Saturday, January 18, 2014

Jimmy Rizzardi: The Illegitimate Grandfather - Pt. 3

Continued from part 2...

The rest of the Rizzardi story: a brief timeline 1922 - 2001

In 1922 Louise Rizzardi was living in Louisville. She sold soft drinks for a few years at 1600 W. Broadway and her boys clerked for her at times. Her husband was still residing in LaFollette.

1600 W. Broadway (May 2011)
In 1926, at the height of the roaring 20s, the LaFollette Coal, Iron and Rail Co. failed and operations ceased. James Rizzardi changed his profession from coal miner to furniture store merchant.

In 1927 Jimmy married his second wife, Mildred Roberta Longmire, daughter of George Emerson and Ida May Smith Longmire.

By 1930 Louise and James were divorced. Louise, still in Louisville, took in boarders at 534 Jefferson St. under her maiden name Hallet. At the same time, her son Jimmy, now a salesman for a sporting goods company, and his wife Roberta were living next door.  A year later Jimmy was listed in the city directory as a salesman for George Rizzardi Realty at 530 W. Jefferson, which was also his residence. It appears he was no longer living with his wife.

Louise remarried sometime after 1930. Her second husband's name was J. O. Adams.

In 1931 Jimmy married Maybird Elwina Hoover in Bradley Co., Tennessee. Maybird was the daughter of  John Wesley and Henrietta E. Settlemyre Hoover. It was the first of his three marriages to Maybird.

On August 30, 1931 Jimmy's father died at the Fort Sanders Hospital in Knoxville, Tennessee. James "Giacomo" Rizzardi's body was interred the same day as his death at the St. Boniface Catholic Cemetery in Williamsburg, Whitley Co., Kentucky, just a stone's throw over the state line from Jellico, Tennessee.

In 1934 Jimmy married Maybird a second time, this time in Jeffersonville, Clark Co., Indiana.

Sometime between 1935 and 1936 Florence took her 13 year old daughter, Florence Edna, to the Court House Grill & Bar in Louisville where together they confronted Jimmy, who was then the proprietor of that bar. I don't know the details concerning the confrontation, but Jimmy likely denied paternity.

In October 1936 Jimmy again married Maybird in Clark Co., Indiana, the third and final time.

In the 1937 Louisville city directory, Roberta is listed as Jimmy's wife. Their residence was 2621 Whittier Ave.  Did Jimmy marry Roberta again after his third marriage to Maybird just a few months earlier? Was he married to two women at the same time, one in Indiana, the other in Kentucky? Or was the directory using years old information? Nothing would surprise me.

Louisville during the great flood of 1937
In the early part of 1937, due to weeks and weeks of persistent rain, the Ohio river flooded it's banks in a big way. By March, seventy percent of Louisville was under water and 175,000 residents had to be evacuated. Many rescues were made by small boat. Jimmy was the proprietor of the Court House Grill and Bar in Louisville and his brother Louis owned a restaurant there. Louis and his family were among those who had to be rescued from the flood.

In December of 1937 Jimmy married Emma Belle O'Hara, daughter of Milton Cartwright "Mack" and Aurora Belle Howe O'Hara. Though records would indicate that Jimmy and Emma divorced before 1942, Emma's last name would remain Rizzardi until she died 40 years later. 

Louise Hallet Rizzardi-Adams died at St. Mary & Elizabeth Hospital in March of 1938 after losing a week long battle with influenza. Jimmy was the informant listed on his mother's death certificate. Louise's body was interred at Calvary Cemetery in Louisville.

In the 1940 census Jimmy was listed as married and living in Bristol City, Washington Co., Virginia. No wife was listed with him but he had a male boarder and was the proprietor of a beauty shop and owned his own residence. The same year his only known legitimate daughter Marguerite, married Angelo Paul Triasco in Summit Co., Ohio. She was previously married to a man who's surname was Dally. Her mother, Lois Seivers Rizzardi, married a Yugoslavian widower named George Simon and was also living in Summit Co., Ohio.

In 1942 Louis Rizzardi, Jr. and his uncle Jimmy, now divorced and claiming no dependants, enlisted in the United States Army in Oglethorp Georgia. Their residences were listed as Nashville, Davidson Co., Tennessee. Jimmy stated he had a 1 year high school education, and his occupation was Hotel & Restaurant Manager. He was 5'8" and weighed 196 lbs.

Jimmy resided in Nashville until he died in March of 1974. His wife at the time of his death was Nancy Elizabeth Cobb Rizzardi. Jimmy's body was interred at Calvary Cemetery in Louisville. His brother Louis Sr. died in August the same year and his nephew Louis Jr. died the following year in June.

Jimmy and Lois's daughter, Marguerite, was last married to a man who's surname was Lane. Marguerite died in California in 1986. She had at least one child, a daughter.

