Joan Johnson Barker

The Zadra Family History


Fiore’s father was Floriano Giacinto (Cinto) Zadra (Cisi*) and his mother was Maddalena Martini (Trebale*). He had four brothers — Giovanni Antonio (Cencerin or John), Giacinto (Cinto), Fortunato Ernesto Davide (Nato) and Pietro Agusto (Gusto), and one sister Maria Maddalena. The family was from the village of Revò in what was then the Tirol region of Austria. Today it is in the Trentino region of Italy.

Domenica’s father was Stefano Fellin (Nardel*) and her mother was Maria Facinelli (Pasca*). She had four sisters: Caterina (Catina), Columba, Petronella Fortinetti (Lila) and Maria — and a brother — Vittorio. Her family was also from the village of Revò.

* These additional names are used to distinguish one branch of the family from another.

Fiore left home at the age of 13 or 14 and traveled to Argentina to tamp railroad ties. He returned for a short time when he was 18 or 19 then immigrated to America, arriving May 6, 1900, on the ship La Champagne out of Le Havre, France.

After several years working in the mines and saving his money, Fiore wrote to his mother to tell her that he had decided he was ready to get married. He asked her to let him know who was available that he might be interested in marrying. She sent three names, and from that list he selected Domenica’s. The two of them had gone to school together for a while, but didn’t know one another well.

His mother approached Domenica’s mother regarding the matter, telling her that, while Fiore was not wealthy, he would provide well for Domenica. But Domenica’s mother was very upset at the thought of losing yet another daughter (the four other girls had already gone to Pennsylvania) and pleaded that she needed Domenica to help with the “baby” Vittorio, her only son (who was already 16 years old).

She did, however, share the news with Domenica who, after initially bristling at any intimation that she might be “bought,” pleaded with her mother to let her go. Eventually she prevailed and her journey began.


She arrived in America January 23, 1904, on board the ship La Touraine out of Le Havre, France. She was quite ill on the crossing, a combination of seasickness and a reaction to the vaccinations she received just before sailing.

She landed in New York and was processed through Ellis Island. Then she began the long train trip across the country with a basket of wine, bread and sausage brought by one of her Pennsylvania relatives, and a tag dangling from the buttonhole on her coat to identify both her and her destination.

Fiore met her and took her to his brother Giacinto’s house in Issaquah, Washington where he was staying. Giacinto’s wife, Mary Martini, upset Domenica by suggesting that she should sleep with Fiore since the nuptials were imminent. Domenica protested, and Fiore stepped in and offered to sleep on the canapé until after the wedding.

Seventy-five years later, Domenica stated it was at that point that she knew she had made a good choice.  They were married February 2, 1904 at Our Lady of Good Help Parish, the first Catholic church in Seattle.

For the first year of their marriage, the mines in the area were on strike so, following the birth of a daughter, Mary Elizabeth (Lizzie) in Issaquah, Washington on January 29, 1905, Fiore and Domenica left Washington for Idaho in search of work.

Fiore, Domenica, little Lizzie


A son August John (Augie) was born in Burke, Idaho, on July 25, 1908. Somewhat later, the family moved to Butte, Montana, for a while, where Fiore and his brother Gusto were in the hauling business together.

Lizzie died June 24, 1910 in Butte of scarlet fever.
The two brothers eventually had a falling out, and Domenica and Fiore moved to Idaho Falls, Idaho. While they were there, Augie remembers Domenica taking him to a roller skating rink on several occasions to listen to the music. He also remembers men working at rolling large rocks down a hillside into the river to form a dam beneath the falls and provide a swimming hole.

Another daughter, Emma Nellie, was born June 29, 1911 in Idaho Falls and died of pneumonia and “rheumatic arthritis” January 23, 1912. Shortly after her death, the decision was made to go to Oregon and farm the land.


Fiore bought the farm in Airlie, which is now the part of the Oregon State University property where cattle are pastured. The farm was located about half a mile off the Berry Creek Road (Tampico Road) near Berry Creek.

Joe Fellin, the uncle of Genio Fellin of Wallace, Idaho, loaned Fiore some money toward the purchase and stayed and worked through the first winter with him. One evening, seated at the round dining table, the two had a very serious argument. Augie remembers that he thought sure they would come to blows — and Joe was a much bigger man than Fiore. They didn’t, but as a result of the fight Joe took the train the following day to go back to Burke. When he got to the town of Independence, Oregon, he ordered a five-gallon keg of whiskey to be sent to Fiore.

When Elsie Jean was born, January 13, 1913, Augie was taken to stay with the lady at the farmhouse which fronted the road at Berry Creek while the doctor was at the house. Having lost two daughters, Domenica held little hope that this baby girl with all the unlucky numbers in her birth date would thrive. But thrive she did.

Augie and Elsie

Fiore dammed up Berry Creek for a water supply and ran a pipe uphill to a pump in front of the house. A root cellar stood nearby for storing vegetables. One year, while Fiore was reaping wheat in Airlie, the family’s little dog had been running ahead of him. Somehow, the harvester caught up to the dog and amputated both hind legs at the hip. Fiore stopped harvesting long enough to return to the house for the shotgun to put him out of his misery.

