Editor’s note: The Rock River Times received the following e-mail from Jeff Woodard Tuesday, May 24:
I received a response from Mike St. Angel to a letter I wrote. I wanted to let him know there was no mention of Italian immigrants in my piece, as it was just an oversight. I was focused on very early settlement. I originally included Italians in my first draft. Two hundred words can in no way cover the vast richness of the history of Italians in the area, on both sides of the river.
Mike, thanks for bringing that up. I believe the influence of Italians on the southwest side of Rockford is a given, with clear examples of the rich history that still remains in the area such as the Catholic churches and the historic Roma Bakery. I was raised on the food from the bakery, local dairy-ettes, and I can remember regularly receiving gifts of hot bread from the owners of Maria’s restaurant as a small child.
I just wanted to let Mike know there was no malice or attempt to marginalize the accomplishments of an individual group in my letter. Many people are well aware of the accomplishments of Italian-Americans in the area, and that goes without saying.
Another little gem I wanted to share. I believe an Italian family could also be credited with planting the grapevine arbors that were in our yard as a child, providing us with a wonderful shaded place to explore and the grapes my mother used to make jelly with, fantastic.
Director of Marketing and Community Relations, McLean County Museum of History
From the May 25-31, 2011 issue