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Six generation family

August 17, 1998

Six generationsBy SHEILA HOTCHKIN / Staff Writer




Ciro Schianodicola says his infant daughter, Gabriella, is nothing like the average 4-month-old.

As his parents smiled indulgently, the 19-year-old Hagerstown resident raved about his firstborn, calling her "the prettiest baby in the world" - always smiling and laughing.

But, he said, there is one other thing that makes his little girl different. "Gabriella's grandma has a great-grandma," he explained.

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That makes Gabriella the sixth living generation of her father's family, an unbroken line that began in the Sleepy Creek area of Berkeley County, W.Va., at the turn of the century with Mazie Payne.

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All six generations gathered at Care Haven of Berkeley County, near Martinsburg, W.Va., on Aug. 9 to watch the now 98-year-old Payne meet her great-great-great-granddaughter for the first time.

The date also marked Pamela Schianodicola's 37th birthday. Pamela, who represents the fourth generation and is Gabriella's grandmother, said she could not have received a better present.

"That was a big gift to me," she said. "I didn't want to see my (great-) grandmother leave without seeing her."

A year ago, the family was concerned as to whether Payne would live to see the next generation. Her health failed shortly before they knew that Ciro's wife was pregnant, and the family was doubtful that she would survive.

The seemingly frail Payne surprised them all.

"She just pulled out for some reason," Pamela said. "She wanted to see that sixth generation."

Pamela said that Payne, whose memory is often clouded these days, remained unusually alert for the introduction.

And Gabriella immediately took to the matriarch, she said.

"She didn't cry or anything," Pamela said. "She just loved her."

Pamela's husband, Raimond, acted as the photographer for the introduction.

He later pointed out several pictures in which Payne could not tear her eyes from the child long enough to smile at the camera.

"She just couldn't get over her," he said.

The family also had been concerned about whether the 98-year-old could hold onto a squirming infant, Raimond said, but Payne immediately locked her hands around the child and dismissed their worries.

"She said, 'Oh, no! I'm never going to let her fall,'" Raimond recalled.

The clan had been excited about reaching five generations when Ciro and his twin brother were born. A similar photo shoot had been held to record the occasion.

"I really think this sixth generation is a gift from God," Raimond said.

Ciro chose his daughter's name accordingly, settling on one that means "God's messenger."

Ruth Shade, Gabriella's great-grandmother, recalled her own enthusiasm over the news.

"You have to be (excited), with the duration of the family, how long it's stayed together," said Shade, 56. "You don't see that anymore."

Ruth's mother, Geraldine Gletner, 74, lives near Hedgesville, W.Va.

And her family has stuck together, with Shade's Hagerstown home as the focal point, she said. Her children have remained nearby and continued to visit their mother's house almost daily.

"They never left home when they got married," she said. "They just bring them over here."

The tight family bonds have not only produced six generations, but also 175 combined years of marriage in the first four generations, with no divorces.

Said Pamela: "We're just extra close - best friends."

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