“In every conceivable manner, family is link to our past, bridge to our future” – Alex Haley
A few months ago, my Aunt Rose Trosi passed away at 93 years old. She was a strict Catholic who never married. Although she had no children of her own, she treated my brother, my sister and me as if we were her children. Her kind and gentle manner touched many people.
For the past few years, she had planned for her funeral arrangements including an obituary that was concise and modest. I promised her I would print the obituary she had written, but I didn’t promise her I wouldn’t tell others about her in my own words.
Rose was the family historian. She was the glue that helped keep the family close. She was the one who made sure we were always supportive of each other. Her life was steeped in the old world, but always accepting of the new world. She could speak and write Italian and for her entire life she connected to our relatives living in Italy.
The Trosi family is the story of immigrants and their story is the same as countless other people from across the globe who journeyed to America for a better life. It is also about the enduring bonds that transcend generations and hold family together.
The dream began more than 120 years ago, in the old world just outside of Paternopoli, Italy. My great grandparents, Francisco and Rose Trosi, toiled the fields under the hot summer sun. They dreamed of America and a better life for their children. Only one of their children would make the journey. Ralph, the oldest son (my grandfather), took a steamer through Ellis Island in 1915.
Ralph’s journey to America ended in Fresno. He joined the US Army in 1918 and later became a naturalized citizen. A few years later he wanted an Italian wife and so Pierini Anaspri from Frascati, Italy would sail to America, through Ellis Island to Fresno. Here, she became Ralph’s bride.
The Trosi’s had four children – Frank, Rose, Florence and Charles. They lived on a small farm just west of Fresno. When their farm failed, they moved to Fresno and for more than 50 years lived on McKenzie Street, not far from Roosevelt High School. Only once would Ralph and Pierina return to the Old World, visiting Italy in 1962. The following year Ralph died.
Last year Rose called me one night and asked me to come over to her home. She was light-headed and struggling to breathe. I came by and sat with her for a few hours. After a while, she was feeling better and told me I could go home.
As I was leaving, I could hear her saying her prayers. She prayed for her family members, including her mother and father, her brothers and sister (my mother) and her old friends. She finished saying prayers for my brother, my sister and me and all of our children and grandchildren.
Her heartfelt words struck a chord deep within me. For a brief moment, standing in the shadows of the hallway, old family memories awoke within me. I was so moved by her prayers I cried.
All of Rose’s siblings have passed away, including her brother, Frank Trosi, who died two years ago at the age of 92. All of her close friends are also gone. Rose was the last of her generation, and she is the last of the Trosi family in Fresno. Still, the rich family history born in Italy more than 120 years ago lives on in Fresno today.
Rose’s spirit and the spirits of all of my Trosi family members are a part of who I am. The family values and memories that were ingrained in me and my siblings will live on in our children and they in turn will tell their own children the stories of the Trosi family and their small role in the great migration that has made America the great nation it is today.
The embers of a long-ago dream still provide an inspirational light for future generations.
In her final days, I hope my Aunt Rose reflected on her life, and could see in her mind its many wonderful moments, including a young Trosi family bound by love and adapting to life in America. I hope she could smell the star jasmine, could feel the summer breeze softly on her cheeks and could hear the words and see the smiles of Mama and Papa, Frank, Florence and Charles.
Goodbye, Aunt Rose. I’ll say a prayer for you tonight and every night.
Lee Brand is the mayor of Fresno. Connect with him at Lee.Brand@fresno.gov.