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My Godfather Connection

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[Yearbook] Noel Castiglia

 
 

By Noel Castiglia… Noel has graciously agreed to share this amazing bit of family background with his high school classmates…! Here is what I learned from Noel “recently” about his amazing ancestry:

Frank CostelloFrank Costello [was] known as the Prime Minister of the Underworld. He was my grandfather’s first cousin… My great aunt Concetta [is] shown in one of the pictures [at the website mentioned below] babysitting him in Italy.

Frank Costello Castiglia took over when Lucky Luciano was sent to Sing Sing in 1936. He and Meyer Lansky managed the NYC crime families while Lucky was in prison and arranged for Lucky to return to Italy in return for the Mafia’s protection of the NYC docks during WWII. They were boyhood friends. He survived as boss of bosses until 1952 and died peacefully 20 years later on Long Island.

Frank Costello was a gangster. One of the reasons my Grandfather Domenico left NYC for Westport was because of the criminal influence in NYC. He was always a law-abiding person. He just wanted to raise a family here in America in freedom.

Frank Costello was the focus of the Crime Commission investigations in the early 1950’s. The Senate prosecuting attorney, Rudolph Halley, once played golf at Longshore with Sid Caesar and I caddied for them in the foursome.

When Frank Costello died my Aunt Concetta begged me to take her to the funeral. However, because of my Security clearances and the impression that my attendance might give to FBI surveillance, I refused. Instead I promised her I would one day go and represent her at the gravesite. I did that this year [2012] in NYC at St. Michael’s cemetery.

Below is a web site I put together as a link to the town in Italy my family came from. The local residents see him [Frank Costello] as a Robin Hood. He built a school and gave out lots of money [locally] in the 1920’s and 30’s for education and living assistance. If you check out the web site below you will see links to the Italian effort to rehabilitate Costello’s image. Also to the mausoleum that was once blown up shortly after he died [but] is now repaired.

http://costellostories.ning.com/

Frank Costello roomed at the 1932 Democratic Convention with the Tammany Hall member who nominated Roosevelt while [fixing up] Lucky Luciano to go to the Republican Convention for Al Smith that year.

Frank ran Navy, Army and Intelligence squads. He made judges. He made Mayor O’Dwyer. He ran the Copacabana where many Socialites hung out. He made a number of long-serving NY Supreme Court Judges who got their boost via Tammany Hall and political contributions.

Today our government is in the same businesses of gambling, lottery, slots, money lending and alcohol distribution—the major reason Frank and Lucky were put in jail for tax evasion… (“Oh! Just bad timing on Frank’s part, right? Because more are skimming off legal businesses now than the bad guys did in the bad old days…!”)

Other gangsters like Dutch Schultz and Meyer Lansky also visited Westport but did not stay at 50 Lyons Plains Road… Lucky stayed in Weston at another home when he visited Westport.

It was another time…

—Noel
Annapolis, MD
April 17, 2012

A day or so after penning his recollections of “The Big House”, Noel followed up to cousin, Jeff, with remembrances of a family connection—a household name to anyone growing up in or near New York City in the 20th century—the infamous Frank Costello. See great writeup on Dan Woog’s Westport blog here.

In addition Noel shares other stories about his family tree. All fascinating stuff because it happened! Actual living and breathing history of a great Italian family who came to these shores, assimilated into our cultural fabric and became a great American family in a single generation…!

Dear Jeff,

Here are a few more [stories]:

[06880danwoog.com] Lucky Luciano & Frank Costello16] No story of the Farm and big house is complete without the famous Frank Costello story. While we all know the history of Frank Costello, not many knew the story of Domenico standing on the back porch with that 41 caliber Swiss Army rifle in 1936 or so when the big black convoy from NYC came in the driveway. Frank Costello was no longer welcome in Westport. [I was never sure of the reason although the rumor was some cousin that everyone liked had disappeared and most knew what really happened.] So Domenico just stood there and the convoy carrying Frank just circled the driveway and went back to NYC. Since that time Frank never came back to Westport and I only saw him once at a distance at a funeral in NYC after Maria Saveria Aloise Castiglia died.

17] Another Costello follow-up occurred in 1950 when FBI agents came to the Farm to interview Domenico. Most family knew Frank Costello had gone back to Italy in 1928 for a visit and to spread some cash around Lauropoli and make connections (probably with the Camarra in Naples. Frank Costello had also gone, illegally, to Argentina on a ship to work when he lived in America). The DOJ wanted to deport Frank after Lucky Luciano was deported and was looking for testimony of people who knew how and when he left the country without papers. Domenico was to be interviewed but no one could find him. He hid in the barn while agents questioned other family members, who knew nothing.

