Don Dimberio has lived a full life, one marked with achievement. This includes graduating from the University of Notre Dame in 1960, having a successful career in the plastics industry, owning his own company, and raising four children, all college graduates themselves. His two sons attended his alma mater, the University of Notre Dame, and his two daughters both attended Saint Mary’s College in South Bend. He is a board member of the Women’s Care Center and has been a parishioner of St. Vincent de Paul, Fort Wayne, for the last 45 years.
This is a life that most would call the American dream. Dimberio says that all of this would not have been possible without the tremendous influence of his mother Carolina and her two sisters Loretto and Lena, who immigrated from Italy in 1916. These three young girls paved the way for their children and grandchildren to reach their highest potential, with bravery most could not imagine and an immense faith in God. At 83 years old, Dimberio is now sharing their story in his book, “The Sisters from Campobasso.”
This journey began in the Italian province of Campobasso, located about two and a half hours southeast of Rome. Campobasso lies in the vast hill region, not far from the Adriatic Sea. While to most, the image of such a place conjures visions of a peaceful Italian vacation, one with rest and relaxation, life was far less romantic for the people of the area. Tensions between the Northern Italians and the Southern Italians were high, so much so that between 1880 and 1914, 14 million Italians immigrated to the United States. “The rumor was the streets in America were paved in gold, but the truth is these people were the ones who did the paving,” reflected Dimberio.
The men of the family would immigrate to America first, finding work and sending money back home so that the women and children could follow. The work was hard and the pay was small, but being in the “Land of Opportunity” was enough to keep them going. Where the immigrants settled would depend on where their relatives had taken up residence, and in the case of Dimberio’s family, they would wind up like many other Southern Italians in the city of Cleveland, Ohio.
The journey to Cleveland was marked by immense hardships for the three young sisters, which Dimberio details in the book. “What takes place in the story is a tremendous act one of the sisters does. I have told the story so many times in my life and people encouraged me to write it,” he recalled.
Even after everything the harrowing journey from Campobasso to America brought to the three sisters, their faith never faltered. They trusted in God’s plan all the way and passed that faith on to their children and grandchildren. “My mother never missed Mass; she was incredibly faithful,” Dimberio remembers.
Once in Cleveland, the new American citizens would form clubs with their neighbors from the old country, keeping their customs and traditions alive. One such custom was the huge celebration of St. Joseph’s Day on March 19th. “Everyone else would celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Where I come from, the party is a few days later for St. Joseph,” he recalled.
The whole town would gather in celebration of the great saint, sharing memories of life back in Italy, and of course, food, the local church being the center of the celebration. “Panne Frito” or fried bread, was a favorite on this occasion. Here the old and the new ways blended, the true meaning of being an Italian-American.
The book, which has now sold more than 500 copies, is Dimberio’s way of leaving this incredible family legacy for the future generations. A special inscription in the first 10 copies of the book reminds his family how important it is to know where they come from and the reason they are where they are now: the courage, selflessness, and faith in God’s plan for their lives is the legacy these three young sisters left behind.
The book can be found on Amazon at www.amazon.com/Sisters-Campobasso-Don-Dimberio.
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