"A family tree can wither if nobody tends its roots."


Cousins Make The Best Friends

by  Phyllis Zeck

Since my father had no siblings, my only set of cousins were the children of Auntie Phyllis, my mother’s sister. They lived on the east coast so we didn’t get to see them often, but we made the most of the time we did see each other. The photo to the left was taken in 1962 in Springfield, MA. Back row: Auntie Phylllis holding Gina, Grandpa, mom holding Holly. Center row: Rob (kneeling), Tom, Mark, Toni. Front row: Ricky, Phyllis, Janice and Steve.

When my siblings and I started our families our children got together as often as possible. Now the middle generation help gather our grands for play dates, zoo lights, and pool 

Jared, Robert, Dominick, Ashley, Robin, Lindsay

parties all year round. It’s a miracle when everyone can unite at the same time! My two oldest children Buck & Heidi and my grandson Tyler are missing from these photos. Someday I’m going to corral everyone at the same time and snap photos like crazy.

I asked Rob to listen to one of the clips from our interview with Auntie Phyllis and he shared his thoughts below.

Ava, Abby, Kayla, Tyler, Gracie

Rob wrote “Phyllis included recordings of our ancestors speaking. Nothing recalls memories quicker than hearing the voice of a loved one who has long ago passed on. Especially when it involves people in the family who have shared many of the same experiences. Experts say that is one reason why siblings stay close in many families: the common bond of recognizing your mother’s stressful voice when she can’t find her car keys, for instance. No one else in the world would know that sound unless they had been there and shared the experience.

So, it was with that kind of anticipation and attention when I listened to the latest recording Phyllis sent me, of an interview we did with Aunty Phyllis many years ago. Hearing her speak again, and especially the sound of her laughter, brought her presence and spirit right back to me. Or maybe her voice brought me back to HER!” 

Michele, Toni, & Gina
Ricky, Richard, & Mark

In the 4th audio clip from our 2011 interview Auntie Phyllis talks about her uncles, growing up with her cousins, working in the music store, and eloping with Richard. I asked her about advertising that was purchased for the music stores. I ran across this advertisement in Google Books. It was placed in the Popular Mechanics magazine in March of 1938. The ad states that the music store was established in 1890. 

Click below to listen to part of our interview with Auntie. If you’d like to hear snippets of this interview in past blog posts, click on the “Vincent Family” category in the right column of the web site.




Christmas with Grandma & Grandpa Frank

by  Phyllis Zeck

Corinne & Robert Winike

Corinne & Robert Winike

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! With 8 children in the house you can imagine the excitement that erupted on Christmas Eve.  We’d take turns sneaking down the stairs, (careful to make sure they didn’t creak) opening the door, and peaking out to see if Santa had arrived, then race back up to report to our siblings.

My sister Lori remembers “Christmas was always a magical time at our house! Christmas morning we would wake up to a floor full of toys under the tree that Santa had brought the night before. Later I found out that Santa started putting toys on layaway at our local toy store in August each year. Our grandpa, Gilbert, must have been on Santa’s Naughty list because EVERY year at least one of his grandsons would get a gift with some assembly required and one of his granddaughters would get some sort of cooking device such as an easy bake oven, and that poor man had to eat everything we made for him, which he did without complaint! I don’t know why he never learned his lesson and just behaved himself! Grandpa Gilbert’s favorite Christmas song was Silent Night. He said it reminded him of his mother and he would ask me to play it on the organ for him over and over again! To this day I think of him every time I hear it!”

While searching through my audio files from Auntie Phyllis’ interview, I stumbled upon an audio file of mom and grandpa Frank from 1983. Lori, Tony, and Steve were asking mom and Frank questions about their upcoming visit to Portland.

Grandpa Frank came into our lives in the late 1970’s and there was never a dull moment when he was around. Each year mom and Frank would come for a two week visit at Christmas time. Some of the fondest memories I have of Frank was him speaking Italian to my mother and using the phrase “Bada Bing, Bada Boom!”.  Those two week vacations flew by and our family would gather almost daily to gobble up as much time with grandma and grandpa as possible. 

                     Mom and Frank

Holly wrote “My favorite memories involve the excitement I felt leading up to them arriving. I couldn’t wait to see them! We didn’t have cell phones and long distance telephone calls were expensive, so there was a lot to catch up on and children change so much in one year. I loved seeing my boys enjoying time with Grandma Chicago (aka Grandma Pizza), Grandpa Frank, and Aunt Lori. A few times, when they came to see us they brought Italian beef and gravy from Lukes, oh boy was that a treat!”

Ashley remembers “Grandpa Frank always pretended to be asleep when it was time to open presents and all the kids would tap his tummy while he pretended to snore”.  Robin’s favorite memory at Christmas time was “being so excited for his parents to come home so they could race up the hill to the Zeck house to see his grandparents. Then, we all wanted to see grandma laugh, so us kids choreographed a dance to the old Richard Marks song called Right Here Waiting”.  Lindsay enjoyed performing the Nativity Play the kids put together for everyone.

Below is a slide show to go with the audio that I have. (If you are using a wireless connection it might take a while for the video to load.) Click here to view on You Tube.

The first photos are of my mother Corinne and my father Robert. The last photos are mom and dad’s children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren along with our wonderful extended family. I wish I had some audio of my father, he passed away in 1970, but I am so grateful for this audio of my mother and Frank. I hope this clip brings a smile to your face the way it did to mine! 




