Merry Christmas!

“Home for Christmas”

“This is meeting time again.  Home is the magnet.  The winter land roars and hums with the eager speed of return journeys.  The dark is noisy and bright with late night arrivals–doors thrown open, running shadows on snow, open arms, kisses, voices and laughter, laughter at everything, and nothing.  Inarticulate, giddying and confused are those original minutes of being back again.  The very familiarity of everything acts like shock.  Contentment has to be drawn in slowly, steadyingly, in deep breaths–there is so much of it.  We rely on home not to change, and it does not, wherefore we give thanks.  Again Christmas:  abiding point of return.  Set apart by its mystery, mood and magic, the season seems in a way to stand outside time.  All that is dear that is lasting, renews its hold on us:  we are home again…”

–From Home For Christmas, by Elizabeth Bowen.

“Glade Jul” (Happy Yule-Danish) by Viggo Johansen.  Public Domain.  Wikimedia Commons.

Season’s Greetings 2018

During this month of many joyous and festive holiday celebrations, we wish you all the gifts of

***Good Health
      now and always.

With thanks for your continued support and interest in our family history journey,

–Sam Serrapede, Jr.
–EmilyAnn Frances May
Co-editors and researchers, Through the Byzantine Gate


Joyous Angel Collectible by Avon
from the collection of the late Emily Leatrice Serrapede’s keepsakes

57-Serrapede and Muro Families in America-Bergen Beach, 1936


Josie’s photo album contains two photos of an outing her brother Peter Muro and husband Sam took to Bergen Beach in Brooklyn during June 1936. At first we thought Peter was in Brooklyn for a short visit. We got in touch with Claudia Muro in Pennsylvania for some help with questions we have about Peter’s life during the 1930s and 1940s. Claudia is married to Peter’s youngest son Robert. The information she provided expands the story behind the photos. It also provides a possible link to other paesani in the Serrapede family’s network who may have helped Peter while he was in Brooklyn. We also learned quite a bit of local history as we pieced together a short history of Bergen Beach. What started out as a posting about two photos turned into a pleasant journey back in time based on the memories Uncle Sammy and Robert shared. It also validated family stories Mom passed on to me about my Grandpa Sam’s attitudes towards visits from relatives. The shorter they were the better to his liking.

Relationship Notes

Josie Muro Serrapede (1909-1995) was the wife of Sam Serrapede (1900-2002). They were the parents of Emily, Gerry and Sammy.

Peter Muro (1913-1992) was Josie’s younger brother. Their parents were Nick and Letizia Muro.

Emily Leatrice Serrapede (1931-2011) was EmilyAnn’s Mom and Sammy’s sister.

Bergen Beach, Brooklyn-June 1936

There are two photos from Peter Muro’s vacation in Brooklyn during June of 1936. One is of Sam in a rowboat looking very unhappy as he sits hunched over some rope in the boat.   On this photo Josie wrote “Bergen Beach, June 1936.” The other photo shows her brother Peter enjoying himself during the little excursion on the water.

The family knew that Sam did not encourage prolonged stays when the relatives from Pennsylvania came to visit. The Serrapede family was living in a very small apartment so the addition of one or two guests meant the living room would be crowded. Sam would not be able to relax and read his newspapers or listen to the radio when he came home from work. Sam never declined a request from his in-laws or own relatives when they needed a place to stay for a short time. He let Josie take care of the meal planning, sleeping arrangements and sightseeing activities. He felt that the little apartment was first and foremost a refuge for him, his wife and their children. Given the size of Josie’s family (11 siblings altogether) he thought it was the reasonable and right thing to make it clear what the guidelines were as far as staying over. He was very upfront, in a polite way, about that point.

Uncle Sammy and I saw this trait at work in Sam throughout his life. He was passionate about his privacy and having the full attention of his wife, children and grandchildren. Sam was dubbed “The Codge” by Uncle Sammy, a nickname we use with great affection whenever he comes to mind. Although “The Codge” would complain about all the work a visit from the relatives made, he was the first one to pour a glass of wine for the visitors and then engage them in a conversation.

The photographs used in this posting were digitized in 2014. The service we used eliminated the decorative borders around the photos as well as Josie’s handwritten comments.

Peter Muro in Brooklyn, NY 1936

In her email reply of April 16, 2016 Claudia Muro informed us that Peter came up to Brooklyn at the recommendation of his sisters. We think these were his oldest sister Josie and his second sister Filomena, both who were living in Brooklyn. His third sister, Rosie, was just 15 years old at the time. We do not think she came to Brooklyn until a few years later.

