ZanoniBob (Robert Angelo) and Ruby (Franch) Zanoni are longtime parishioners at Presentation Catholic Church in Stockton, a place they refer to as their “home away from home”. On June 12, 1954 they were the first couple to be wed at the church. In April of this year, Presentation dedicated 2 pages of their newsletter to Bob and Ruby and their history in the community.

Bob’s father, Serafino Zanoni, was from Cloz in the Val di Non, and his mother, Pia Panizza, was from Vermiglio in the Val di Sole. During WWI Vermiglio was on the battle line and suffered from massive bombardment. The town was evacuated. Bob’s mother was 9 or 10 at the time, and she was relocated to a refugee camp in Mittendorff, Austria along with her family. She had an uncle in Cloz, and after the war the family settled there until Vermiglio could be rebuilt. It was then that Bob’s parents met. Ruby’s parents, Giovanni
Franch and Felicita Flor, were also from Cloz. Her father was a coal miner in Illinois and Missouri, and her parents married in St. Louis. They later moved to Stockton where Ruby’s father practiced carpentry. In 1950, 19-year-old Ruby accompanied her parents on a trip to Italy. In transit they stopped in Chicago to visit Bob’s grandmother, who they knew from their time in Cloz. During the visit Bob and Ruby met and established a long distance friendship. That led to a lifetime of bliss plus 6 children, 12 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren.

In Chicago Bob delivered groceries for his family’s store. In Stockton he started in the
grocery business but then ran a car wash till retiring. Bob and Ruby are active members of their local branch of the Italian Catholic Federation (ICF) and Bob served as president. Bob’s uncle, Father Silvio Zanoni, was instrumental in forming ICF clubs in California and Las Vegas. Bob is also our club’s representative in the Central Valley. We are not alone in thanking Bob and Ruby for their dedicated service to the community.

Romeo Zuech

Romeo Zuech receives Engineer of the Year Award
Romeo Zuech receives Engineer of the Year Award

Trentino Helps Apollo to the Moon On the subject of space exploration, Romeo Zuech, a Trentino immigrant from Brez in the Val di Non, played a pivotal role in getting Apollo to the moon in 1969. Two years ago an article in the Trentino newspaper L’Adige chronicled the fascinating history of Romeo.

Romeo specialized in metallurgy at the Technical Institute of Bolzano. In 1950 he immigrated on his own to Chicago where a maternal uncle was living. Romeo’s father Adolfo was born in Frontenac, Kansas, and his mother in Mexico, though she was registered a US citizen in El Paso.
At the time many travelled from Brez to the US and Mexico to work in the mining industry.
Romeo’s parents settled back in Trentino, but he gained US citizenship through them.
In 1953 Romeo married Margaret and had twin daughters, Maria and Sofia. The same year he landed a job at North American Aviation’s Rocketdyne Division in Canoga Park, CA. From there he worked on the Apollo project to create a super light and resistant alloy able to withstand extreme temperatures caused by high-speed friction. He received three
patents for his work. In 1979, on account of his contributions to the aerospace
industry and Apollo project, he won both the coveted Leonardo Da Vinci Award
and Rockwell’s Engineer of the Year Award. In 1983 Romeo retired from the aerospace industry to pursue another dream of his, winemaking.
He established Piedra Creek Winery in San Luis Obispo, planting various varietals including two that are typical of Trentino, Teroldego and Lagrein. The Trentino eagle is featured on the winery’s logo, and Romeo named one of his most popular blends after the patron saint of his beloved Brez, San Floriano. He also enjoys good food and has written a recipe booklet in English and dialect featuring the soups of the Val di Non.
Romeo continues to pursue life with gusto and vigor, and on his 90th birthday next February, he hopes to release his first vintage of pure Lagrein. He is currently grooming his grandson to take over the production and management of the winery.

An Immigrant’s Story of Tragedy and Good Fortune

Ray Marinelli at 19

Ron Marinelli is a member of our club. Michael Marnella, Ron’s brother in San Clemente, below shares their family’s fascinating journey from the Val di Non to California.

We  encourage other club members to submit their stories and photos. My ancestors originated in the villages of Casez, Banco and Sanzeno in the Val di Non. My great grandfather Raffaele, in the US Rafaeli or “Ray”, immigrated to the mining town of Nevadaville, Colorado when he was 8 years old. Orphaned at 9, he along with his two brothers survived by sleeping in a stable in exchange for cleaning up after the horses. They found themselves in a rough and tumble mining town without knowledge of the language or culture and also without parents. At age twelve he went to work in the mines. As a child he worked twelve hours a day, six days a week.

