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.

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. 🙂

12 Comments on “Yes, God Does Bring Angels, Aunt Columbia!”

  1. Richard Conte says:

    Loved the article Angela…… glad you enjoyed the photos….. God Bless Aunt Columbia!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Linda Sisca says:

    I love the stories and seeing the pics


  3. Joanne Milazzo says:

    What a fortunate event! I love that photo of Aunt Columbia and friends. I lived on East Ahun Nine, 306. My grandmother, Giovanna Milazzo lived next door at 304. It was a very rich childhood, on that block with all my friends, Anne Santorelli, Judy Mortillo, Ann Malone, Francine Desiderio and Anne Romano. Thanks for this wonderful piece.


  4. Joe Bove says:

    What a great impulse, with a good deal of intuitive sensitivity to the scene I might add. And the cherry on top of this beautiful confection is Angela’s Aunt Columbia. What are the chances of that happening? At least “ahun to one.” Good work, Rich! Good work, Angela!


  5. Edward Fiorella says:

    Absolutely beautiful Many memories I attended St. Anns on ahun 10th and Benjamin Franklin on Pleasant Ave



    • Arnold Maggi says:

      The building they are sitting in front of is 308, the building to the left use to be a Bar and the building to the right is 310 where I was born and lived in until 1961. My father and Grandfather were Sculptures and made most of the Statues of the Saints they carried during the Feasts. Great place to live,
      Arnold Maggi


  6. Michael Galante says:

    Thats my Aunt Columbia! Her sister (Helen Peninno) is my mother. My mom is 88 and she is one of two remaining Pennno sisters. My parents where married at Our Lady of Mt Carmel.. I remember my Uncle Anthony (everyone called him Titi (sp?)) fondly, always trying to make everyone laugh.My parents moved to Brooklyn in early ’60’s but I was in her apartment many many times and also my grandmothers over at on 117th. Wow thanks for posting this!!


    • Angela Bella says:

      Hi Michael! Sorry for the very late response to your message. This is awesome! Titi was my dad’s uncle. Titi’s sister Katie, was my dad’s mom. It’s a small world! I loved Columbia! I used to go to East Harlem to visit with her. I miss her very much. She was a great lady! She shared her old stories of the neighborhood with me. She talked about her childhood and her family. I plan of writing another post about her, and sharing some of the photos she shared with me. Stay tuned!
      Best regards, and say hi to your mom for me! Tell her that Albert Puco’s daughter Angela said hello! She probably remembers my grandmother Katie. Katie was a seamstress, and her husband-my grandfather Tony, sold produce in East Harlem.


  7. Elena Galante-ODonnell says:

    Hi. Love the photos. Great picture of you and your great aunt. Columbia was my aunt, my mother’s sister, and a great lady.


    • Angela Bella says:

      Oh wow! Is your mom’s name Helen? I met Columbia’s younger sister, Mary, but I never met any of her other siblings. Her husband, Titi, was my dad’s uncle. My dad’s mom, Katie’s brother, was Titi Altieri. 🙂


  8. Theresa Ann Passarelli says:

    How absolutely beautiful! God bless!


  9. Anna Rose Geary says:

    Hello Angela!
    It would be a great service to historians if you could take many of these stories and photos and put them into a book. You could work with an editor and publish in a series
    “Buona fortuna!”


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