that John MARINO was "a mounted policeman and a detective" while a young man in Sicily, who wanted to "retire and open a produce shop in Castellamare del Golfo, like his three brothers," but for some "political" reason, was denied a license, so he emigrated to Massachusetts circa 1895 - 1897 with his wife Maria and daughters Angelina MARINO (born in 1893 in Castellamare) and Francesca MARINO (born in 1895 in Castellamare) and then relocated to New York City. Either the LDS has entangled another John MARINO marriage record with my family or John and Maria came to America twice, once prior to their marriage and then again after the births of both of their daughters.

+ Maria GIANGRASSO - my great-grandmother
The LDS unsourced records list her as having been born "About 1872" in "Castello Mare, Italy" [sic] (Castellamare, Sicily). They state further that she was married in "About 1892, New York City" and died "About 1937, New York, New York."

2. Angelina Angela MARINO MANFREDI -- my grandmother
07/27/1893 Castellamare del Golfo, Sicily - 01/15/1974 Davis, California
Notice that this does not accord well with Angelina's father Giuseppe John MARINO and mother Maria GIANGRASSO MARINO having been married, according to LDS records "About 1892, New York City" -- unless they sailed back to Sicily to give birth to her.

+ Vincenzo Vincent MANFREDI -- my grandfather
09/12/1886 Sortino, Syracusa Province, Sicily, Italy - 01/15/1974 Long Beach, California, USA
He had at least one sister (Miss MANFREDI) and a half-brother ("The Little MANFREDI"). According to the United States Federal Census See above for Census and Draft Card information.

3. [Francesco?] MANFREDI -- my uncle
?/?/1911-1912 New York City - ?/?/1911-1912 New York City

3. Giuseppe Francesco Joseph F. Fred MANFREDI -- my father
10/03/1913 New York City - 09/13/1996 Nogales, Arizona

+ Liselotte Fransiska ERLANGER MANFREDI GLOZER -- my mother

4. Catherine Anna MANFREDI YRONWODE -- me (I have one daughter and two grandsons)

3. Giovanni Francesco John MANFREDI -- my uncle
01/06/1917 New York City - 08/16/1962 Norwalk, California

2. Francesca Frances MARINO PERCOCO -- my great aunt.
According to LDS records, she was born in 1895 in Castellamare del Golfo, Sicily, married in New York City in 1915, and died in New York City in 1963. The US Federal Cenus of 1930 notes that Frances Percoco, born about 1901, was living with her spouse Frank Percoco, born about 1899, in New York, New York. These birth dates are 6 years off.

+ Francesco Frank PERCOCO -- my great uncle.
According to LDS records, he was born in Messina, Sicily around 1892, married in New York City in 1915, and died in New York City in 1957. The US Federal Cencus of 1930 notes that Frank Percoco, born about 1899, was living with his spouse Frances Percoco, born about 1901, in New York, New York. These birth dates are 7 years off.

3. Joseph PERCOCO -- my father's cousin. [born circa 1925]

3. Virginia PERCOCO -- my father's cousin. [born circa March, 1926]

3. John PERCOCO -- my father's cousin. [born circa January, 1927]

3. Maria PERCOCO -- my father's cousin. [born circa May, 1928]

1. Unknown Brother MARINO #2
Born, married, and died in Sicily.
John MARINO had "three brothers" born in Sicily who remained in Sicily and died there. One of these brothers was the father of Frank MARINO who emigrated to the USA. The names and relative birth order of these brothers is not known to me. I am going to assign Frank MARINO to Brother #2, purely for the sake of convenience.

+ Female UNKNOWN
Born, married, and died in Sicily.

2. Francesco Frank MARINO -- my grandmother's cousin; also my father's uncle by marriage.
Frank MARINO was apparently the nephew of Giuseppe John MARINO. He would have been born in the 1880s in Sicily and would have been in America from 1890 - 1900 onward. He married my grandfather's younger sister, "Miss MANFREDI" about 1916 in New York City. His S.S. card -- if he had one -- would have been issued in New York state. This name is very common. There are 296 men named Frank MARINO listed with the Social Security Administration.

+ "Miss MANFREDI" MARINO -- my father's aunt.
Born in Sicily, probably about 1888 - 1890; in American from about 1900. Probably married about 1916 in New York City. She had at least one brother (Vincenzo Vincent MANFREDI) and a half-brother "The Little MANFREDI").