Being small of stature, they used him to crawl into the cracks and crevices to plant explosives. It was a very dangerous job, but
small Italian boys were an expendable commodity then.

Through a lot of hard work, some talent and a little bit of luck, he became foreman of the mine by age 24. Thereafter, he married the daughter of a mining engineer. Nevadaville was then known as “Bald Mountain” because it had been completely deforested for use as mine timber. Amazingly, the house where they lived is still standing. I have a photograph circa 1900 of them in their front yard watching as a 20-mule team passed by pulling heavy equipment to one of the local mines. It is perhaps 2 miles from Central City.

Willard Marinelli, Denver 1910

Both locations were very productive silver mining towns. There is a forgotten cemetery there within the abandoned ruins of the once thriving town with many Trentini names on the headstones.

My great uncle by marriage owned the saloon, and another still the water works. If someone wanted a drink of any sort, water or something stronger, it had to be
purchased from an enterprising Trentino.
The drills they used in the mines were called “widow makers” because of the
danger involved in their use and the disease they later caused. They did their work. Our
great-grandfather “Ray” died prematurely of black lung disease after spending the last six
months of his life literally coughing up blood and parts of what were once his lungs. His
shortened life’s purpose was to make the lives of his children and grandchildren better than his own. That purpose and sacrifice is one that I attempt to build on every day.

He was a quiet man who preferred never to speak of his childhood or history, traumatic as it was. In his pocket the day he died, he carried then and every day before that
three things: a pocket watch with a braided piece of his wife’s hair, a small prayer book given to him by his mother the day he left Casez, and a worn, stained letter that his father had mailed to him many years before.

Benimino Marinelli, 1910

Those items remained in a trunk, long forgotten until the death of my great aunt many years later. The prayer book and letter then came into my possession. Consumed by curiosity, I photocopied the letter and with fingers crossed I
blindly mailed it to the parish priest in Casez, the town from which the original letter had originated. I asked if the church had any record of my family. The priest read my letter to the congregation the next Sunday in Mass. Several hands went up. Through this act of great kindness and luck, I was reconnected with family long lost. As it turned out, I had cousins still living in the family home, the Castle of Casez, and familial friends throughout the small town such as the DeConcini’s just across the street. We immediately booked passage to the Val di Non. Note on the family’s last name: When my greatgrandfather arrived in New York with his family, the immigration clerk misspelled their last name
“Marnella”. Uncomfortable challenging what he saw as governmental authority, my great-grandfather lived with the error the rest of his life.
We never knew it had been anything else. It was only after rediscovering our past that the
clerical error was uncovered. Ron elected to legally change his name back to the original
spelling. I felt I had so many miles under my belt, legal documents, degrees, licenses and
children under the name Marnella, that I chose the path of least resistance and like my
great-grandfather, retained the errant spelling.

Padre Efrem

Padre Efrem Trettel, A Wonderful Journey through Time
By Christine Bologna
It was Boxing Day of 2010 and our family decided to take up Padre Efrem’s invitation to join him for lunch at his new home at Alma Via in San Francisco. The last two times we met at the events organized by the Trentini nel Mondo club, Padre Efrem expressed his desire to have someone publish the many poems he writes, and since I had just started playing around with creating web sites and blogs, it occurred to me that this might be a good medium for him to have the world read his poems. We will have to visit him again because by the end of our visit a friend had turned up to fix his printer and the poems took the back stage. We spent about three hours together and I went home feeling privileged to have spent some quality time with this great man. Although I can only speak for myself, I think that my husband Tarcisio (who incidentally is the Trentino in the family), and daughter Laura were also very touched by the time we spent with Padre Efrem. I am writing this short article in the hope that many of you will also take the time to visit Padre Efrem (he really does live for visits from his friends) in his new home. When we arrived we went to greet him in his room, number 10. It is a simple room where he has set up a desk with a computer and his books on one side and his musical instruments on the other. His bed serves as a table during the day. We spent a few moments there during which time I scanned through his poems in Italian, while Tarcisio looked at the poems in Trentino and Laura those in English. Some of the poems are quite touching, and all came straight from the heart. Unfortunately we had to leave to go to lunch before it got too late – at which point Padre Efrem picked up the panettone we had brought him and explained that someone had brought it to him today. We explained that it was we who had brought it and then he sadly told us about the problems he is having with short term memory due to his recent illness and that he is starting to worry that he might be in the early stages of Alzheimer. So we headed to the dining hall. I must say that next to the two retirement homes I am familiar with in Trento, Alma Via seems to be a paradise. It is really nice that guests can purchase tickets for lunch and be able to sit down and share a meal with the residents. It all makes assisted living so much more humane.The staff were extremely pleasant and not bothered at all that he had brought in three guests. Well as soon as we had ordered our food, Padre Efrem told us his story, at least the short version of it. It is amazing how the human memory works. Although he had trouble remembering our names his long term memories seem to be quite intact. I promised I would write it all down and share it with others. So here I am doing just that; I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I have enjoyed this brief visit with Padre Efrem.