Jimmy and Florence's daughter, Florence Edna, mother of my husband and his four siblings, died in 2001 without ever knowing her real paternal grandparents, James and Louisa, and of course she never knew she had an older half-sister, Marguerite. I certainly hope Florence Edna is not squirming in her grave over this public disclosure of the circumstances of her birth. In my opinion, and probably in the opinion of all who knew her mother, it was Jimmy Rizzardi who was the illegitimate one, not his daughter!

I am not able to include but a small percentage of information from the timeline I created because of the sheer length of it. The full timeline includes details of Jimmy's siblings and their families and his ex-wives and their families. I will be more than happy to supply more information and the sources for that information upon request.

As always, I am grateful for any additional facts or corrections that need to be made.


Jimmy Rizzardi: The Illegitimate Grandfather - Pt. 2

Continued from part 1...

Florence Polly Melvin decided to accompany her older sisters to the bar in Louisville that evening. She was different from her sisters; I think she probably always was...she had an innocence about her. Due to hardship, and a mostly absent and alcoholic father, Florence and her siblings had spent much of their childhood within the walls of the Louisville Industrial School, a house for orphans and delinquent children. Florence and her youngest sister had finally been released to family in 1919 while the older siblings had been released to live with their mother and seek employment seven years earlier. 

Jimmy Rizzardi was at the bar that night and I don't know any of the details, or even if Florence had ever seen Jimmy prior to that evening, but I can imagine that 22 year old Jimmy was probably a handsome lad and very adept at courting the ladies. He would marry at least five different women during his lifetime and one of those women he would legally marry three times!  Did he love women? Probably!

The way Florence told it: "Jimmy put something in my drink". But we all look at each other and nod our heads knowingly. Florence was never a drinker and she was just naive enough to suspect her drink had been spiked. I'm pretty sure she knew she was being served an adult beverage, but I'm also fairly certain she had no idea how alcohol might affect her; therefore, she believed there had to have been some extra "something" slipped into her drink to cause her such a mortifying loss of judgment.

A romantic encounter ensued. The alcohol allowed Florence to be sweet-talked by the charming young Jimmy; she didn't stand a chance, I'm sure. A few short weeks later, there she was: young, unmarried, and slowly waking up to the fact that she was pregnant. 

Florence's father had passed away while she was in the orphanage, and her mother, Eddy, had recently married a Louisville city policeman, T. J. "Jess" Price. Florence's only brother Bud, the oldest of her siblings, wrote to her mother and had this to say:

"As for Florence, I don't care what you do. She can have a dozen for all I care, as I haven't time to worry about her, and I'm not a good hand to worry. If she would not take ones advice once, I can't see how you could beat it in her to do right afterwards. That's just the way I feel about it, so tell Jess what he does for her will be appreciated regardless of how I feel."

It is uncertain exactly when Jimmy's wife packed up and left, taking their daughter with her. Jimmy was probably still legally married to Lassie during his brief affair with Florence...and I suspect he had many of these brief affairs during and in between his many marriages.

In September of 1922 Florence gave birth to a daughter, Florence Edna Melvin, Jr., and on the birth certificate Jimmy Rizzardi is clearly listed as the father.

Harvey J. & Florence Polly (Melvin)
Moore and her daughter
Florence Edna
Kentucky circa 1923
Less than a month after her daughter was born, Florence's childhood sweetheart, Harvey Moore, asked her to marry him, allowing him to give the baby his name. Florence agreed and she and Harvey were married on October 10, 1922. The name Florence Edna Melvin Jr. was eventually crossed out on the birth certificate, and Florence Edna Moore was penned in.

Harvey Moore died a little over seven years later in January of 1930 and in March that year Florence's sister Ruth wrote to her:

"I told him that Harvey stopped court trial over that baby and claimed it and knew you had it and promised to give her his name and protect and care for her and begged you to marry him so F.E. [Florence Edna] can rightfully claim anything that was his." 

(Ruth was married to Harvey Moore's brother William and this excerpt from the letter concerned a dispute with their father, Cornelius C. Moore, over property rights.)

This is where things got skewed. Florence and Harvey had been sweethearts long before her encounter with Jimmy. Some speculated that the baby must be Harvey's after all.  It appears Florence didn't insist on the truth being known at that time so the rumors persisted and after a while I think even those who once thought they knew the truth, were now confused.

A little over a year after Harvey's death, Florence married Elza Scott, the man that all her grandchildren would know as their grandfather.

Concluded in part 3...


Friday, January 17, 2014

Jimmy Rizzardi: The Illegitimate Grandfather - Pt. 1

My attention was divided between the two adults in my kitchen and my children, a baby and a toddler, who were making just enough noise that I couldn't hear everything that was being said. I clearly remember the expression on her face though, just like it was yesterday. Florence wasn't even five feet tall but the spark in her eye was commanding. As she gazed up into the face of her grandson her expression left no doubt; what she was about to reveal was important and she wanted to make sure he was listening with both ears. Perhaps she feared it was too late to tell the truth and that we were going to think she was senile. But no, this woman was sharp as a tack up to the day she died, and we all knew it. 