Continue reading “57-Serrapede and Muro Families in America-Bergen Beach, 1936”

Our Family Circle: 2018 Holiday Season in Linden, NJ

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Holiday Season 2018 began in Linden, New Jersey last Sunday, December 2nd, with the lighting of the Menorah on the first day of Hanukkah.  Last night the festivities continued with the lighting of the Holiday Tree outside of City Hall on North Wood Avenue.  The holiday events scheduled throughout December are meant as focal points to bring the city people together and share our spirit of good cheer.  For a newcomer like me, who has lived here 4 1/2 months, the friendliness and informality of Linden has created a sense of closeness to my neighbors and the officials.

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Prior to the start of Friday’s event, a band played traditional carols as the group gathered together in the slightly above freezing temperatures.  At 6 p.m. the event opened with an inter-faith prayer that asked for blessings upon all peoples along with the provision of their needs.  This was followed with performances by the very talented choral and dance groups composed of Linden High School students.  What impressed me was how well behaved the gathering was:  the acapella singers could be clearly heard as the townspeople respectfully listened to the young people who sang so well.  The dance groups also performed with poise that was, I am sure, the result of many weeks of dedicated practice.

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The tree lighting was officiated by Mayor Derek Armstead as the stage darkened and everyone waited for the burst of colored lights to illuminate the cold, clear night.   In the photo, the Mayor is the fourth person from the left, looking towards the tree. There were also horse drawn carts to take people on a ride around the area.  Later refreshments were available at the recreation room of City Hall.

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Across the street, the Raymond Wood Bauer Promenade was transformed into Wonderland with a display of colorful lighting arrangements.  There was also a fire blazing for bystanders who needed to warm themselves.

The closeness, the interaction of the Mayor Derek Armstead with the townspeople as he mingled with the crowd, the well behaved attendees and the intimacy of the gathering were very special to me because it created a real and living link to the new city I live in.

I send out a big THANK YOU to Mayor Armstead, his staff, the volunteers, the performers, the students and the cultural activities committees that made this event possible.

The version in Italian is for all my cousins by blood and by marriage in Italy…I’m using Google translator so please overlook any errors…


Questa versione in italiano è per tutti i miei cugini di sangue e per matrimonio in Italia … Sto usando il traduttore di Google quindi per favore trascura gli errori …


L’Holiday Season 2018 è iniziato a Linden, New Jersey, domenica scorsa, il 2 dicembre, con l’illuminazione della Menorah il primo giorno di Hanukkah. Ieri sera i festeggiamenti sono proseguiti con l’illuminazione dell’albero delle vacanze fuori dal municipio di North Wood Avenue. Gli eventi festivi programmati per tutto il mese di dicembre sono intesi come punti focali per avvicinare le persone della città e condividere il nostro spirito di allegria. Per un nuovo arrivato come me, che ha vissuto qui 4 mesi e mezzo, la cordialità e l’informalità di Linden ha creato un senso di vicinanza ai miei vicini e ai funzionari.

Prima dell’inizio dell’evento del venerdì, una band suonava canti tradizionali mentre il gruppo si riuniva nelle temperature leggermente al di sopra dello zero. Alle 18:00 l’evento si è aperto con una preghiera interreligiosa che ha chiesto benedizioni a tutti i popoli insieme alla fornitura dei loro bisogni. Questo è stato seguito con le esibizioni dei gruppi di cori e danza di grande talento composti da studenti della Linden High School. Ciò che mi ha impressionato è stato il modo in cui si sono comportati bene: i cantanti di Acapella si sentivano chiaramente mentre i cittadini ascoltavano rispettosamente i giovani che cantavano così bene. I gruppi di danza si sono esibiti con un po ‘di pazienza che è stato, ne sono certo, il risultato di molte settimane di pratica dedicate.

L’illuminazione degli alberi fu officiata dal sindaco Derek Armstead mentre il palco si oscurava e tutti aspettavano lo scoppio di luci colorate per illuminare la notte fredda e limpida. C’erano anche carri trainati da cavalli per portare persone in giro per la zona. I rinfreschi successivi erano disponibili nella sala ricreativa del municipio.

Dall’altra parte della strada, il Raymond Wood Bauer Promenade è stato trasformato in un paese delle meraviglie con un’esposizione di luci colorate. C’era anche un fuoco ardente per gli astanti che avevano bisogno di scaldarsi.

La vicinanza, l’interazione del Sindaco con gli abitanti della città mentre si univa alla folla, i partecipanti ben educati e l’intimità del raduno erano molto speciali per me perché creava un legame reale e vivente con la nuova città in cui vivo.

Invio un grande GRAZIE al Sindaco, al suo staff, ai volontari, gli studenti e ai comitati di attività culturali che hanno reso possibile questo evento.