Padre Efrem was born on the 17th of May 1921 to PadreEfrem-PianoMaria Dellagiacoma “Accursio” and Andrea Trettel “Da Molin” in Predazzo, in the province of Trento. His baptism name is Mario Trettel. His mother was a native of Predazzo whilst his father was born in Tesero, only a few miles away. Mario was their second child with his elder sister born in 1919. Andrea Trettel was the son of a school teacher and he himself had also studied to be a teacher but preferred carpentry and had purchased his own workshop to build his life as a carpenter. It was a happy start to life, however life is unpredictable and tragedy soon hit this happy little family when a fire broke out in his workshop and destroyed everything that they owned. Penniless and in debt, the family moved to Caldonazzo where they spent the next three years in a two roomed home while the father was working on getting a full teaching credentials. After three years he got a full time teaching post in Trento and bought a “vecchio mulino”, an old windmill. He was now able to move his family from Caldonazzo to Trento. Moving to Trento and living in a small space, as all the family had to sleep in one room while his father restored the property to a home, Mario went to school there. These were hard times and one day Andrea met up with Mario who was returning home on his bike and asked him if he would go and stay with the Friars. In Padre Efrem’s words, in those days if your father asked you to do something, there really was nothing to do other than say “yes”. So within a matter of days, Mario was taken to the Friars in Vilazzano where he said “bye, bye” to his father and to the life he had known so far. In Caldonazzo he lived with about 60 other kids of whom only 5 or 6 became “frate”. Mario spent one year at Villazano and then went to Campo Maggiore, as he explained that this was towards the Adige going north, he noted that his memory was failing him and could not recall the name of the lake nearby.After three years at the Noviziate, the group of kids was now down to 9. It was war time he recalled, and many had been taken there because their dads had gone to war and there was no one to feed them. The rigors of a friar’s life were not, however, for everyone and most of them dropped out on the way. At this point he gave us more facts, but the sequence was a little hazy. Mario spent 3 years in high school in Rovereto while with the Friars (for those of you not familiar with the area that is 20km south of Trento), he then spent 4 years studying Theology in Trento and at the age of 24, in 1944 he celebrated his first mass. This was the beginning of his new life as a Franciscan missionary and in the Franciscan tradition he changed his name. He was now Padre Efrem. Padre Efrem spent one more year studying theology and then he was ready to take on whatever mission he was going to be sent to. His first year as a priest was spent in Arco, near Riva del Garda and he lived at the Noviziate while he helped out at the Arco parish. This was now the post war period and there were many needs throughout Italy. The Franciscan province, of which he was now a part had a need for someone to teach in Calabria, specifically in Tropea. I digress a moment here as I know Tropea well, having good friends there, this is an incredibly beautiful place with incredible beaches, I dare say that it is close to paradise – but even when I used to visit some 25 years ago there still was a lot of poverty in the area. After an evening out, it was common that a little kid under the age of 10 would ask you for some money because he or she had protected your car! So one can only imagine what this placewhich today lives off tourism was like in the post world war II era.


