Termini Imerese Stories

The Mafia in my Life

Submitted by Father Anthony Delisi

(The following is based on conversations with uncle, Joseph L. Delisi, who was born near Termini 100 year ago and died in 1991. He came to this country at the age of 11. )

In the early years produce had to be brought by horse & wagon from Pittsburgh to the wholesale fruit & vegetable business at Saltsburg, PA. This involved a day on the road. With the introduction of the truck, things speeded up and deliveries were made to the General stores of the coal mining towns. Business was good. Then came the threats from the Black Hand (Mafia) asking for hands out for protection. Seemingly the leaders of the Mafia were also from Termini. At one time my grandfather asked my uncle if they should hire someone to get rid of the Mafia leaders. My Uncle thought and said it was better to abide by the law. Instead, he decided to join the Masonic Lodge. He informed the leaders of the Black Hand that if anything happened, their names were in the hands of the Masons. In those days in the thirties all the leaders of the American society were masons. This seemed to work for a while. My father refused to join the masons. It is probably due to his example that I am where I am today. My aunts also remained loyal to their Catholic tradition, while my uncles left the church and to join the masons. This caused a split in the families.

In Sept. 1937 my Grandfather was in Pittsburgh with my first cousin who was perhaps about 15 years old. A car came along and my Grandfather and cousin were forced into it and off they went. They were kidnapped by the Mafia. In the car my grandfather had a stroke and thus was dropped off. A few days later he passed away in the hospital. I wrote of my Grandfather's death in the booklet, Praying in the Cellar. To order copies go on-line at www.abbeystore.org and go to the section on Books by the Monks.

In the late thirties we children were told to stop calling our aunts Zia Papina, Zia Rosa, or Zia Cona. My uncle warned us that we were now Americans and that we should stop speaking Italian. Now it was Aunt Josephine, Aunt Rose, or Aunt Cora.

Threat calls continued to arrive by phone from the mafia. As a child of about 10 I was told to stay away from all strangers for fear of being kidnapped. My two older brothers went to bed at night with a gun in the drawer of the night stand between their beds for fear of the mafia. I wrote of this in the booklet, Praying in the Dark Cellar. Pages 22-23.

This is about all I can say for the present about the mafia and its influence in my life.

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