ECHO Molise
  Emigration and Cultural Heritage of the Molise
Echo: from Greenville, SC
We are pleased to present an article by Jenny "Susie" Colombo Wherry on her search for her Molise roots, inspired by Martha Cummings's book The Wisdom of Angels.  Included are some old photographs from the "Tradizioni" showcase, provided by Pino Perrotta.  Thanks to both of you!

Post note:  Ms. Wherry reports that Martha Cummings contacted her to offer congatulations on her work and her commitment to her Italian roots.  Brava, Susie!!

I return to Italy to connect with a past that helped shape me…but that runs the risk of being forgotten…unless I keep it alive.

  Martha T. Cummings,    The Wisdom of Angels

By Jennie Colombo WheTypical Costume of Bonefrorry


Like Martha Cummings I returned to Italy to connect with the past that shaped me.  It was a promise that I made to myself several years ago when I started researching my family tree, looking for my radici, my roots.


Growing up in the American South I rarely felt the pull toward my Italian roots.  That is until the family packed up every two years and headed to New England, home of the Colombo-Fondetti clan to spend two weeks in the summer.  There we were accosted by the large extended family and foods that were not found in the local Piggly-Wiggly.  I remember listening to my father and his sisters talk about their childhood.  About their father who was a barber and restaurant owner. About not speaking English at their grandparents’ house because their nonna spoke not a word.


I remember hearing stories from Grammie about coming to America when she was little and having to work in the textile mills of Providence.  She was married to a man who was older that her but from the same village so that was alright.  She was proud to say she came from Bonefro, near Campobasso in the region of Abruzzi (now Molise).  When I began tracing my family’s past I began with the Fondetti side as those relatives were still living.  My nonno Colombo died in 1934 so I never knew him or his two siblings who immigrated. 


In October 2008 I made good my promise to visit Bonefro.  I had been to Italy twice before but never ventured far from the main cities.  This time my husband and I were going to spend three weeks in Abruzzo, Molise and Sicily.  Knowing that Bonefro was very small we decided to allocate only a weekend for the side trip.  With ECHO Molise’s help we arranged lodging at the PUB 17 and a local contact.  We walked around the town, were introduced to people to whom I might be related (alas, no sopranome) and ate wonderful food. It was magical.


Well, one weekend was not enough and back we came in May.  This time Donna Magnani came down and we spent a week helping her settle into her house.  The rest of the time we toured other villages, looked at houses for us to buy and immersed ourselves in the Bonefro lifestyle.  With the help of Nicola Colombo we tracked down the names of relatives who stayed behind.  Now, more work needs to be done to locate those branches.  More pieces of the puzzle of who I am.

 Vecchio di Bonefro

I will always remember walking down a street in Bonefro and having an ancient man look at me and say “Bonefrana?”, “No”, I reply, “Sono Americana ma mio nonno e mia nonna sono nati a Bonefro.”  “Cognome?” he asks.  “Mio nonno, cognome Colombo e mia nonna, cognome Fantetti,” I reply. “Ah”, he says, “Bonefrana”.  “Si”, I reply, “sono Bonefrana”.


alla storia

alle radici

alla famiglia                 



to history

to roots

to family 


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