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Family Tree: Lidia Bernardo Allice’s Portrait

July 20, 2014

Lidia Bernardo Allice’s Portrait

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

On August 28 of 1903, my maternal grandparents Domenica and Martino left Italy forever and set sail from LaHavre, France, for the United States of America.  In my grandmother’s large trunk, aboard the ship LaLorraine, was a portrait of Domenica’s mother–Lidia Bernardo Allice, the mother whom the almost twenty-year-old woman would never see again.

About two years later, a very large two-story building was constructed for my grandparents’ Italian bakery, grocery store, and residence.  The portrait of Lidia Bernardo Allice settled into this American space.  Lidia’s hair was pulled straight back, and her expression was quite austere–almost frightening to her great-grandchildren.  Of course, the portrait was made in the late 1800s when “say ‘cheese'” and smiles were not yet part of our culture.

After my grandmother’s passing at age 95, Lidia Bernardo Allice’s portrait was passed on to the youngest of Domenica’s children–my mother.  Thus, Lidia’s portrait settled into the knotty- pine closet of the family room of our Blanford home for two decades.  As my sister, my cousin, and I grew older–we wondered about this woman who was our great-grandmother whom we had never known.  Was she as unfriendly as she appeared in the portrait?  While she did not manifest the beauty of a Mona Lisa, Lidia was mesmerizing.

After my sister and I reluctantly sold our beloved Blanford home, Lidia’s portrait temporarily resided with my Indiana cousins Carole and Tim who prepared Lidia for another move.  In the original wooden frame, Lidia’s portrait was carefully wrapped, along with the portrait of my uncle who died of meningitis at age four; and the journey was only from Indiana to my home in Milwaukee.  After a few weeks of visiting at my townhouse, Lidia’s portrait would make another journey because I decided to keep the somewhat smaller uniquely-framed portrait of my uncle (Martin) and give the portrait of Lidia to my sister.

During the past fifteen years, Lidia Bernardo Allice’s portrait has been displayed on the wall of a guest bedroom in my sister’s house in Colorado.  Thus, Lidia traveled from the foothills of the Alps to the foothills of the Rockies–still with the same austere expression.

Although I gave the historic family portrait to my sister, I carry with me something from Lidia each day.  Her married name became my first name.  I have often thought that I may be the only person in the United States whose name “Alice” is in remembrance of the Italian surname “Allice.”  I wish I had asked many more questions about my grandmother’s young life in Levone, Italy, and about Lidia Bernardo Allice.

July 18, 2014, Friday

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6 Comments
  1. Thanks for sharing this story, Alice! I’m glad that the family portrait mystery is finally resolved and that they both continue to “rest well” with you and Mary. The original frames were so unique and became the perfect decor for twelve years in our Indiana guest bedroom.

    With our downsizing for the move to Florida nearly three years ago, we’re fortunate to have created an “Indiana room” to display Midwest treasures, especially relics from Lanzone’s Store and from the bakery’s past: the beautiful, red coffee grinder; two enormous bread baskets; and a large wooden sifter. The numerous jugs, a small scale, and in particular our Grandma’s trunk, which was thankfully returned to us by Evelyn Hixon before our move, await for another generation to acquire and admire.

    Your enlightening blog continues to renew family memories and to educate family members and friends of our rich heritage.

    Grazie, Alice! See you and Zoe soon!
    Love,
    Carole

    • Carole–Thanks for your excellent addition to this blog post. Also, thanks for taking the time to add these important details. See you soon–Alice and Zoe

  2. Alice. Your family tree is quite intriguing to say the least. That picture must hold a million thoughts and memories. A treasure for sure. Thanks for sharing. dp

  3. I am honored to have Great Grandmother Lidia’s portrait displayed in my home. Lidia’s great great great granddaughter Lanie recently had a brief stay in the room where the portrait hangs. I’m sure that precious Lanie brought a special smile to Lidia’s heart.
    Love, Mary

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