Antonio Dipaola

 

Written by Eugene Maio. One in a collection by Allen Bachoroski, Local Historical Writer and author of “Tales Along the Highway of Legends”

 

The dream of America as the land of opportunity led Antonio DiPaola and Rosina Dolce to leave the island garden of Sicily and emigrate to the coal fields of Las Animas County. These immigrants were willing to risk finding success and happiness in America even if it meant beginning their quest in the most difficult type of manual labor — working in the coal mines — and living in the least attractive environment in Colorado, the sprawling coal towns owned by the Colorado Fuel and Iron Corporation north of Trinidad at Ludlow. Their quest was successful as the unfolding events in their history will reveal.

Both Antonio DiPaola and Rosina Dolce were born in Collesano, Sicily, an attractive small town nestled at the foot of a mountain range about an hour’s drive from the capital of Sicily, Palermo. Antonio was born on August 24, 1876 and Rosina on May 9, 1885. There is no evidence to indicate that Antonio and Rosina knew each other in Collesano, although in a town of not more than a few thousand people most families surely knew each other as they mingled in the large central Diazza and attended services in the same Roman Catholic church.

Rosina left Siclly with her family in 1893. The Dolces settled in the mining town of Hastings, Colorado probably because they knew of relatives and friends from Sicily who had already located there. Antonio arrived in Hastlngs a year later in 1894 and went to work in the coal mines. It is difficult to understand why the DiPaola and Dolce families would leave the somewhat idyllic landscapes of Collesano with their vineyards, citrus groves and flower gardens for the grimy, back-breaking work in a totally foreign environment. One can only surmise that the quest for a better life drove them to endure the initial hardships.

The circumstances of their marriage reveal a determination and an independence that would guarantee their future success. When Antonio first asked Rosina’s parents for permission to marry their daughter, they refused because they felt Rosina, then fourteen, was too young. Antonio was told to wait a year. A year passed, and the Dolces still refused to allow Rosina to marry Antonio. The couple then made the first in a series of critical decisions: they decided to elope and get married in nearby Pueblo in 1900. The newly-weds returned to Hastings and Antonio continued to work in the mines.

In 1904 Antonio’s father-in-law Bartolomeo Dolce opened up a tavern in Trinidad and invited his son-in-law Antonio to work with him. Antonio agreed for he and Rosina saw this move as a way to extricate themselves from the drudgery of life in the coal towns. In the meantime the DiPaola’s first child, Concetta (Jennie), was born in Hastings in 1902. A second daughter, Josephine, who was born in Trinidad in 1904. Antonio worked for seven years in the tavern until he and Rosina made another crucial decision. Antonio was invited by relatives to go to California to work in the fruit groves because of his experience earlier in Sicily as a tree grafter. Rosina was reluctant to leave Colorado and suggested that instead of moving to California they ought to go into the grocery business. Antonio agreed and in 1911 Antonio and Rosina opened the DiPaola Grocery on Godding Avenue in Trinidad. While Rosina managed the store, making her quite possibly the first business woman in Trinidad, Antonio loaded up his horse-drawn buggy and delivered groceries from the store to the families living in the coal mining towns.

The DiPaola family continued to grow with the births of Stefano. Rosaria (Sara), Salvatore (Sam), Rosario (Roy), Maria and Rosa Maria The grocery business was very successful,judging by two examples. The DiPaolas were the first family in Trinldad to own a washing machine and to own a touring car. Rosina’s success as a business woman is all the more remarkable since she did not go beyond the third grade in school, initially could not read or write English, and had to manage her business by speaking in three languages: English, Italian and Spanish.

Antonio died at the early age of 51 in 1927. Rosina continued to manage the grocery store while raising her seven children. Rosina retired in 1942 after having found the success and happiness in search of which she left Sicily. She died in Trinidad in 1983.

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