Augie attended first and second grades at Berry Creek school, which was just across the creek in what is now a large, open pasture.
Eventually, a group of Mennonites had bought up most of the surrounding property and, since they were rather clannish, Fiore decided to sell the farm to them and was able to get a good price for it.


In Spicer, Fiore found a farm owned by an older man who wanted to retire from active farming, so he took it over as a sharecropper. The farm was located on Spicer Road right where Spicer School Road intersects.

Augie attended school at Spicer School, which was located where Spicer School Road dead-ends (a home occupies this space now, but the school building itself is occupied as a home and has been moved out onto the highway about half a mile beyond Spicer Road on the way to Lebanon). A small stable was located across the road for those who rode their horses to school.

The Catholic church was located on the same property as the present one in Lebanon, and the park across the road from it was used for Chataquas and other community events. Right nearby, is a pump where Augie used to stop to get a drink of water when he was riding his bicycle in the area.

Augie commented on the fact that many of the roads in the area have only recently been paved. He said that, when he was living there as a boy, they were dirt roads in very bad condition. In fact the mailman, who drove a 1914 Ford truck, didn’t even have to steer the truck and was able to sort the mail as he allowed it to follow the ruts in the road.

Travel tended to be somewhat hazardous. Elsie remembers riding along when Domenica drove the wagon into Albany to see the doctor to have some moles removed from her face. During the trip, the horse was frightened by a car and shied, making the long drive a rather adventurous one.

One day, Fiore was driving to the market in Lebanon with a carton of eggs to sell when the horse was frightened by a railroad “speeder” and ran wild, taking the wagon, eggs and all, up onto a 15-inch-high raised wooden sidewalk and scrambling all the eggs.

On another occasion, the whole family was in the wagon headed for a show in town, dressed in their good clothes, when a stud horse came running at their mare, causing her to take off running eventually dumping them all in the ditch. Fiore fell on the wheel as the wagon went over tearing his suit.

On both of the Oregon farms, Fiore raised a wide variety of crops and animals — including horses, cows, sheep, chickens, pigs, turkeys, etc. Fiore used to make raisin wine and feed the mash to the pigs, which would become quite drunk and start out for a shady spot under a tree only to fall into a stupor before reaching their destination.


In 1917, Fiore went to Seattle to buy a car and he drove the brand new Briscoe back to Spicer. Eventually it was decided to move back to Seattle. Augie remembers, when they were en route from Oregon to Washington, part of Highway 99 was under construction so they had to go west for a ways and take the ferry from Rainier, Oregon, to Kalama, Washington. Elsie seems to recall her father had some difficulty getting the car properly situated on the ferry. Augie remembers that the men working on the road wore sombreros and he believes they were Central Americans, probably Mexicans. He says he felt quite uneasy about them for some reason, as though they were a threat.

When they arrived back in Seattle, Fiore went to work on the streetcars for the city. The family stayed first with one family of friends, then with another, before buying a home at 319 Dexter Avenue.

Finally, they purchased the house which is now 567 Valley Street. The original address was 723 Sixth Avenue North since it faced Sixth Avenue. Later Fiore had it turned on the lot to make room for construction of The Zadra apartments on the corner.

A smaller house was built on the other side of the main house. Not only were there tenants in the apartments, but there were always boarders at the house. Elsie remembers periodically sleeping in her parents’ bedroom in a six-year crib until she was ten or eleven years old.

Augie tried at one time to teach Domenica how to drive. He had her drive around for a while in a pasture first and she didn’t do too badly. Then he took her out on the road where she drove only a short while before putting the car in the ditch. Fiore wasn’t really a very good driver, either. When he would drive the car up the hills in downtown Seattle, Domenica, lacking confidence in his driving ability, would get out of the car and walk up to meet him at the top.

The recollections above I recorded on my laptop on two separate auto trips with my Uncle Augie, his second wife Arline and my mother Elsie.

Those that follow are my own memories.

I was born in January of 1936. My grandfather died of a stroke September 20, 1936 at the age of 55 when I was about eight months old, so I don’t remember him at all, although I’m told he was pretty crazy about me, his first grandchild.

My first recollection of Nona is when I was about two years old. We were living with her temporarily in the big house before we moved into our own home on Capitol Hill.

I remember Barba (my Uncle Augie) being around a lot and keeping us supplied with Sunshine Honey Graham Crackers, Animal Crackers, Hi Ho Crackers and Cheez-Its, since he drove a Sunshine Biscuit Company delivery truck. It was about this time that his new bride Helen Wick became my Anda and they moved into the little house next door.

Nona also owned The Zadra apartments, a four-unit brick building on the corner, which had been built by a member of the Hansen family that owned the bakery across Valley Street from them. The basement for the apartments was dug by hand by Fiore and Augie.

A few years later, when I was five years old, we returned to Seattle from a job my father had with a road construction company in Eastern Washington. We arrived before Thanksgiving and lived again with Nona in the big house until the end of the following summer.

A week or so after we arrived, Pearl Harbor was bombed and my Dad went to work the following day for the Army Signal Corps’ Alaska Communication System. Augie became an Air Raid Warden. During the time we were there, several relatives passed through Seattle on their way to deployment overseas and stayed at Nona’s.

