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Monday, February 8, 2016

Valentine's Day Family Love Stories #1: Frank and Monica

     [I thought for Valentine's Day I would do some posts on family love stories, this is number 1!]

     After Frank Stefani died at the age of 90 a photo of Monica Remondini was found in his room (by one account in the night stand next to the bed). He had told his family about her at various times. This is what I have pieced together of their story.

     Frank was born Giovanni Francesco Stefani on 20 Aug 1863 in Sporminore, then part of the Tyrol, Austria.  Monica was born Cunegonda Monica Remondini on 2 Feb 1869 in the same town. He went by Francesco and she went by Monica (wouldn't you have?).  They were distant cousins as his great grandmother was a Remondini. They may have met in school but she was 6 years younger and that is a big difference at that age. Francesco (as she would have known him) left school in 1877 at the age of 14 and went to work in Germany and France.  He returned after his father's death in 1881 and stayed a bit before he left again.  I suspect that they fell in love at this time. He was 18, she would've been 12 or just 13 by February 1882.  Francesco left again to work and returned again just before his mother's death in November 1884. He was 21, she was 15. If they hadn't met and fallen in love earlier surely now was the time that happened. With his mother gone he made plans to go to America.  They planned for him to go first and then come back for her. I don't have the exact dates but I believe that he left Sporminore in about May 1885, worked in Alsace (then in Germany) to earn his passage money and took a ship to America in May 1886. He had two photos of her and the handkerchief that she had made for him with her name embroidered on it. She waited in Sporminore for him to come get her.

     Francesco's voyage to America was apparently quite horrendous for him as he was sick the entire way. Soon after he arrived in America he wrote her and released her from their engagement saying that he couldn't face another trip across the Atlantic (and it would have been two trips, one to Italy and another back with her). Francesco, now Frank, married Angelina Tinetti in 1891. They had seven children. He died 19 Nov 1953, age 90, in Issaquah, Washington with the two photos and the handkerchief still in his possession. There is no record that we have of Monica's reaction to this news of the broken engagement.

     What I found, though, is that Monica married Frank's cousin, the son of his mother's brother, Guilio Wegher, on 14 Apr 1888.  Coincidence perhaps, but this is only 12 days after Frank filed his first papers to become a US citizen on 2 Apr 1888. Monica and Guilio had eight children and she died in Sporminore in 1931, age 62.

     It is a romantic story of young love lost. But I just have to add some speculations of my own. Guilio was born in 1860, older than Frank or Monica. He possibly knew both Frank and Monica before Frank left and continued to be her friend. I suspect that he was in love with her so that by the time Frank sent his letter Monica was half in love with Guilio. Guilio could then offer his sympathy and then his hand in marriage. Perhaps by the time Frank sent his letter Monica was no longer so eager to go to America anyway. You see, my first thought on this has always been that if I was Monica and this was the man I loved, I'd have said, "No problem, you don't need to come for me I'll come to you." And I would have been off to America. Many young women went by themselves even in those days. Monica didn't do that and I suspect that Guilio was at least part of the reason.

     Now also, it occurs to me that Frank could have handled it differently.  He could have arranged for someone else to bring Monica over.  Another cousin, Alonzo Wegher, filed his Declaration of Intention n the same day Frank did and is listed on the same page as Frank.  They were likely miners together.  Alonzo returned to Sporminore not long after this.  Frank could have had him arrange for someone to bring Monica to Michigan. In studying Frank's life I see that he overcame many barriers in his constant pursuit of a better life. So it is a little surprising that he didn't find a way to have Monica.  Thus I suspect that he, too, had some misgivings about making her his wife. If they had wanted it enough they could have been together for their lifetimes.

     True love always finds a way.
 Frank age 18
 The two photos of Monica

 Monica's grave
 Monica's photo on the grave
Franks last photo

1 comment:

  1. Yes, interesting speculation. I had wondered if Frank's keeping of the photo and handkerchief was just a sentimental reminder of the sweetness of first love rather than real regret.