Yes, God Does Bring Angels, Aunt Columbia!

Last week, I received a comment on this site, from a reader named Rich, who mentioned that he had a photo that I might like to add to this site. I sent him an email, saying that I would be more than happy to post an East Harlem photo. All the while, I assumed that it was a “vintage” photo. Not so! The next day, Rich sent me this photo, to my utter astonishment, and amazement! But wait! I am putting the cart before the horse. (smile) Here’s the email message that Rich sent me: 

Hi Angela,

   I just wanted to say that I enjoyed your site very much.  I grew up in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, another great Italian neighborhood that sadly has lost much of its Italian population and traditions.  I was always fascinated by the Italian American neighborhood of East Harlem, so driving through Pleasant Avenue on a warm Halloween night in 2007, I snapped two photos of some seniors sitting on chairs in front of their building at 310 Pleasant Avenue, while waiting for a traffic light to change.
(Rich continues to say…)
   As I thought about that photo over the years, I think about the end of summer and with winter quickly approaching…. the cold weather.  I think about these seniors and how they are enjoying talking “stoop gossip”. This might be the last time that weather permits them to sit outside like that.  Due to their age that might be the last time that they are all together sitting outside like that.  One never knows.
   I hope you enjoy it and hopefully someone recognizes the people in the photo.  If, by any chance that someone recognizes them, can you please drop me a quick email.  I would really appreciate it.
All the best,
Rich Conte
Ok, back to my story. As I was reading Rich’s email message, my heart started to beat a bit faster. The intuitive thought came into my head that the attached photo has my Great Aunt Columbia Pennino-Altieri in it! The words “seniors sitting on chairs” and “Pleasant Avenue” were key in my belief that this was indeed a photo of Columbia, with friends. Quickly, I scrolled down to view and download the photo, and THERE SHE WAS! In the flesh- but wind back 10 and a half years! I was speechless! But, very happy to have this awesome photo!
Columbia was born in East Harlem, on “ahun 17,” in December of 1921. In 1942, she married my dad’s uncle, Anthony Altieri. They were married in Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, on “ahun 15th.” She passed away two years after this photo was taken. Rich, you were right. It was almost the last Halloween that Columbia had on this earth. She passed in early September of 2009. She was the last of my family that still lived in the old neighborhood. She was a “die hard” East Harlemite. She absolutely refused to move out of the place where she was born! She once said that she was born there… and she would die there! She was one tough cookie! Oh, I miss her very much.  Thank you so much, Rich! You made my day, and I know that Aunt Columbia is smiling down on us, saying…”God Brings Angels!”
NOTE: Columbia is the woman sitting on the right of this photo, next to her friend, J.R.
AIEH

Rich 310 Pleasant Avenuephilly's class-OLMC-columbia-2008 186 (1)This photo of Aunt Columbia and me, was taken in July of 2008, inside Patsy’s Pizzeria on First Avenue, in East Harlem. 🙂

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