Linda Dodds

Our Family Story

“My full name is Linda Cecelia Auren Dodds but since my mother married a Finlander, my maiden name was not very Italian-sounding. My grandmother was Giacomina Cicilia  Bugna  and  my grandfather was Silvio Boldrini but when my grandfather arrived at Ellis Island, he shortened his last name to just Boldrin in order to sound more American.

My mother had three brothers, Luigi (aka Louie), the eldest, was married to Ruby and Jeanette was their only child. Louie died as a very young man from cancer. Second brother was Cleto (Clete) who married a Norwegian woman Olga Tamelia Hoffstad. Clete was a glazer and was installing stained glass windows in a church when the scaffolding broke and he left his two young sons and a very pregnant wife without any income so my Grandmother brought her into the home and later left her under the care of my youngest uncle. Silvio (Sil) helped her raise the children while my grandmother went to Anchorage to work in the restaurant owned by Tony and Mary Pastro also from Creto. Sil and Olga eventually married.

I was born in Santa Rosa, CA in 1944 and my father was in the military. He was transferred to Asmara Eritrea that was then in Ethiopia when I was just 18 months old. My father had to go ahead of time in order to help set up the military post called Radio Marina but during WWII it had been an Italian colony. When I was 5 years old, I believe, my father was transferred to Falls Church, Virginia for a short time and from there to Fairbanks, Alaska, which was quite a cultural shock after living in Africa. When we left Africa we were all able to travel together, so my parents booked a cruise ship in Cairo, which took us to Italy where my mother’s family lived in Creto and Bersone in the Valle del Chiese in the Comunità Della Giudicarie. We visited there for some time and I still remember climbing a hill to the 14000 sq. ft. home which was the home of my maternal grandmother which then was owned by my mother along with her only still living brother Silvio and my cousin Jeanette. My mother and her brother allowed family to live rent-free as long as they maintained the home. Al Palazzo, as it was called was the largest home in Bersone and had been built in 1665. I remember visiting my mother’s cousin Beppina and her daughter Maralissa who was about my age so we played together and were playing hide and seek when I opened the gate to the chicken house and let all the chickens out. In Al Palazzo here was a baby in a cradle who was named Cicilia after my grandmother’s middle name. My cousin Jeanette and my youngest granddaughter along with myself all share the same name. Ours is just spelled differently.

Mom sent outgrown clothes of my brother and me to family there for years as they had suffered terribly during the war. And in the 70s or early 80s, my mother, her brother Silvio, and Jeanette sold my grandmother’s home to their cousin Angelo Bugna and his wife Dolores who were Cicilia’s parents for $18,000!

In 1995 or 1996, my husband thought that my cousin and I should go visit and renew contact with my family. But he worried about my cousin’s health and my being alone with her, so he called each of my daughters and told them that if they would go with us, he would give them first class round trip tickets and all they would have to pay for would be their meals and souvenirs. Even with having young children, they were able to manage to go along with us, as they had other family members nearby to take care of the kids.

We flew into Milan, rented a car and took off for Pieve Di Bono and Bersone. The first thing we did after finding my grandmother’s home was to look for rooms to rent and since there is only one albergo in Bersone, we stayed there at San Sebastian. By the end of our stay, I realized the owner of the hotel was Marilissa, and Cicilia, the baby in the cradle still lived with her parents in the home. We did have somewhat of a communication issue but thank goodness for my mother’s cousin Luigi Giardini’s grandson Mario Sorrentino, who studied English in school; we all had an opportunity to visit and understand one another. A couple of years later, my husband and I flew to Italy, rented a car and visited family again. In 2011 cousin Mario and his fiancé invited my two girls, their families and myself to attend and be a part of their August wedding so my daughters, son in law and four of my grandchildren and I again visited there and were treated like royalty.

I am so happy we all went as Italy has lost some of those important elder family members. I wanted my grandchildren to experience knowing Luigi Giardini, a very debonair Italian gentleman and a pillar of their society and his sweet wife Teresina who was a wonderful cook. Since my oldest grandson was just a little younger than Dr Mario and my cousin Miriam Romanelli’s sons, Riccardo and Walter, he was able to experience a concert for younger people at the church grounds in Creto. Last summer by brother and I flew first to Roveniemi, Finland to find our Finnish side of our heritage and from there on to Italy. My brother was overwhelmed meeting so many new family members after just being 9 or 10 the only time he had been there. It was hard to explain to him about those who had passed away since my first adult visit. Maralissa, her husband Marcelo, her mother Beppina, Valentina, Angelo and Dolores Bugna, Luigi and his wife Teresina…But there are new family members now too. My cousin Mario and wife Ely have the most perfect child, Tommy Sorrentino who smiled and giggled the whole time. I moved from California to Washington State in 1979 and presently live in the same home here on Fox Island since 1985.”