Friday, July 23, 2010

Thanks for the Memories: Grandma Mildred "Millie" and Grandpa Nunzio Vitraelli

Thanks for the memories

This post is dedicated to my maternal grandparents, Mildred "Millie" P. Vitraelli nee Malouf/Gardos and Nunzio "Nick" Vitraelli.  Mildred "Grandma" and Nunzio "Grandpa" lived most of their lives in Addison, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago). The last few years of their lives were spent in Schaumburg, Illinois (another suburb of Chicago).

Mildred, born in 1927 in New York, was the daughter of Marie Cicero and Eugene Gardos (please see previous posts for information about Eugene Gardos). Marie was born in Castelbuono, Palermo, Italy and Eugene was born in Hungary. The family moved to Chicago, Illinois, where Mildred's brother was born. Eugene passed away in 1935, and Marie married John Malouf. The two kids were adopted by John Malouf, and the kids took on the surname Malouf.
Nunzio, born in 1925 in Chicago, Illinois, was the son of Leonard Vitraelli (aka Vittorelli, Vitorelli, Vittoreli, and Vederelli) and Lucy D'Orazio. Leonard was born in San Marco La Catola, Foggia, Apulia, Italy.  Family story is that the Vitraelli's had a vineyard in Italy, and one of Leonard's brothers/family members died from eating an unripe olive.  Lucy was born in Alfadena, L'Aquila, Abruzzo, Italy.

Foggia, Apulia Italy:
Pictures courtesy of

My mom and her sister and brothers have shared some stories with me about the early lives of Nunzio and Mildred, although I am hoping to learn more. Nunzio owned a fruit and vegetable cart which he ran on Maxwell St in Chicago. Nunzio's brother, Michael, was drafted for World War II, and was killed in action in the Phillapines. Nunzio and Mildred liked to dance, in fact that's how they met each other. They had five children together, my mom was one of them.

My favorite memories of my grandparents are my family's weekly Friday visits to their house where we'd watch Wheel of Fortune and "TGIF" with grandma.

Grandpa loved to bowl and loved to talk about bowling. Grandpa worked at Dominick's as a produce manager.
Grandma worked odd jobs at the factory (my mom said she'd bring home a box of items and she'd have to put screws in them.  The family would sit around the kitchen table putting the little screws in the different items).  

I remember going shopping with Grandma at Straford Mall. She always picked out Alfred Dunner brand clothing.  Whenever I see Alfred Dunner clothing, I think of her. 
She taught me how to play pinnochle, and we played Scrabble on a regular basis. Grandma was unbeatable at Scrabble! I remember when she called all her friends to tell them that I had finally beaten her at Scrabble.

Grandma was a big fan of Notre Dame football, and wanted one of her grandchildren to attend.  There's still a couple of grandchildren left to fulfill her dream (ACT scores and money kept me from attending).  Grandma also loved the food channel. We used to tease her that chef Graham Kerr was her boyfriend.  I remember making Christmas cookies with her, especially the candy cane cookies, where we had to "roll snakes" of red and white dough together.

I remember visiting her on the holidays at her old house in Addison and playing on the piano in the living room and playing detectives in her "scary" basement.  I remember the time when I was finally taller than Grandma, she was only about 4'10" (so it wasn't too hard to do...). 

Grandma was a truly loving person, although her heart was as loving to her.  She had many heart attacks and bypass surgeries.  Grandma passed away in 1995.                                                                           I need to do some file organization, because I cannot find Grandma's's here somewhere... I have created a memorial page for her on Findagrave .

I remember when Grandpa took me shopping for my birthday after my grandma passed away and bought me a jean jacket vest. He took me to McDonalds where we had hamburgers. My grandpa would always stick his french fries in the top of his hamburger so they were standing up...a hamburger castle. 

Grandpa would have coffee with Cocoa Puffs in the morning. Grandpa called me and my sisters the "three rozzes (sp?)".  Grandpa always held his lips in a scrunched up position that my mom and her siblings called the "funge face".  I remember visiting him in the hospital right before he passed away.  His face had turned yellow from jaundice and he was hallucinating.  He told my cousin there was soccer balls on the ceiling (my cousin loved soccer at the time).  Grandpa passed away shortly after our visit in 1996 (cause of death: cancer).

Grandpa's obituary from the Daily Herald:

Prayers for Nunzio "Nick" Vitraelli, 70, a resident of Schaumburg and formerly of Addison, will be held at 9:15 a.m. Wednesday, April 3 at Ahlgrim & Sons Funeral Home, 330 W. Golf Road, Schaumburg, going to St. Marcelline Church for 10 a.m. Mass.
He was born June 21, 1925, in Chicago. Burial will be in St. Michael the Archangel Cemetery, Palatine. He died Sunday, March 31 at Alexian Brothers Medical Center. Mr. Vitraelli was a produce manager for Dominick's Finer Foods, and retired after 30 years of service. He was the husband of the late Mildred; father of Richard (Joyce), Eugene (Halina), Donna (Richard) Swanson, Karen (Rick) Brown, and Lynn Vitraelli; brother of Connie Hayford, Mary Vitraelli, and the late Joseph and Michael, and grandfather of Victoria, Richard II, and Michael Vitraelli, Dawn and Ryan Swanson, Melissa, Christina, and Diana Brown, and Anthony and Dominick Censotti. Visitation will be from 3 to 9 p.m. today at the funeral home. Memorials may be made to the American Cancer Society or Masses appreciated. Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL) Date: April 2, 1996

I also created a memorial for Grandpa at Findagrave.

I miss them both everyday. Thank you for the wonderful memories.

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