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Families Focus Of Duffy’s New Book

December 9, 2012
By LINDA COMINS - Life Editor , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

As area families gather for holiday celebrations, a new book offers a fascinating historical view of Wheeling's family groups and ethnic enclaves.

Wheeling researcher and author Sean Duffy has compiled a 316-page book, "The Wheeling Family Volume 2: More Immigrants, Migrants & Neighborhoods."

Published by James Thornton, it complements their 2008 book, "The Wheeling Family: A Celebration of Immigrants & Neighborhoods."

Article Photos

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Wheeling author Sean Duffy holds an enlarged version of the cover for his new book, “The Wheeling Family Volume 2.”

Holiday traditions are central to some of the accounts shared by immigrants and their descendants. The book includes several recipes for ethnic delicacies served during the holiday season or at large family gatherings.

For example, Joan Dieckmann Stein provided a recipe for Inge's Gluhwein, a hot spiced drink featuring red wine, black tea and brandy. This beverage is found frequently at Europen Weinachtsmarkts (Christmas markets), the author noted.

Other recipes in the book include ones for Rouladen, a German version of round steak; an authentic version of Irish Soda Bread from the Rev. Steve Joyce's mother; traditional Biscotti from Olga Campeti Stephens; Mary DiClemente's Pizza; Kibby, a Lebanese meat dish; Hummus Bil Tahini, a chickpea and sesame tahini appetizer; Yia Yia's Grape Leaves (Dolmathes) and Name Day Cake, both Greek specialties; Kartoflanka (potato soup), Pierogi Casserole and Polish Nut Balls, favorites from Poland; Grandma Julia's Hungarian Nut Rolls, from Julia Theresa Vergo Molnar; Chinese Egg Roll and Shu Mai, a Filipino dish.

Among the holiday recollections, an account of the Reith-Werner family of East Wheeling is illustrated with a photograph showing a papier-mache train tunnel, made by LeRoy Werner (who died in 1973), underneath a Christmas tree. The author noted that this decoration was an old German tradition.

In a section on the Canestraro family of Benwood, Duffy said Mary Canestraro DiClemente of St. Clairsville "remembered most social events being 'only family,' including the Christmas Eve feaat, which included calamari, baccala, smelts and spaghetti. Like many Catholics, the family usually attended midnight Mass on Christmas Eve."

An article about the Karnell and Hadjis families of Wheeling offers details of Greek customs, such as a New Year's Cake called Vasilopita. "A coin is wrapped in foil and placed into the batter. When served on New Year's Day, the cake is cut into slices and each slice is named starting with 'one for the house.' The rest of the slices are named for each member of the family and each guest. Whoever finds the coin in his/her slice is supposed to have extra good luck in the New Year," the author stated.

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Duffy's new book features chapters on African American migrants; German and Gaelic Irish immigrants; Jewish immigrants; Italian immigrants; Lebanese and Greek immigrants; Polish, Austrian, Hungarian and Croatian immigrants and Asian immigrants.

The eighth chapter, dubbed Unfinished Business and Odds and Ends, contains photos from Chamse Rahi whose story was told in the first volume; a collection of Ohio Valley family stories in brief and an interview with Andree Weimer, a French artist who now lives in Flushing. Appendices include a list of South Wheeling surnames, a list of Wheeling businesses from 29th Street south, businesses on 11th Street, "Warwood A to Z" and a roster of Wheeling's cultural heritage festivals.

An innovative section of the book is titled "Warwood Memories, an Experiment in Nostalgia Through Social Media." For the experiment, Duffy created a social media group on May 26, 2011 and watched comments appear. Nearly a year later, as of April 18, the group had 569 members "who have contributed thousands of posts," he said.

Duffy explained that "Warwood A to Z" is his compilation of "Warwood's greatest hits, culled from group comments."

To continue that theme, Duffy, who coordinates the Ohio County Public Library's Lunch With Books sessions, has arranged a program for the series at noon Tuesday, Dec. 18, on "Warwood Memories." Current and former residents of that section of Wheeling may share their memories of places and events in the neighborhood.