3. Giuseppe Joseph MARINO -- my father's cousin.
The son of Francesco Frank MARINO and "Miss MANFREDI," this man would have been born about 1916 - 1918, probably in New York. Joe Marino or Joseph Marino is a common name. There are too many prospects to list.

1. Unknown Brother MARINO #3
Born and died in Sicily.

1. Unknown Brother MARINO #4
Born and died in Sicily.

THE REED FAMILY OF ILLINOIS AND CALIFORNIA

Rose Mary REED, my step-mother, was a California native, born September 21, 1911 near Sacramento, California. Her mother's maiden name was Rose MATHER. I know little about the REED or MATHER families of Yolo County, California, except that Rose told me that part of the family had long ago moved west from Dixon, Illinois, perhaps during the 19th century. (She mentioned this to me one day when we were discussing politics; she strongly opposed California Governor and later United States President Ronald Reagan's social policies, and she said that it was odd that he was born in Dixon, IL, where part of her family came from.) Rose had no sisters, only brothers -- Hayward REED, Caleb REED, Ogden REED, and Marvin REED -- whom she helped raise, because she was the oldest child. The REED family had owned a very large pear orchard when Rose was girl. It was named Rose Orchard, after both her mother Rose MATHER REED and herself, but by the time i met her, in the mid 1950s, the land had been sold and she was a social worker with very progressive political views.

Here is some information on Rose REED's family, from a history of Yolo County and from contemporary obituaries. This material was transcribed for the web by Sandra Harris at cagenweb.com; i have amended the punctuation and spelling slightly and have added my own comments in [brackets].

Hayward REED listing in "History of Yolo County":
Hayward REED [I], a prominent California orchardist, was born near Washington, Yolo County, on Feb 15, 1876. [This Hayward REED was my step-mother Rose's grandfather.] His parents were Charles W. and Abbie (JENKS) REED, natives of NY and IL. [This accords with what Rose told me about part of the family coming from Dixon, Illinois, in the 19th century].

In 1851 Charles came to California via Panama, bringing with him 45 varieties of pear trees. After selecting the Bartlett as the type best adapted to this climate, he established a nursery at Washington, where he raised millions of trees which he sold to consumers in different parts of the Pacific coast. He set out what is known as the Reed orchard across the river from Sacramento. He died in 1896. His wife passed away in 1911 (Abbie B. REED died age 78 in Alameda, California, Feb 27 1911).

Their children were

Howard REED of Marysville
Rowena REED (wife of Professor DeMETER [note spelling deMATER below], who occupies the chair of German at the University of CA, Berkeley
Hayward REED [II] [This Hayward REED was my step-mother Rose's father.]

Hayward [II] graduated from the Sacramento High schools in 1898. [He would presumably have been born circa 1880.] He was in the Third US Artillery, Battery L., and went to Manila on the 3rd expedition and served there 16 months. [This was in the Spanish-American war of 1898.]

In Sacramento, Sept 8 1907, Mr. REED married Miss Rose MATHER, who was a native of San Francisco. They had two children: George and Rose. [Note that the name George REED does not appear among the names of surviving children in the Marysville Appeal Democrat obituary for Hayward REED [II] below; George may have predeceased his father. Rose told me that when her father died, she was the oldest child, but she may have had an older brother who had died in childhood.]

He was very active in the building of the YMCA at Fifth and J Streets in Sacramento. He died at age 62 in Marysville on Feb 14 1938 [when my step-mother Rose was 27 years old].

From obituary in Marysville Appeal Democrat:
Hayward REED [II] created the great New England orchards south of Marysville and the Dantoni orchards east of Marysville.

He was survived by his wife, Rose, and children:

Rose REED [my step-mother]
Hayward REED [III]
Ogden REED
Caleb REED
Marvin REED

He was the brother of Howard and Dudley REED of Sacramento, Charles Wesley REED of Chico, and Mrs. Rowena DeMATER [note spelling deMETER above] of Berkeley. [Note that Dudley REED and Charles Wesley REED, given here as brothers to Hayward Reed [II], do not appear in the list of surviving children of Hayward REED [I] above. I leave this mystery to REED family members to sort out.]

Mrs. George MATHER of Marysville is a relative by marriage and is assisting the family. [Presumably she was married to a brother of Rose MATHER REED named George MATHER.] Funeral arrangements by Hutchinson & Merz.

Remains were taken to the chapel in East Lawn, Sacramento, and Veterans of the Spanish War will have charge of the ceremonies. The body will be cremated.

From the Union article:
Known as the "Pear King" -- home: Rose Orchard, Yolo County -- business address: Box 659 Sacramento CA.

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