Termini Imerese Stories

The Life of Joseph L. Delisi

(Written January, 1975)

Submitted by Father Anthony Delisi

Link to Picture of 1913 Baptism in Blairsville, PA

(NOTE: In the group photo taken in Blairsvile PA in 1913, he is the third person from the right in the back row. He was 13 years old at that time. The others mentioned in this autobiography are also in this photo.)

I was born on a ranch near Cefalu, Sicily on the 14th day of February, 1900.
And grew up in Termini Imerese, Sicily till I was almost twelve years old. It was there that I attended school till I came to America .

In January, 1907 my father, Joseph F. Delisi went with his nephew Joseph P. Delisi to Pittsburgh. The two of them started a business in Saltsbugh, PA known as “The Joseph Delisi and Co. Wholesale and Retail, Fruit and Produce.”

While my father was in the United States, I associated a lot with one of my uncles, Vinzenzo LaMantia and worked with him at his fruit farm called “Benvuto”. At the age of ten or eleven I also did some work at two of our farms. This uncle was a very well known man and he often took me to some of the social affairs that he attended.

My mother was Josephine LaMantia Delisi. I had three sisters, Rosa, Ines, and Josephine. My oldest sister got very sick and my mother asked my father to return on account of Rosa’s condition. A month after his return, Rosa passed on to the life beyond.

Mother decided that we should all go to America with dad. On December 8, 1911, we sailed from Palermo for America. We arrived in New York City about December 19, 1911. Something was wrong with the passport of a young man that was traveling with us. His name was Vinsc Marfisi. His uncle lived in Dennison, Ohio, and he had to come to New York to vouch for him. Thus we were detained for five days on Ellis Island

We were released on December 24th and took a train that day from New York. We arrived in Saltsburg at 8:15 AM on Christmas morning, 1911. It was very cold and there was a lot of snow which I had never seen before..

About a month later I began school with the first grade. My teacher was Miss Maulde Ewing. The following fall of 1912 I began with the second grade and later that year was moved to the third grade.

During the summer of 1913 I began to work at the fruit store and began to deliver fruit with the wagon . This was the business owned and operated by my father and uncle, Joseph P. Delisi

I enjoyed my work very much and in the fall of 1913 I refused to return to school. This was a real bad mistake because I found out all though my business life that I could have used grammar in English to a great advantage.

At the age of a little less than 14 years of age I was a fairly good size and strong, so I continued to drive the wagon and make deliveries. At the age of fifteen I started to take over some responsibilities of the business and by the age of sixteen I took over most of the responsibilities of the operation. I was progressing so well and doing so good that I suggested that we buy a truck for making deliveries. Of course everyone thought that I was nuts, but in the end we did buy the truck with the understanding that they would not have to drive it, and that I would do all the driving. In 1917 we bought another truck and later a third. Finally we sold al the horses and wagons.

About 1915 (In fact it was 1912) my sister Ines married Joseph P. Delisi. In 1916 my sister Josephine married Joseph DeMaria of Wilkinsburg, PA. My mother died in 1917 (In fact it was Aug. 8, 1918) We invited DeMaria to come to Saltsburg to take part in the business. By making this move, my sister Josephine could keep house for all of us. The partnership was formed of the four Joe’s, my father, Joseph F. Delisi, my uncle, Joseph P. Delisi, Joseph DeMaria, and myself, Joseph L. Delisi. The company was know as Joseph Delisi and Co. This was our only business until early 1920.

We were doing well in the business and I saved enough money so that in 1919 I decided to buy an automobile. I bought a new Buick

During my life I have driven Buicks, Dodges, Fords, Chryslers, Chevrolets, and last of all Cadillacs.

In 1920 I became aware of the fact that it was too much for my sister Josephine to keep house for all of us, and I decided to get married and thus on March 30, 1921, I married Cora Marfisi of Termini Imerese, Sicily.

On July 10, 1922 Cora gave birth to our son, Joseph Anthony.

During the winter of 1922 I purchased the Onstatt property for a house to live in, but before we moved in I decided to tear down the old house and build a theater there. I knew nothing about the theater business, but I was so ambitious that I was willing to learn and take the gamble.

The old house was torn down and a theater building was built there during 1923. The theater was opened on Feb. 7, 1924. Sometime during that year we bought out the theater in Avonmore and soon after a new theater was built there. (Note: My father, Joseph P. Delisi was then living with his family in Avonmore, PA.) In 1929 we built the theater in Nanty-Glo, PA, and opened it up in Sept. 1929. Soon after that we bought out the opposition in Nanty-Glo.

Our daughter Josephine was born on Feb. 22, 1924 and our daughter Rose was born on October 12, 1927.

I was in the theater business until the fall of 1946 when I leased the Nanty-Glo theater to the Blatt Brothers for 10 years. I took the theaters back in 1956 and from then until when we sold everything. Actually my son Joseph took charge of them, since I had retired in the fall of 1946. I then started to go to Florida for the winter months.

When I was 33 years old (1933) I was elected the first president of the State Bank of Nanty-Glo, PA. Since I was then living in Saltsburg, I could not do all I wanted to do for the bank. About 1938 I resigned as president, but continued as a member of the Board of Directors until the nineteen fifties.

Also in 1933 I was made a member of the Masonic Lodge No. 431 at Saltsburg, also a 42nd degree mason at the Syrian Temple in Pittsburgh. In 1936 I was elected an officer of the Saltsburg lodge and the following year as Master of the lodge.

(Note: At a date later than this writing, Uncle Joe shared with me that he joined the masons in order to protect the family from the threats of the Mafia. Most of the officials of the town of Saltsburg were Masons. Fr. Anthony Delisi)

As I stated before, we started to come to Florida in 1946 and we liked the Florida winter weather so well that in 1951 we built a small winter home in Orlando. In l957 we decided to sell our homes in Orlando and Ebensburg, Pa and build the large and beautiful home in Winter Park so that our children and grand children could come to Florida and comfortably stay with us. We have always been very proud of our children and their families (16 grandchildren) and at this writing in January 1975 we are really proud to have 2 great grandsons, number one is Brian, son of our granddaughter Judy. She is the daughter of our son Joseph. Number 2 is Casey, son of our granddaughter Corinne, daughter of our daughter Josephine. Judy and Corinne are the only married grandchildren now.

On June 14, 1975 is the wedding date for our first grandson to get married. He is Raymond J. Williams, 23 year old son of our daughter Rose.

(Note: Joseph L. Delisi died on Sept. 24, 1991. He is buried with his wife in Saltsburg, PA.)

Note that I have made only a few minor corrections in the autobiography.

The following letter was attached to this autobiography:

Dear Father Anthony: 2/14/75

Enclosed you’ll find some additions, and I want to remind you that it all requires a lot of polishing.

I don’t have any copies of the whole thing, so when you get some printed I will appreciate it if you send me a set.

The date of the photo of the fruit store is 1909-1910, or earlier than 1911.

All is fairly well for us and I hope that all is real well for you.

Love, Uncle Joe and Aunt Cora

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