Uncle Dave's book

Sunday, December 6, 2015

52 Ancestors Year 2 #49: Adelina Justina Stefani, my mother's Aunt Dell

     When I think of the holidays I often think of going to my Aunt Dell's house to watch the Rose Bowl Parade on her color TV. Aunt Dell was always fun and she enjoyed my sister and I. She was born Adelina Justina Stefani on 29 Nov 1896 in Issaquah, Washington(then known as Gilman), the fourth child and second daughter of Frank and Angelina Stefani. She was named for her mother's younger sister, Adele Tinetti. Adele would've been called Adelina as a pet name in the family, in the same way that Dell's mother was named Angela but called Angelina all her life. I believe that Dell was also named for her Dad's sister, Adelaide, his only surviving sibling. Adelina Stefani was generally called Dell all her life but also sometimes called "Delina".  I have never heard her referred to as Adelina.

     Dell was famous (notorious perhaps) in the family for being very popular with the boys.  On a family taped recollection her older sister, Edith, recalls that every year at the 4th of July each kid was given a dollar. Edith could never decide what to spend hers on and ended up putting it in the piggy bank.  But Dell always spent hers and didn't come home until late in the day having had a great deal of fun.  Her niece Marian tells the story that she used to leave and receive notes from boys hidden in the wood pile behind the house. If her father had found them he would have been quite angry with her! It is a family mystery as to why the men didn't treat her as well as they ought to have (at least from the family's perspective!).

     Dell was the first daughter to get married, marrying John Burr Adams on 22 Mar 1916 at the County Court House. Her sister, Edith, signed as a witness on the Marriage Certificate.  They lived in Seattle and soon had two sons, Harold Lewis, born 9 Feb 1917 and Samuel John born 3 Nov 1918.  John worked as a fireman for the City of Seattle.  All did not go well for John and Adelina and in 1927 she walked out and they were divorced.  The boys lived with him.  In the 1930 Federal Census they are living with their Dad and Angelina is living in Seattle in a Boarding House and working in a laundry.  She would have had experience in this line of work from working in the family laundry back in Issaquah. Both boys followed in their father's footsteps career-wise and became firemen.

     Dell married again on 2 Jun 1934 to Frank "Shorty" Dorner. In the 1940 Census he is listed as a "machinist" in the plumbing industry.  Interestingly enough, in the 1940 Census his wife, Florence and her daughter, Myrtle, are listed as working in a laundry. So perhaps Dell met Shorty through her. Florence and Shorty apparently were divorced as she remarries the same year as Frank and Dell, in November. Frank and Dell were happily married until his death in 1985.  In her last years Dell lived with her sisters, Edith and Mary, in Seattle and then Bremerton. She died on 18  Jul 1995, at the age of 98. She outlived all her brothers and sisters.

     I didn't really know Aunt Dell until we moved to Seattle when I was 11 in 1960. She had taken our mother and her sister's old dolls and refurbished them and made dresses for them for my sister and I. I was thrilled and impressed by that.  Dell was always fun to be with and she had a great love of life. She, my grandmother, Edith, and their sister, Mary were great friends all their lives, talking on the phone daily. When my sister and I visited our Great Grandfather's hometown of Sporminore we met a Stefani cousin and discovered that she and her sisters also talk on the phone every day! So it seems to be a family trait! I hope I have inherited at least some of the enjoyment of life that characterized Aunt Dell!



  1. What a fun Aunt you had. The photo with the dolls, are those the ones she refurbished?

  2. Kathy, Yes, those are the ones! They were composition dolls. My sister and I played with them (I am the older girl in the photo) and my daughter played with mine. It finally was too trashed and I had to toss it. But she did a great job!

  3. When I watched the Rose Bowl Parade on New Year's, I thought of Aunt Dell! I remember her also as being a regular Bingo player at her local Catholic church, and enjoying a few trips to Las Vegas.

  4. As a note, I discovered that I still have that doll! Now my granddaughter can play with it, too!