18] I never did pin down how our Grandfather Domenico [1881] got the South American parrot I despised (because he bit me when I was five), and my Mom, Alba, loved. Our parrot was in the family from the early 1900’s. Alba got him when Domenico [1881] died in 1950’s. She kept “Polly” (or “Order in the Court”) around until Polly died at about age 90-something. One day in the early 1900s Domenic came back from work to find a summons on the door to appear in court for harassment and disturbing the peace. It seems there had been an opera singer on the floor above. Daily she would practice her scales. She was a soprano and would hit the very high notes. It seems that Polly had taken to mimicking her. As we all know from hearing our lovely “Polly”, our bird sang much higher and sweeter and clearer notes then any human being could (usually followed by an annoying screech-like sound). The lady upstairs was offended. After knocking on the downstairs door a few times she called police, who issued a summons. Domenic and either his brother or his father went to court and they brought the parrot with them. The courtroom virtually traumatized the parrot. When the audience found out that it was a parrot mimicking the singer upstairs, there was much noise. The judge banged the gavel on the bench yelling “order in the court, order in the Court”. The young parrot picked this up and started yelling back at the Judge “order, order, order in the Court”. All laughed. Of course, the case against the Castiglias was dismissed. Polly would always say this phrase on request whenever we had guests.

22] I would be remiss if I did not mention Grandma, Virginia Esposito Castiglia, perhaps the funniest, most loving lady that ever walked the earth. She was popular with everyone, men, women and children. Always working, joking or laughing about something. But for me she was my protector. I was a very devilish child and my Dad had big hands and I always dreaded a spanking for some minor infraction. When he would run after me and I would run to Grandma for safety. She would always say to Frank as I hug her waist as a little person: “Frank, don’t hurt the boy, he’s a good boy.” And Dad would quickly fade into the background. Virginia ran the home as a manager, mother, grandmother, cook, entertainer and cleaning person, even at times working as a seamstress in some local clothing manufacturer.

26] Interestingly enough during the war (WWII), Corsair F4U dive bombers undergoing initial tests after production in Stratford would use our barn a couple of times a week as a target. I remember, like it was yesterday, the whine of the planes as they swooped from high above like the chicken hawks I used to watch in the lazy summer afternoons when they’d swoop down to pick up a small animal. Of course the plane never came to ground but occasionally you could see the pilot and his helmet as he rose again after the dive.

30] I had a CAT scan a few years ago and the doctor asked me if I grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Of course I told him no, I grew up in Westport CT. He said that that was odd, for the scars on my lungs were reminiscent of people who grew up on a chicken farm. Well I can tell you first hand that we would shovel out that chicken coop one a year and the dust was horrible but we did the job and piled the chicken manure in the field, for it was too rich to use in the garden like the cow manure. But I can’t complain as I have good lungs and could hold my breath about 3 minutes which made me a great free diver.

See the translation graciously provided by Robert Golden [attached] whose Grandmother Filomena Rizzuti Sconza came over in 1903 on the same Sicilia [see manifest 1903] with the Lauropoli Castiglias. A heartwarming letter from a Mom far away to her young son she has not seen in four years. The interesting reference to “Uncle” or “Father” Antonio Castiglia is still to be clarified. For I do not know whether Antonio goes back to Italy to take over the vineyard and work the land later emigrating to Argentina or passing away in Italy. It is yet a mystery. Especially since Anna Palazzo is from Civita [above Lauropoli] and claims when traveling with Filomena Rizzuti and Marianna Iuele on the Scilia in 1903 that Antonio is her father (who coincidently lives at 234 East 108th Street). Civita [about 5mi uphill from Lauropoli] is where Uncle Louie took Hannibal in the early 1950’s. At that point Uncle Louie told Hank “this is where we came from”. An historic Albanese town [with a museum] with items from the 15th century and must have a pristine view of the Ionic Gulf. This is where the Iuele family came from. I believe this is where Francesco’s [1848] father Domenico [1830] in the 1850’s was a “gameskeeper” and married to [Maria Schiffino tbd] . [See photos of typical Southern Italian Gameskeepers provided by Mr. Golden.] Civita has artifacts dating back to about 2800BC in the Sibari museum on the coast. [Once it was one of the richest cities in ancient Greece.]

In addition, the Iuele connection is firmed up, as Leonardo Iuele [DOB?] is a $200 investor in the business in Westport CT with Luigi and Domenico in 1917. See photo of Uncle Louie [Luigi Domenico, little Aurora, and John Delarmy] in front of the tailor shop next to the old Fine Arts movie theater on the Boston Post Road [State Street East] in Westport in 1917.