Florence P. Melvin Scott
My husband respectfully leaned down closer to his grandmother and gave her his full attention. Like her grandson, Florence was soft spoken, so all I heard of the conversation was the name "Rizzardi" and "He put something in my drink" and "I told Jimmie (another grandson) too"...and finally: "I want all you kids to know the truth".

Well...we had all suspected the truth for years but it had been covered up more often than not, stubbornly painted over and brushed aside by those who knew. But the rumor had been around so long that we knew there was something to it. Now, in her late 70s, Florence was determined to put an end to the rumor and make sure that cat would never crawl back into the bag.

So now here it was 1980 and the rumor was finally fact. Out-of-wedlock births were no longer the big scandal they were thirty years ago; however, this event took place a full sixty years earlier so I can only imagine how difficult life must have been for my husband's grandmother, who was only a teenager at the time.

Florence died in 1989 and a few years later I started researching the genealogy of our families, but it was still several years after that before I even considered doing any research on my husband's illegitimate grandfather, Jimmy Rizzardi. The first search turned up just enough information to get me hooked on the hunt, and over the years I have put together quite a timeline on Jimmy's life and that of his parents, his siblings, his many wives, and his one known legitimate daughter. When merged with the timeline I created for Florence, and with two telling excerpts from family letters, there is no room left for doubt about her story; not like there ever was any doubt really, but just in case!

A brief history of the Rizzardi family 1866 through 1921

Jimmy's father was James Joseph Rizzardi, Jr. (some records, and his tombstone, list him as "Giacomo" - which is the Italian version of James). He was born in Italy on October 17, 1866. His death certificate gives his father's name as James J. Rizzardi and states that both his parents were born in Italy.

James married Marie Louise Hallet between 1886 and 1889. The Flemish speaking Louise was born in Liege, Belgium on St. Valentine's Day in 1870. According to passport applications, James immigrated to the U. S. from Havre, France around 1887, and Louise immigrated still later, between 1888 and 1890. The different sources of data are only slightly conflicting so these dates are approximate, but fairly close. I don't yet know if James and Louise were married over seas or in the U. S., but it is likely they were married both places. They would marry each other twice more before they finally divorced.

Between 1890 and 1895 Louise had given birth to two daughters, Angelina and Annie, and one son, Gustav or Gastin, all born in Pennsylvania.

James Rizzardi received his U. S. citizenship in Greensburg, Westmoreland Co., Pennsylvania on the 31st day of July 1897.

From information obtained from passport applications and other documents, it would appear that James and his pregnant wife left Pennsylvania early in January of 1900. On January 30, 1900, James and Louise's fourth child, James Joseph "Jimmy" Rizzardi III was born in Joliet, Will Co., Illinois and in April that same year, in the same county, James and Louise married again.

By early June of 1900, the Rizzardi family had landed in LaFollette, Campbell Co., Tennessee, an area that had been known as Big Gap Creek just a few years earlier. There, they lived in a rented house and James found employment as a coal miner with the newly established LaFollette Coal, Iron and Railway Co. It is very likely that James had been a coal miner during the years he lived in Pennsylvania. Many immigrants of all cultures would come to LaFollette for employment opportunities offered by the town's founders. In 1900, the town of LaFollette had a population of 300. By 1920 there had been a significant increase to a population of 3000.

In 1902, Louis, the fifth and last of James and Louise's children, was born. In late 1905 or early 1906, James made a trip back over seas and returned in late May 1906 on the ship "La Provence". In April of 1908, he and Louise were married once again in Campbell Co., Tennessee, and by 1910 James owned his own farm in La Follette. (All records appear to indicate that there were no divorces between marriages up to this point.)

In March 1913 Louise and son Jimmy sailed to Liege to visit her parents and returned about 4 months later aboard the ship "Kroonland".

In October of 1917, young Jimmy Rizzardi married his first wife, Lois Gladys "Lassie" Seivers, daughter of Samuel Smith and Mary Elizabeth Norman Seivers. In September of 1918 Jimmy filled out a WWI draft registration card. On it, his occupation was listed as receiving clerk for the American Express Co. In October that year Jimmy and Lassie's daughter, Marguerite Madalon Rizzardi was born. The young family lived with Jimmy's parents in LaFollette.

In May of 1921 Louise made arrangements for another visit to see her parents in Liege. She left in June from the port of New York on the Red Star Line, this time alone.

In late December of 1921, at a bar in Louisville, Jimmy Rizzardi seduced the impressionable and inexperienced 18 year old, Florence Melvin.