Emerald Street has gem of a reunion

About 50 people got together to share old times and spend time in the neighborhood.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Of those who found their way to Smoky Hollow on Sunday, Christian Latone and Nick DiMargio Sr. were bookends for the ages.
At 21/2 months and 80 years old, they represented the youngest and oldest family members to gather at 257 Emerald St., the site of a family reunion and the former home of Anthony and Elvira DiMargio.
They were among about 50 family and friends who attended the five-hour Prego & eacute; Reunion La Famiglia Di DiMargio event, Italian for "You are welcome to the reunion of the family of DiMargio."
The DiMargios lived in the home for about 18 years. They came to Youngstown shortly after emigrating from Italy.
Four generations
Children, cousins and other descendants were among the four generations of family who spent the afternoon enjoying a buffet-style meal as well as Italian music and conversation.
Many hugs and handshakes were exchanged, and a few tears were shed as several people reminisced about time spent in the home and neighborhood. Taped to the home was a poster board on which were numerous family photos.
Jeff Kosec of Poland, a grandson of the DiMargios and the reunion's main organizer, recalled older family members' having a contest to see who would get the first fig on a tree his grandfather planted in the back yard.
One year, Kosec said, Anthony DiMargio taped a fig he had bought to the tree and contended he found that year's first one.
Nick DiMargio Sr., who lives in Canfield and is one of Anthony and Elvira DiMargio's sons, remembered being excited about showing his first Cadillac to his father.
Instead of being impressed with the car, the elder DiMargio wanted to know if the vehicle could be used to store tomatoes for canning, said DiMargio, a retired engineer for the former Syro Steel Inc. Tomato sauce and pasta were Sunday traditions, DiMargio recalled.
"He didn't care about the Cadillac," DiMargio said with laughter.
Mary Louise Donofrio, one of Anthony and Elvira DiMargio's daughters and Christian's great-grandmother, lived across the street from her parents' home next to where a boccie court was. She recognized at the reunion a winecrest, a barrel used to store wine, that used to be in her basement.
"I recognized it as soon as I came," she said.
Fond memories
Delores Kosec, another of the DiMargios' daughters, fondly recalled coming over once a week for pizza and apple pie made from apples the family stored during the winter.
Donofrio, Delores Kosec and DiMargio said they had no idea the reunion had been planned until they found themselves near their parents' old house. The event was set up to surprise them, Jeff Kosec said.
"I was so surprised I couldn't speak," Donofrio said. "I was supposed to go to my son's house in Brookfield, and I asked why we're coming here and why all these people stood in the driveway."
Don Kosec, a son-in-law of the DiMargios, remembered how several Smoky Hollow residents made red and white wine and passed it around to others to see whose was the best.
"It was about fun, not competition," he said. "Everyone in the neighborhood shared in everyone's wealth."
Home the same
Many guests walked through the home, much of which looks as it did in the 1950s. The two-bedroom residence still has the original kitchen cupboards, and the basement where Elvira DiMargio made pizza and fried dough for neighbors looks the same; the original fruit cellar that was used mainly for canning tomatoes is still there.
Some people who aren't related to the family, such as Pam Ramsey, still had plenty of childhood memories of time spent in the area.
Ramsey, whose mother was a friend of the DiMargios' and whose grandparents and great-grandparents lived a few houses away, recalled that many residents had gardens in their back yards and clotheslines between the homes, and how some neighbors enjoyed "gibbering in Italian."
"I spent a lot of time here. Everyone spoke Italian; it was great," she said.
Ramsey also remembered walking downtown to shop at the former Strouss and McKelvey department stores to buy a chocolate malt at Strouss.
Refurbishing plans
Mike and Sarah Bolan, whose family owns seven of the eight homes on the block, said they plan to refurbish the houses, all of which were probably built in the 1920s.
The brother and sister said they were happy to allow the reunion because it symbolizes many positive aspects of the neighborhood's history.
"We have to take the good things our parents and grandparents gave us and incorporate them into today," Mike Bolan said. "We want to remember and keep alive the good things from the past."

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