Interesting sidelight here is that the tailor shop owner is listed in the 1917 Westport directory as Louis Castiglia; and the Farm on Danbury Road. Lyons Plain Westport is listed under Domenico [Virginia] Castello. [See the Westport directory attachment] This is the same business that ships ostrich feathers to Luciano DeLeo in Richmond, VA during the late teens. [Alba’s Father from Villapiana and Francovilla Marittima about 6 miles from Lauropoli as the crow flies but 20min driving.] [Dennis I believe has a receipt copy of a transfer.]

In 1905 Domenico marries Virginia Ricci Esposito Castiglia [1888]. Domenico lived at 220 East 108th street, and Virginia lived at 221 East 108th street. As my Mom, Alba, told the story, Domenico would look at this pretty young feisty gal from across the street. The marriage certificate is enclosed, courtesy of Jeffrey Wilkins, and Virginia’s [1888] Naturalization papers from 1924, courtesy of Jeff, which discusses her Mother and “Foster Parents” we never knew about or the fact she was from the pretty coastal town of Cetraro in Cosenza. [DOB Jan 31, 1888] landed in America 1899. Her mother’s name was Rose Ricca; and she traveled to America with Luigi and Rosa Iozzi. [It is not clear to me that the Iozzi’s were her caregivers; as it was always rumored she was the daughter of an important upper class Italian.] To me they really served as her parents for they are listed on the marriage certificate in 1905. [The similarity of Rose and Rosa makes me suspect the possibility she was in fact her biological mother married later after Virginia’s arrival, but this is only speculation.

The touching letter “Virgilia Mia” from Domenico[1880] shortly before their wedding is heartwarming. This was graciously translated by Jeff & Martha’s friend Annie Mullaney [an expert in ancient Italian]. I found 1905 photos of the marriage celebration where you can see Luigi Castiglia[1888]; and persons who look like Nick Restieri and Ambrose Frascino seated next to Domenico[1881] all surrounded by traditional Italian musicians.

I am running short of time at the moment and want to mention the Castiglia’s in the 1910 census were known as Castell’s in the feather business living at 140 East 115th Street. [Domenick 29, Virginia 23, Maria 3, Frank 1, Maria 53, Louie

20]. The feather business was very good to the Castiglia family. As Alba told me, the family worked in the ostrich feather factory, perhaps not all of them, but the gals for sure. At night one extra pay job was to pick up the ostrich feather down and waste feathers to get ready for the next day. It seems Concetta [1888] [not Costello Concetta] thought to find a way to tie the down and small feather products to sell as hat and dress decorations. [They sold these to Clori DiBlanda’s mothers’ family who were in the hat business in NYC before moving to Weston CT; just down Lyons Plains Road next to the Delarmy’s or Delarmi’s {John & Annie}]. It seems Concetta and Virginia had many stay at home Italian ladies doing piecework and then selling the products. I think this is how they eventually saved money, bought a button machine and made buttons at one point, but this is still speculation. Perhaps this is where Concetta made enough money to also invest in the Farm in CT, and be guaranteed a lifetime place to live. By pooling the money they bought the property in 1912 with some help. And Uncle Louie [1890] had the tailor shop in downtown Westport. I have not yet tracked the Costello side past 1900 New City Directory when Luigi [1846] was know as Frank Alois, a Grocer, at 234 East 108th street. What with all of the name changes and some moving around the 108th street area this may take some time. Hopefully more will be discovered with the National Archives visit. The NY city yearly directory 1900 to 1910 at the Library of Congress when Dennis and I visited was mostly businesses, and more stable, in terms of moving, individual names. I’m glad Domenic hid in the barn when the Feds came to find out if he knew anything about Frank Costello illegally going to Italy so they could deport him. Interestingly Costello is best remembered by Lauropotalitans as he helped many families on his visit [only one documented I know of] to get educations, pay loans, get medical help and fund their businesses.

Next, as time permits I plan to put more effort into the connections between Iuele, Castiglia, Costello, Palazzo and Aloise names in the 1900 to 1920 areas. Sadly the Ellis Island manifest records were only more detailed after 1900 with good more extensive data. Perhaps as time goes on I can get unredacted FBI records under the FOIA.

The above are just some of the highlights for the record. Hopefully more to come soon…

P.S. I sent most of these documents to Marcia, Carla, Pam, Annamaria, Luisa, Dennis and Jeff. As I go I keep adding and changing the original letter, as I think, “Oh, I’d better add this”. Smile Noel… :-)

Love,

—Noel & Ann
Annapolis, MD
February 7, 2012

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