Sperryville column for May 10

The long road to Rome

In the spring of 1916, right around Mother’s Day, 39-year-old Caterina Procopio Voci left her home in Staletti, Italy, and started down a dusty mountain road toward the unknown with her five children, traversing one hairpin turn after another for five miles.

Did she and the children carry everything they could on their backs? Did she have a burro that she sold at the bottom of the mountain? That part of the history we will never know. What we do know is that Caterina’s husband, Rocco Voci, had gone ahead to America and had sent the money to his wife to begin the trip to join him. This brave woman somehow got her children onto a boat in the village at the bottom of the mountain, sailed to Naples, where she and her brood boarded the ship the San Gugliemo, traveled in steerage and arrived at Ellis Island on July 3, 1916.

My grandmother, Maria Teresa, remembered waking up the next day to the Fourth of July celebrations in the New York harbor. A few days later they began their new lives in Rome, N.Y.

Staletti is an old Roman village that was impoverished, as was most of southern Italy, at that time. It is perched high on the mountain overlooking the Ionian Sea, where the villagers could see the invaders who came to plunder southern Italy for centuries. Depleted of wood, with barren land, drought and disease, its bright and brave people, like my great grandmother, left their homes and sought a better life for their families in the United States.

With gratitude and appreciation, we salute today all the mothers who do the best they can to raise their children and launch them into this world. Happy Mother’s Day.

(FYI: Today, Staletti is a charming village in Calabria largely supported by tourism; it’s still quite poor, but most of the homes now have heat, electricity and running water.)

Soap Box Derby’s yard/plant sale

Rappahannock second-grader and first-time driver Jaden Torosian checks the sight lines on his Soap Box Derby car.
Courtesy photo
Rappahannock second-grader and first-time driver Jaden Torosian checks the sight lines on his Soap Box Derby car.

Activities abound in the Sperryville community on Saturday, May 19, but the first item on any agenda must be a visit to the lawn at the Sperryville Schoolhouse, where the drivers representing Rappahannock County in the annual Soap Box Derby will be holding their annual spring yard sale.

The fundraising sale starts at 7:30 a.m.

There is a large selection of collectibles and sought-after items, and “donations exceeded expectations,” according to organizer Thom Pellikaan. Added this year is an assortment of donated spring plants and herbs. Assembled derby cars and drivers will welcome shoppers until about 1 p.m.

Eight-year-old Jaden Torosian, a second-grader at Rappahannock County Elementary School, decided to accept the challenge of competing in the local derby in hopes of representing Rappahannock and the Piedmont area in the All American Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio. Jared will be joined by a record number of Rappahannock County-sponsored cars, including those representing the volunteer fire departments of Sperryville, Castleton, Flint Hill and Amissville; Boy Scout Troop 123; Cub Scout Troop 36, and the Sheriff’s Office. The local race is June 23 on the new track in Culpeper County, the largest dedicated Derby facility on the East Coast. A Family Fun Day is planned for May 26, when the registered drivers have a fun-filled day of competitive racing.

Those wishing to support the derby drivers can provide additional items for the yard sale (no clothing) by contacting Thom Pellikaan at 540 987-8447.

Wellness Center presents empowering free movie

At 7 p.m. this Friday (May 11), come to Hearthstone School’s community room to see a movie selected by Kathy Edwards: “Thrive” is an unconventional documentary that lifts the veil on what’s going on in our world by following the path of money upstream and uncovering the global consolidation of power in nearly every aspect of our lives. Weaving together breakthroughs in science, consciousness and activism, “Thrive” (thrivemovement.com) offers real solutions, “to empower people with unprecedented and bold strategies to reclaim their lives and future.” Kathy wanted to share this movie with us because “it is time to move forward with a new way to honor and respect the earth and humanity.”

Foster and Kimberly Gamble (as in Proctor & Gamble) used their money to make the documentary about new energy technology and why it is not being used in our country. The movie investigates major sectors of human activity (arts, economics, education, environment, health, infrastructure, oil industry and the media) to discover who is in control and benefiting financially. For additional information contact Kathy Edwards at 540 987-9272 or kjedwards7@earthlink.net

Russell yard sale

This Friday and Saturday (May 11-12), Mike Russell and MFA Kera will be having a yard sale at James Russell’s home at 892 Woodward Road. Mr. Russell, friend to all, raconteur and late-life author, died last year before his 90th birthday on April 25. Now, as we remember what would have been Mr. Russell’s 91st birthday, Mike and Kera have returned from Germany and invite you to stop by the yard sale and help them clear out dad’s home for its new owners. Mike and Kera are working with community members to finalize donations of Mr. Russell’s African-American heritage collection to museums.

Spring photography show

Cameron Harrington has joined the Old Rag Photography, the cooperative gallery on Main Street. A professional photographer and full-time autism specialist, Cameron notes that her “body of work includes both color and black and white, although black and white is my photographic specialty. I photograph landscapes, flora, etc., but I also do portraiture professionally.” New work by Cameron, Francie Schroeder, Joyce Harman and Ray Boc will be featured at the gallery’s spring show, which opens with a reception from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 20.

Francie Schroeder photographs old buildings from various places. The textures, tones and forms are what attracts her and she notes that “ they can be both realistic and abstract at the same time.” Ray Boc has been experimenting with infrared photography and has produced several landscapes processed to surreal and dramatic black and white images, all of Rappahannock locations.

Dig this

While some of us set about putting a few tomatoes and zucchini in our gardens, look what went on at Sperryville’s Waterpenny Farm last week: They put more than 5,000 plants into the ground – 2,400 pepper, 1,200 lettuce, 400 cucumber, 400 eggplant, 500 flowers, 200 basil, 150 chard and 100 dill!