Our Family Circle: Serrapede-Muro Scanning Project-New Files at Ancestry

Newly scanned PDF files of complete documentation are now available at the Torregrossa & Serrapede Research Tree at Ancestry.

**Death Certificate of Arcangela Serrapere (last name also spelled Sarrapere).  Originally the surname was Serrapede.  She was the wife of the first Serrapede in our line to settle in America in the late 19th century.  Date of Death:  July 11, 1936

**Marriage Certificate of Beni Flaszenberg (Benjamin Flashenberg) to Taube Rosenbaum (Tillie Rosenbaum) Nov. 1, 1903

**Death Certificate of Tillie Flashenberg, July 2, 1958

**Birth Certificate of Dorothy Muriel Kennedy (Dorothy Kennedy on certificate), July 3, 1909

**Birth Certificate of Isidore Flaslhenberg (later known as Irving Flashenberg, Irving Kennedy, Ben Kennedy), March 15, 1909

**Death Certificate of Catherine (Caterina) Torregrossa, July 19, 1955.  Maiden name incorrectly written as “Giacone”.  It was actually Giaconia.

56e-Serrapede Family in America-A Depression Era Childhood-PS 187 (Part 2 of 2)


This posting is concludes an overview of the events reported in the news about P.S. 187.  The school played a big role in Emily’s childhood and also served the community as a polling place.  The school also encouraged the students to be civic minded and aware of proper healthcare and diet.


56e-The_Brooklyn_Daily_Eagle_Wed__Apr_29__1931_Arbor Day

Activities like Arbor Day created a sense of participation in the care of trees in the community.

Students of class 6B planted a tree in front of the school. Exercises like this promote appreciation for beautifying the community. Arbor Day is an annual civic holiday when people plant trees in their communities. The holiday was first started in Spain in the 16th century. In the US Arbor Day was first celebrated in Nebraska City in 1872. Starting with President Roosevelt in 1907 school children were encouraged to plant a tree on Arbor Day as a way to learn about, and appreciate, conservation efforts and forestry.

Continue reading “56e-Serrapede Family in America-A Depression Era Childhood-PS 187 (Part 2 of 2)”

56e-Serrapede Family in America-A Depression Era Childhood-PS 187 (part 1 of 2)


As Emily grew up, Josie and Sam took many photos of her in front of P.S. 187. The school building is also in the background of many photos of the older relatives and cousins in the Serrapede family. There had to be some reason why the school was considered such a desirable location.

Uncle Sammy and I could not locate a website that had information about the school from its earliest days. The next best thing was for us to reconstruct a timeline consisting of events in the local newspapers where P.S. 187 was featured. From this review we saw how the school served the community in many important ways.

Relationship Notes

Emily L. Serrapede was the daughter of Sam and Josie Serrapede. She was the sister of Sammy and Gerald. EmilyAnn knew her as Mom.

Family Story: Bread and Butter

56e-ELS picnic with school friends

Emily is in the first row on the right. This undated photo may have been taken at P.S. 187 or during a school outing. Circa late 1930s.

On a warm day in early June during the end of the 1st grade, Emily and her classmates received slices of brown bread and butter from their teacher. Emily had never seen such bread before. When she asked the teacher what kind of it was the teacher informed her it was whole wheat bread. The teacher explained that it was very healthy to eat bread like this and encouraged the students to ask their parents to buy it for them.

Emily went home and told Josie how delicious whole wheat bread was. Josie looked at Sam enjoying his glass of wine with Italian sausage, slices of provolone cheese and pieces of crusty Italian bread. Emily always laughed when she related that Josie turned back to her and said, “He wouldn’t like it.” That was the end of the story as far as the inclusion of whole wheat bread in the diet of the Serrapede family.

Emily wanted to know what she should tell the teacher when she asked about her parent’s response to the request that the children eat more whole wheat bread. Josie told Emily to tell her teacher, “My mother thanks you for letting me have the slice of bread for a snack.”

Josie continued to buy her white bread and Italan bread fresh from a bakery on 11th Avenue, near the apartment building where the family lived.

–As told by Emily L. Serrapede to her daughter EmilyAnn Frances May as a child.

P.S. 187 in the pages of the “Brooklyn Daily Eagle 1922-1937

We were not able to create an actual timeline for the history of P.S. 187. Instead our search through “The Brooklyn Daily Eagle” provided a series of announcements and news reports that show how the school played an important role in the life of the community.  We will cover news items from 1922 through 1937. This overview enabled us to summarize the roles the school had in the community. We got a good idea of what the setting was like when Emily started school in 1936. We will continue with this exploration of P.S.187 through the pages of the “Brooklyn Daily Eagle” in future postings.

Continue reading “56e-Serrapede Family in America-A Depression Era Childhood-PS 187 (part 1 of 2)”