Fortunata "Fannie" Piro was born 7 July 1900 in Capriglia, Pellezzano, Italy. She immigrated to the US when she was just 4 years old with her parents and older sister. She lost her father when she was 7, and grew up with her mother, stepfather, and step-siblings in Italian Harlem before moving to Jersey City. Fannie marched for women's suffrage - long before she became a US citizen. She married Raffaele Morelli in 1917.
Their only child, Grace, was my grandmother. Fannie was widowed at 40, and worked full-time well into her 70s (at both S. Klein on the Square in Newark and Press in Jersey City). She naturalized as a US citizen amidst World War II, in 1943.
She was one strong, opinionated, and independent lady, and I wish I remembered her better. She died when I was seven - the only one of my immigrant ancestors I was lucky enough to meet. I was told she often would take out her false teeth to frighten me... I can definitely believe this would have startled me! I remember her always with her cane, but in my young mind, it was less to hold her up and more to complete her ensemble as the quintessential great-grandma. As such, I chose a photo of her as how I remember her - taken about nine months before she died. Dad remembers that she had brandy every day - perhaps this contributed to her longevity!