Descendants of an Italian immigrant sailed on New York Harbor Saturday to pay homage to Angela Marchisella Maiello, the family matriarch whose 1913 trans-Atlantic voyage from Italy made their American dreams possible.
Maiello's children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, along with great-nieces and -nephews from Long Island, Philadelphia, Richmond, Va., Miami and Denver, took her son Vincent Maiello's sailboat to gaze at the Statue of Liberty and salute her "perfect immigrant story," said her granddaughter Lisa Valentine, 48, of Huntington.
Her daughter Amy Maiello Hagedorn, 76, of Port Washington, proudly tells the story of Angela Maiello, age 15 months, arriving in America in her mother's arms. The family traveled steerage on the Verona, crossing the Atlantic in a two-week voyage.
From the small village of Accettura, where people were poor and made a living timbering, the Maiello family's immigrant story began in a Lower East Side tenement where Angela's father was the building superintendent.
With enough money in pocket, the family of 14 children moved to Astoria, Queens, where her father opened a store and sold sandwiches and sausages to Astoria Park visitors. The family lived in rooms behind the store and grew tomatoes in the backyard.
Angela Maiello stopped going to school in the eighth grade and started working as a seamstress in a Long Island City factory. "She gave all her wages to her father. The family was very poor," Maiello Hagedorn said. "She made dresses for her younger siblings from flour sacks and scraps."
Angela met her husband in an upholstery factory. Later he opened his own shop in Brooklyn.
"My grandmother had a great American life," Valentine said. She "owned a home, traveled the world, and put her children through college."
Valentine, a digital marketing consultant, said her grandmother's "hard work and resourceful thriftiness" aided the family's success. "She had a . . . basic wisdom that has helped me through my setbacks," she said before joining the family to sail from Liberty Landing in Jersey City.
She said Angela's "survival mentality" included daily refrains such as, "You don't get what you don't ask for, don't be afraid to take initiative, and the best things in life are free."
She added, "I remember one of her stories. A typical family outing was going to LaGuardia Airport when it was grassy and the family could lay on their backs and watch the planes come in and take off. That was a family outing and it was free."
Angela Maiello became a naturalized citizen in 1939. She died in 1995 at age 83.
"My mother was a peasant person who never felt entitled," said her daughter, a longtime philanthropist. "She was grateful for the opportunity New York presented. We need to remember her and for my grandchildren to learn more about our nation's immigration process so that we can still be welcoming."