Copies of "The Wheeling Family Volume 2" will be available for purchase at the Lunch With Books session. Duffy said that $1 for every book sold will be donated to the library.

In addition, he will be signing copies of both volumes at the Kroger store, Mount de Chantal Road, Wheeling, from noon to 2 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. Saturday, Dec 15. The book also is available at the Wheeling Artisan Center, Words and Music bookstore, the UPS Store on Washington Avenue and the Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy in Fulton.

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Duffy wrote in the book's introduction: "Despite our ongoing debates about what it means to be 'American,' and the contempt for 'political correctness' and the notion of 'hyphenated Americans' the fact is, we really are all immigrants. America is an immigrant nation, more so than any other ... It is possible, and I would argue, even virtuous, to cherish and celebrate both our 'American-ness' and our ethnic heritages simultaneously. The old informs the new."

Continuing that theme, the book's final interview - with Weimer - is captioned "The New Still Informs the Old - We Are Still All Immigrants."

In the introduction, Duffy related, "By the Second World War's end, in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s, Wheeling's ethnic neighborhoods developed into the fascinating multicultural mosaics that would render them the cradles of nostaglia also explored in this book."

Illustrating the author's observation, Grace Karcher Davis said of growing up in Center Wheeling in the 1930s: "When I got a little older, I played with the neighborhood kids. There were a lot of them - Greek, Lebanese, Serbian, Italian and Polish - it was all very normal to me. There was never anything said about anyone's background ... After all, everyone was from someplace else."

Anne Karnell Duggan, who was born in 1919, recalled that on 11th Street, the residents "were all immigrants."

As Ann Prince Thomas - the first African American to graduate from Ohio Valley General Hospital's School of Nursing - recounted her family's story, she said, "There are no coincidences. Everything happens for a reason. You've got to go through the ups and downs, but there is definitely a plan."

Occasionally, Wheeling residents encountered famous figures in their midst. One such incident involved young Paul Karnell, who was known to his family as Sonny. Karnell's relatives recounted that when President Franklin D. Roosevelt rode through Wheeling, he patted the lad on the head and said, "Hi, Sonny, how are you?" Paul "Sonny" Karnell was said to be amazed that "the president knew his name."

According to another account, Mary Eickner Wolfe, who was born in Amsterdam, Holland, in 1799 and settled in the Fish Creek area by 1836, saw Napoleon Bonaparte twice in 1812.

A timely entry in the book tells the story of the Mamakos family, founders of Louis' Famous Hot Dog, which closed this month after 93 years in business. In 1919, Louis Mamakos opened a bake shop and sold hot dogs in a building at 11th and Chapline streets. In 2009, at a 90th-anniverary celebration, family members estimated they had sold more than one million hot dogs.

The chapter on Jewish immigrants features a historyof Jews in Wheeling written by the late Rabbi Daniel Lowy. The chapter includes the story of Joseph Thompson, who arrived in the United States in 1913 and lived in Wheeling. The article cites Thompson's six-year effort to bring his wife and son from a war-torn section of the Ukraine in 1921.

A section titled "Wheeling Family Focus," cites business letters that Joseph R. Nassif wrote between Dec. 16, 1927 and May 2, 1932. He was a "jobber," a small-scale traveling wholesaler who sold only to retailers. Duffy commented, "His business letters provide a sometimes amusing and sometimes heartbreaking glimpse at a bygone era when traveling salesmen, many of them new immigrants, hit the roads in dubious automobiles with no health insurance, no social security and little more than their own determination and ingenuity to make ends meet."

An account of the Simon family stated that, in 1917, Joseph Rasheed Simon (who arrived in Wheeling in 1906) commissioned and donated a painting of Our Lady of Lebanon that miraculously survived a 1932 church fire and now hangs above the main altar. His wife, Sadie, donated a statue of Our Lady of Lebanon to the church after the birth of their first child in 1919.