Auntie’s Godmother – Gemma Ciolli

by  Phyllis Zeck

Elvira Ciolli in center.  Antonio Del Principe far right.

Elvira Ciolli in center. Antonio Del Principe far right.

In one of the interviews my brother Rob and I had with Auntie Phyllis in 2011, Auntie Phyllis talked about her grandmother Elvira’s siblings. I was not aware that her sister Gemma Nicolina Ciolli Leone lived right across the street (didn’t every family member live right across the street?), or that Gemma was Auntie’s godmother.  Both mom and Auntie Phyllis were baptized at St. Callistus Church.

Click here to see a birth record for Gemma (item #62). In the audio clip below Auntie also discusses what life was like during the depression. The photo to the left is Elvira and her son, Antonio, is standing next to her.  I don’t know the other two people in the photo.   Elvira

The photo to the right may be Elvira and Gemma.  If anyone recognizes these ladies, please email me and let me know. Gemma (1855-1952) married Giacomo Leone and they had 10 children; Esther, Carmen (Mimi), Phyllis (Fifi), Jeanette (Gerr), Christine, Anthony, Rocco, Joseph, Anne, and Josephine. Carmen and Phyllis were twins. I am in touch with Rocco’s son, Giacomo. Giacomo emailed me and told me “Carmen and Phyllis were twins.  There were perhaps two other children who died from Tuberculous.  My parents were Rocco Mario Leone and Caroline Philomena Amici. My mother is a first cousin of Don and Jim Amici. Don was the more famous actor, his brother Jim was a local Chicago radio personality.” As a young adult Giacomo visited the family’s music store.

Auntie Phyllis and Mom (Corinne)

Auntie Phyllis and Mom (Corinne)

You can read about Gemma’s brave journey from Pescasseroli, Italy at this blog post and see her 1901 immigration record. It appears that she traveled to America with no other family member in 1901 onboard the ship Patria.  

Click the audio link to below to hear Rob and I discuss Elvira’s sisters and the depression with Auntie Phyllis. This is our 3rd audio clip from our 2011 interview Auntie Phyllis. For more articles about Gemma click on her name in the Categories column to the right.




Three Generation Vacation

by  Phyllis Zeck

sm_three-generation-vacationWow, I can’t believe how fast this year has flown by! My last blog post was in May. While I haven’t had much time for family history research I have had an amazing summer and fall.  The highlight was my 60th birthday celebration. It just happened to be Disneyland’s 60th celebration also.  So Ashley, Abby and I went to Disneyland for one week and had a blast!  Ashley did a wonderful job planning the whole trip. My only request was that we have breakfast with the princesses and Abby was pretty happy to oblige.  img_0778

Happy Holidays family and friends! I hope you all take time to enjoy the company of your loved ones during this festive season, share stories from the past, and create new traditions for the future. May 2017 bring you Peace, Love, and Happiness! 



Taylor Street Neighborhood

by  Phyllis Zeck

Corinne, Phyllis, Lori & Me

Corinne, Phyllis, Lori & Me

For many years, in the late 1990’s, Auntie Phyllis lived with my mother Corinne and my sister Lori in Romeoville, Illinois. In the audio clip below Auntie Phyllis talks of her love for Chicago, joining the Red Cross during WWII and the birth of her first child, Mark. The photo on the left was taken a few years before Lori bought her home in Romeoville. The next paragraph is one of Lori’s favorite memories of that time.

“Auntie Phyllis lived with me in Romeoville Illinois. Our house was a few blocks away from a Jewel-Osco grocery store/Pharmacy. Auntie Phyllis went to that store every day rain or shine. One day I went to the store and as I was walking in, I saw in the entrance corridor great big 20 x 30 pictures of people. Across the top was a banner that said our regular customers. I went home and said to Auntie Phyllis “you better watch yourself or you’re going to wind up on that wall”! We had a good laugh over that, and every time she went to the store after that I would tell her to wear a disguise or avoid the manager, and if she asked me to go to the store for her, I would say “yes but I’m not telling them it is for you, I don’t want to wind up on that wall”! She continued to shop there every day but somehow, she never wound up on the wall of shame! “

Phyllis Vincent

Phyllis and her granddaughter Becca

My brother Rob recalls “My first memories of Aunty Phyllis were in 1956, when she and cousin Mark came to stay with my family and me for a year while Uncle Vince was stationed in the Navy. I was enchanted having a playmate my own age. Aunty was in heaven at that time, returned to the bosom of her large family after a long period spent isolated in the East with Richard, in Springfield, Mass. Reconciling with her father was important and she often referred to that feeling of “coming home,” which in no small measure meant being close to her precious father. This would be the first time she would spend living with her beloved sister, Corinne. In time they would become “Golden Girls” and the easy familiarity of living together began that year when Aunty came home to Chicago.”

Click the link below to listen to part of the interview that Rob and I had with Auntie Phyllis in 2011. This is the 2nd audio clip. To listen to the other interviews, click on the box titled “Vincent Family” in the categories box to the right.

Thanks to my siblings for their memories of our Aunt. Lori lives in Utah now but comes to visit us in Portland frequently. Rob is a national leader and trainer for Recovery International.  Click on this link to hear Rob discuss Mental Health Recovery.