Back to Padre Efrem. As he remembers Tropea, a huge smile appears and he says “bellissimo” (most beautiful) in his own words “Ci’ho ancora il mio cuore a Tropea”. My heart is still in Tropea. While in Tropea he taught at the convent and in his spare time he went to help a priest who had started charitable work they called Susha.  He essentially worked the streets of Tropea helping the very poor and destitute. So I asked him why he left. He told me that there was a mission going to China following the assassination of a Franciscan priest there, and his friends and fellow friars from Trento urged him to go with them. He felt obligated to leave. When he left Tropea he remembered that they had to stop the train for about 15 minutes because so many people had turned up to say goodbye and wish him well. He was very sad to leave this beautiful place and these wonderful people. Through my friend Emilio who knows many people in Tropea, I tried to find out if there was anyone who still remembered Padre Trettel in Tropea. Poor Emilio actually went visiting several people until he realized that this would be impossible given the dates we were talking about. Well I thought it would have been nice but realize that I had given him an impossible task! Back in Trento Padre Efrem quickly prepared for their journey to China. This was now around 1948. They set off by sea to New York, then to San Francisco where they stopped for two weeks at the Parish of the Immacolata Concezione which was run by the Trentino branch of the Franciscans. From San Francisco they took a boat to China and went straight to the mission on the Blue River. “Bello” he said as he reminisced on his memories of the journey. They spent 3 to 4 days in Shanghai as guests of the Salesians then took a 5 to 6 day journey on the river till they reached their destination. He spent four years in China, during which time he learnt about the culture and the language. When they arrived there, China was not yet under the communists but the communists did take over while he was there. They came from Manchuria in the north he recalled. They came in and took over the parish. The priests were allowed to carry on for a while but then they put the bishop and jail. While in jail, the bishop sent them a message telling them to leave. So they packed their bags and took a 3 day train ride to get to Hong Kong. From there, they took a plane that took four stops and they eventually landed in Rome from where they took a train back to Trento. Back in Trento the four of them were asked what they wanted to do. Two of them chose to return to the Orient. At this point in his story, Padre Efrem pauses to think of his old friends with whom he had also been to Japan and Korea where they led a church for those sick with leprosy. He spent one week in church with all the lepers and remembers the experience as very enriching and uplifting. Then he spared a thought for Padre Claudio, Padre Michele and Padre Lino who had been in his class at school; they are all gone he said, I am the only one left alive. Padre Efrem came to California in 1954. It was not a 12 hour plane ride to get here though, it took them one month. They set off from Naples by boat to New York where they spent one week. It was a beautiful and memorable journey he recalls with a big smile. Then it took another week across by land to San Francisco where he was to assist Padre Bazzanella. He started teaching. At this time there was a group of Italians who were doing radio in Italian and transmitting from Oakland. One day he was asked to drive a priest over to the recording studio to give a sermon on TV. This is the moment that changed his life. Within weeks of this visit he started his own transmissions. He would prepare the tapes for radio in his room and then send them over to various stations for transmission. He had done radio for 50 years and TV for the last 23 of those years. In San Francisco he was also a parish priest for many years. All the time he built a strong network taking care of making contracts and fundraising by organizing dinners to finance these transmissions. Padre Efrem was transmitting on 20 stations including Mississippi. After he fell down three years ago and the doctors told him he had to stop all these activities he had to terminate all these contracts. It was the hardest thing for him to do. He said that he has sent all his tapes and information about his activities to the museum of Trento.  One can only hope that someone there will take the time to record the life of Padre Efrem Trettel and his many achievements and place them in some historic perspective. During his years in San Francisco, Padre Trettel organized several tours to Italy at low cost giving the opportunity to many Italian emigrants to return to their homeland and visit the families that they had left behind so many years earlier. He added that during those visits while everyone went to their home towns to visit with family he took the opportunity to go off to Trento to visit his own family. This of course was a rare treat for him and his family. At this point Padre Trettel exclaimed– that’s my story! I would have thought that we had tired him out, but at 89 he is still very enthusiastic and dynamic. He loves spending time with young people and he stopped to have a chat with my daughter and promised to make a “grop” that is a knot in Trentino, so that he would remember to say a prayer for her on her birthday which was coming up soon. Then he asked her, if she would you like to listen to some Christmas music; that’s more fun than listening to my story, he added! So we decided to head to the church where there is an organ and piano. But before the fun he wanted us to experience the dilemma of the many people suffering from Alzheimer. So first there was one stop. We went to the top floor of the home having to pass through a keycode locked door, to visit the Alzheimer residents and mainly to visit an old Korean priest who has Alzheimer The home has this special section for the elderly who are suffering from Alzheimer – it was a very touching and humbling experience. Padre Efrem is very worried that he may end up in that condition. But I am praying that he will not, his cheerful ways have so much to give the elderly at the home. And up we went for a visit to the church which is just across the street from the home. There was a beautiful crib laid out and we took some pictures. Padre Efrem then headed for the organ, not all the switches were on but he still managed to play some incredible music. He then took a shot at the piano. Wow what a musician he still is. He is quite impressive at the venerable age of 89! Padre Efrem has given his life so that others may have a better one. There are many members in the Trentini club. If each family could spare a few hours one week each year to visit him at Alma Via, then he would not feel cut off and lonely. I guarantee that you will get more out of this visit than you ever expected, I know I did.

