49-Serrapede Family in America: The Little Church in Dyker Heights, 1930


Filomena Serrapede D’Agosto was the eldest sister of Sam Serrapede.  She was the first member of Sam’s family to come to America.  Filomena married Giuseppe D’Agosto in 1923.  Giuseppe secured employment as a truck driver for the New York City Department of Sanitation.  The D’Agosto family lived in Red Hook, Brooklyn, NY.

In 1925 Sam came to America with the intention of making a new life for himself.  He aimed at getting himself established through securing employment and beginning the process towards citizenship.  Giuseppe and Filomena provided him with a place to live during his first five years in America.

Relationship Notes

• Sam (Sabato) Serrapede was:
• The son of Gennaro and Emilia (nee Pappalardo) Serrapede of Agropoli, Salerno, Campania Province in Italy.
• Sammy’s father.
• EmilyAnn’s maternal Grandfather.

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22d-Growing up Italian-American: La Befana? Who is that?


La Befana receiving the Three Wise Men at her home. In Italian folklore she is the bringer of gifts to children on Epiphany.


When I was a child my maternal Grandma Josie and Grandpa Sam never discussed Christmas observances in Italy. We had the rich traditions of the Italian-American communities in Wilmerding, Pennsylvania and Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, New York to draw on.  All I did know was what I learned in religious instruction classes at St. Bernadette’s Shrine Church:  that the feast of Epiphany on January 6th is when children in Europe receive their presents.




Cheery images of Santa Claus were part of my childhood Christmases.

 The Three Wise Men and Epiphany involved a different level of gift giving in my mind.  Santa Claus also had a part in my childhood. He was a jolly delivery man who I never equated with anything other than someone who brought the gifts the elves made in their North Pole Workshop.  Santa existed at the popular level and the Three Wise Men at a higher level.  But the two never connected for me as being the same.  Epiphany was a feast day and something sacred.  It pertained to God and therefore deserved a serious and quiet reverence.

This is how I grew up understanding the difference. I’m sure a religious teacher would find flaws in this but there was little consideration or discussion about it.  Santa Claus and the Three Wise Men co-existed in the glittering and beautiful world of the entire Christmas Holiday.  The Sisters who taught me never commented on Santa Claus.  They gave us small presents each year like a prayer card, a pen, or some candy.  They reminded us that we received a gift each morning when we woke up and were blessed with another day of life.  Good health, a house to live in, food to eat, and playmates were some of the gifts the Sisters taught us that God gives us every day.  Christ was the ultimate gift for all time.  When I looked at it that way Santa Claus never took a superior position in my childhood imagination.

So how did Italian children celebrate Christmas and Epiphany?

Since I do not know how my maternal Grandpa Sam experienced Christmas as a child in Agropoli I did some research on gift giving in Italy during Epiphany.

What I learned is a complete surprise! Santa Claus has been popular in Italy since the end of WWII.  He is called Babbo Natale which means something like Daddy Christmas (Babbo=Dad and Natale=Christmas).  Italian children, though, have a unique bringer of gifts on Epiphany that is all their own.  Her name is La Befana.  She’s a kindly old woman bringing a basket of gifts.  But I took pause as I read on.  I thought, “How cool is this?  Here’s an older woman bringing gifts.”  Then I had to think a little more because of my reaction to imagery of La Befana:  she flies on a broom through the sky.

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21b-Agropoli-The Cholera Epidemic of 1866: In memory

In Memory

Of all who died during the Cholera Epidemic of 1866 in Agropoli including:

Carmela Serrapede Ruocco
1822 – October 28, 1866

Carmine Ruocco
som of Michela Serrapede Ruocco
1859 – October 30, 1866

Michela Serrapede Ruocco
1821 – November 1, 1866

Antonio Pappalardo
1860 – November 5, 1866

Francesco di Giaimo
1806 – November 7, 1866

Let Us Pray

God of the spirits and of all flesh,
who has trampled death and annihilated the devil
and given life to your world, may you yourself,
O Lord, grant to the souls of your deceased servants who
died in Agropoli during the Cholera Epidemic of 1866
rest in a place of light, a verdant place,
a place of freshness, from where suffering,
pain and cries are far removed.

Do You, O good and compassionate God
forgive every fault committed by them in word,
work or thought because there is no man
who lives and does not sin.
You alone are without sin and your justice
is justice throughout the ages and your word is truth.

Since you, O Christ our God, are the resurrection,
the life and the repose of your deceased servants who died in this epidemic,
we give you glory together with your un-begotten Father
and your most holy, good and life-creating Spirit,
now and always and forever and ever.


Our Family

Francesco di Giaimo was the son of Giuseppe and Maddalena (nee Montone) di Giaimo.  By his wife Irene (nee Guzzi) he became the father of Maria Giovanna, Giuseppe and Maddalena.  Francesco was Sammy’s 2nd Great Grandfather and EmilyAnn’s 3rd Great Grandfather.

Luigi and Carminela (nee Cavollo) Serrapede were the parents of Clarice, Michela and Carmela Serrapede.  Clarice Serrapede Ruocco was Sammy’s 2nd Great Grandmother and EmilyAnn’s 3rd Great Grandmother.  Her sisters Michela and Carmela married into a different branch of the Ruocco family that is not in our direct line.

Antonio Pappalardo was the son of Nicola and Teresa (Patella d’Alessandro) Pappalardo.  He is Sammy’s Great Uncle and EmilyAnn’s 2nd Great Uncle.  Antonio’s sister Emilia was Sammy’s paternal Grandmother.



The Cholera Epidemic of 1866 in Agropoli

The Cholera Epidemic of 1866 is written about in Posting 21a-Scotti Family in Agropoli: Carmine and Maria Giovanna, Years of Hardship, Years of Good-byes


“Dove of the Holy Spirit”
1660, alabaster, Throne of St. Peter, St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican
Gian Lorenzo Bernini
Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons
Link:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gian_Lorenzo_Bernini_-_Dove_of_the_Holy_Spirit.JPG

Byzantine Prayer for the Departed
Pray Catholic


7e-Agropoli, July 1976: First Holy Communion Procession

We had finished a leisurely afternoon meal at the apartment of Italia the Elder, my Grandpa Sam’s sister and mother of his niece Italia the Younger.  Everyone was very excited and had prepared a bowl of yellow flower petals for us to shower upon a procession that was about to take place outside.

7e-Procession street

The streets were decorated with pictures of the Chalice and Name of Jesus (Gesu) all made out of the same yellow flower petals.

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