Uncle Gusto and Aunt Rose came from Montana to see if there was a job for Uncle in defense work and they, too, stayed at Nona’s. We also stayed with Nona because Dad was gone to Alaska, Mom was expecting my second brother Denny who was born that February, and housing in Seattle was very scarce because of the influx of people to work for the war effort in the shipyards and at Boeing.
By this time, there were three cousins next door – Lynne, Fred and Carrol. My brother Bruce and I had lots of fun playing outside with them – riding our trikes out front on the sidewalks and roller skating down the driveway behind the apartment garages.

Nona had a wonderful garden in the lot behind the apartment where she grew – among other things — corn, peas, lettuce, tomatoes and big green beans with red stripes on them. I remember well sitting with her on the back porch steps and shelling peas or snapping beans. In the yard behind the big house was a prune tree and Nona could never resist eating some of them before they were ripe and getting a bad stomach ache.

In the basement of the big house, she and Augie made wine in recycled wooden whiskey barrels that Fiore had purchased — and sometimes grappa. Mother later told me that, during prohibition, she would lie in bed awake at night, afraid that they would be raided by government agents. I could understand why. When you opened the door into the pantry which led to the cellar stairs, the pungent aroma of wine was impossible to miss.

Nona usually spoke to us in nones, the local dialect of her home town of Revò, and Mother and Barba understood, but usually responded in english. Nona understood english fairly well, but didn’t speak it much. I remember understanding, when told in nones, to get my shoes off the couch, to turn off the light, to eat and be quiet, to listen, to refrain from picking my nose, and to push.

While we were living there, the other Augie Zadra, Gusto’s son, visited from Montana. Barba Augie went across the street and borrowed an accordion from a neighbor for him to play. He sat in the foyer of the big house and played for a long time for those of us who were sitting in the living room (a privilege not often enjoyed). I told my mother right then that I wanted to play the accordion. She said maybe when I was older, but first I would need to take piano lessons because we had a piano, and we didn’t have an accordion. I asked when I could have the accordion and was told that I would have to wait until I was 12. When I reached that age, Nona helped my parents to buy my first accordion. She loved music and always tapped her feet and requested a valsen.

As Augie’s children grew up, Nona learned to speak English better. Carrol, in particular helped to bring her into the present. Nona’s previous costume had consisted of a heavily boned and laced corset (which she didn’t need), black or navy dress with polka dots or small flowers, and Enna Jetticks shoes (the kind the nuns used to wear, black, laced up the front with a Cuban heel). By the time Carrol left home, Nona was wearing uplift bras, more colorful dresses, and Hush Puppies.

As Augie’s family grew, Nona decided to move into one of the apartments, Augie, Helen and the kids moved into the big house and the small house was rented out. I remember when I was about 12 or 13, stopping by with a friend one late afternoon on the way home from ice skating. I was coughing a little from the rink’s cold air and the exertion. Nona asked me if I had a cold and, even though I answered “No,” she took me into the kitchen took out one of her little wine glasses with the paneled sides and poured some grappa into it. She gave it to me and said, “Now drink this and don’t breathe.” I did so and, after spluttering a little, I didn’t breathe for quite a while – nor did I cough.


Nona remained very active until late in life. She often walked to town and back. Even when she was in her seventies she would walk to Queen Anne Avenue, probably 3/4 mile, and walk home with a shopping bag in each hand filled with her groceries.

Not too long before her death, John and I were at the Seattle Center for some occasion and, as we were leaving the grounds, there she was, wearing a perky straw hat and sitting in the sun on one of the benches. She suffered a series of small strokes in her late 90s and when she died she was almost 99 years old.

Augie, a devoted and caring father of five, felt that he was likely to face an early demise as his father had. The year that he was 55, he awaited the grim reaper. When he didn’t arrive that year, he looked for him again the following year. Finally, by the age of 58 or so, he decided he was going to be around for a while and began to live with less dread. He had excellent health habits, usually confining his treats to fruits and vegetables. For many years, he walked the three miles around Green Lake every morning. He was quite dismayed when, in his 90s, he found it too difficult to continue his daily walk. He died January 6, 2005, at the age of 96 1/2.

My mother, Elsie, was a catalyst for togetherness. Her beautifully prepared meals brightened all our holidays and she frequently called the Zadra clan together at her house. She played the piano and organ and was still taking music lessons when she passed away.

She suffered several serious illnesses – peritoneal TB and breast cancer. She fought them off with a positive attitude. Having been told by the doctor in her 40s that she had a heart murmur, she began then to walk three miles every day.  She continued that habit until the day of her death when she collapsed in the middle of the street on the last leg of her walk. She was almost 89.

Now I am the oldest in the Zadra line here in Seattle. I thank God for all my wonderful relatives – a good husband, two very special brothers, wonderful children, grandchildren and now even great-grandchildren and myriad cousins.

Seattle Zadra Family Reunion 1992

In the 101 years since my grandparents settled here, the family has grown into a strong, vital clan who love one another and enjoy celebrating their culture.