Giuseppina Alvarez

Train Headed Towards Venice, But With Final Destination San Francisco
By Giovanna Eghenter – Translation, Dan Aspromonte

The special story of Giusepppina Piasente Alvarez, native of Pieve Tesino and President of the Circolo Trentino of San Francisco

It was raining heavily on that 1st of October in 1958 when Giuseppina Piasente left Pieve Tesino in the Province of Trento to take a trip in Italy.  At that time she worked in a bar that she had bought with her brother Marino.  It was time for her vacation, and a little rain, she said, certainly was not going to stop her from going.  She had worked for 2 years as a waitress in Venice, and she wanted to get back together with some of her friends who were part of her life when she lived there. Giuseppina1She decided to first visit a friend in Villafranca, but she was so excited about getting away that she got on the wrong bus and after a couple of hours ended up in Padua.  Rather than get overly bothered by the situation, she went to visit the Basilica of Saint Anthony, or “the Saint” as he is commonly referred to in Padua.  Then she decided to continue by train to Venice.  It was on that train that she met Byron Alvarez, her future husband, an American who was on vacation in Europe.  Destiny!
The trip from Padua to Venice was very short, but it was long enough for the young couple to build a strong liking for each other.  Next to them on the train, there was a couple from Hollywood that acted as interpreters.  This way Byron was able to tell Giuseppina about his job as a typographer in a large company as well as in his own small, print shop.  He told her about how his brother died in 1944 when his plane was hit by enemy fire near Anzio, Italy.  She told him about how her father died when she was only 8, about her art studies in Florence, about her dream to become a costume designer and about her work in Pieve Tesino. That evening they had dinner together in Venice, at Ristorante San Giorgio, where a very accommodating waiter acted as an interpreter, and it was there that they exchanged addresses.  Actually, Giuseppina, who had a collection of postcards, asked Byron to send her one from San Francisco.  He began sending messages and presents right afterwards, first from Sorrento and Naples and then from San Francisco.
This exchange of correspondence became part of their lives.  Byron wrote his letters in English; an English teacher translated the letters for Giuseppina, the same one that also gave her language lessons.  Giuseppina wrote back in Italian; Father Vittorio Bazzanella and Father Efrem Trettel of the Parish of the Immaculate Conception in San Francisco translated them for Byron, who had fallen madly in love. giuseppina_3

In 1959 Father Efrem arrived in Pieve Tesino with an engagement ring.  Giuseppina’s mother gladly gave her consent, and the young couple got married on the 6th of June of the following year.
Their honeymoon in Italy lasted 3 months.  It was then stretched out further because they returned to the States by ship, taking the opportunity to go on the first passenger cruise of the Leonardo Da Vinci.  They then took a train from New York to San Francisco.
During her first 3 months in her new homeland, she was not that happy, even if she said she was.  Then things got better when her first child, Anna Maria, arrived.
Taking advantage of what she learned in costume design school, Giuseppina started working as a seamstress.  She continued working even after Leo and Raymond were born; then, when Peter arrived in 1972, she stopped.  At that point, with four kids to take care of, Giuseppina decided to dedicate all her time to being a mother.

In 1980 Trentini nel Mondo founded a club in San Francisco.  At that time, the President of Trentini nel Mondo, Bruno Fronza, gathered 30 members together and assigned people to various positions:  Vittorio Eccher, President, Laura Vitlacil, Vice-president and Ursula Leonardi, Treasurer.  Giuseppina was asked to be secretary, and she accepted the position with enthusiasm, that sort of enthusiasm that is part of her nature.  Then, only 4 years later, she became president.
Giuseppina Piasente Alvarez has held that same position up till now (except for the years 1988-1991, when the position was held by Ralph Yob).  As president she organized in 2004 the 16th Convention of ITTONA (International Tyrolean Trentini Organization of North America). We asked her to speak to us about the convention.  “The hardest job was convincing our members that we could do it.  giuseppina_2Organizing a convention requires an immense amount of work, and for many it seemed an insurmountable obstacle.”  Yet, Giuseppina managed to convince people, and for 2 years everyone gave it their best.  In the end they put together an organized and efficient 4-day convention with meetings and side trips for nearly 500 participants at the Westin Saint Francis Hotel, a jewel in the heart of San Francisco. It all went wonderfully, and Giuseppina was very satisfied.  “Having support and help from the Trentini nel Mondo Association was vital to the success of the convention as was the involvement of many younger members of our club.”