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Family history is an heirloom

July 04, 2004

I was standing in church recently when I noticed a family in front of me that was taking up an entire pew.

There was a mom and dad, grandma, other children and what appeared to be aunts and uncles and one baby.

They were doing the pass the baby thing, trying to get the infant to fall asleep during Mass. What I noticed was that even the family members who weren't rocking the baby still were swaying back and forth after the child left their hands. There was no music playing, they were just rocking.

It was as if they had a permanent sway.

It was obvious that these were veteran baby rockers and that the child didn't stand a chance of staying awake as the family seemed to be rocking that baby in unison.

I think what made me notice this was the day before, I had received an envelope in the mail, the day before Father's Day. My sister sent me a booklet that she put together about my father's life, titled "The Life and Times of My Father, Joe Mulieri," by Mary Josephine (Mulieri) Bieberich.

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When I opened the booklet, there was a photo of my dad, holding an infant. It was me. I had more hair then than I do now.

I don't think I ever saw that photo before, at least not to my recollection.

My dad died in 1968 when I was just 18. He only lived to be 57, but he lived a full life, not wasting a second.

The stories and pictures in this booklet were priceless, at least to me, as my past came flooding back into my memory. Oh, I knew most of the stories, but to see it in print really put it all in perspective.

I would encourage anyone who knows the history of their family to get it down on paper for the next generation to consume. Once it's forgotten, it's lost forever.

And the stories are so intriguing.

My dad came to America in 1922 with his mom from a little village in southern Italy when he was just 12. Can you imagine leaving your country at that tender age and going to a land where you didn't know the language or the culture?

But that's what so many immigrants did in those days. They left for America, the land of opportunity.

My dad found his opportunity. He mastered the English language, worked his way through college and earned a degree in economics from the University of North Carolina. He eventually became editor and publisher of his own company, Anne Arundel Publishing Corp. in Glen Burnie, Md.

My sister sent a copy of the booklet to me and each of my four sons. They seemed genuinely interested in reading about the grandfather they never met in real life.

There was a passage in the booklet about his failed run for Congress in 1952. I had forgotten all about that.

There also was a story about his military career. It seems that my father's fluency in speaking Italian landed him in Naples during World War II as a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves. Apparently, he traveled incognito as a Catholic priest while involved in intelligence gathering in Naples before Italy surrendered to the Allied forces.

I never heard that one before.

My sister says the booklet is "a work in progress." She wants me to jot down some remembrances about my dad and send them along to her.

It's something I plan to do.




Tony Mulieri is managing editor of The Daily Mail. He may be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7647, or by e-mail at tonym@herald-mail.com.

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