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Family time in Central Park

Posted: March 24, 2008 2:46 a.m.
Updated: May 25, 2008 5:03 a.m.

Marirose Chabaonheau, left, from Encinitas, celebrates next to family member Jim Torti, also from Encinitas, during the reunion.

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When Yolanda Colella took an 18-hour flight on a four-engine plane from Rome to New York City in 1958, she was the first of Felice Torti's six children to fly over the Atlantic Ocean. She remembered feeling sick and nauseous the whole flight, since the plane did not have a jet engine, making it a rough trip.

Yet flying for 18 hours was pale in comparison to her sister, who spent over nine days traveling to the United States. Not one year earlier, Colella's older sister Anna Margiotta set foot on a boat from Naples, Italy, for the multi-day journey to New York City's Ellis Island. Both came here to live with their father, who moved to New York City a few years earlier.

So when they were asked to join three of their other siblings for a family reunion at Central Park in Saugus, a short road trip to the Santa Clarita Valley to eat some pasta, play some softball and hug a few grandchildren did not seem so daunting.

"I came here from Naples on a boat with 1,500 people," Margiotta said. "My father always wanted us to be together. He would have loved to be here today."

Both Felice Torti and his wife, Arcangela. Both recently passed away, though their spirits carry on through their six children and approximately 80 cousins, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Nearly 60 of them made it out to Central Park on Sunday to celebrate Easter and have their largest family reunion ever.

"We haven't been together as a family in quite a long time," said Anna Villano, one of Felice and Arcangela Torti's granddaughters who lives in Castaic with her husband and two children.

"We've never had this large of a get-together ever. But family was always the most important thing to our grandparents, so to do something like this is amazing."

It may have been the largest turnout ever for the Italian-rooted family, yet over four generations could not have been happier than celebrating Easter together and playing a game of softball in memory of the Tortis on a beautiful afternoon in Santa Clarita.

Amidst the celebration on Sunday was also remembrance. Felice Torti, raised his six children on a farm in Casalvieri, about 80 miles south of Rome. Shortly after World War II, he emigrated to the United States, slowly bringing each of his six children, who currently range in age from 61 to 79 years old, to New York City.
As the children grew into adulthood, Felice Torti maintained his Italian roots and sense of culture with his family. He made sure each child had enough of a foundation and moral base to settle on their own and raise their own family. Raise a family they did - all six children got married.

Margiotta remembers when she got married. Her father showed her several pictures of potential grooms from Italy. In 1960, she flew back to Italy and married a man she believed to be the love of her life. Over 47 years later, Margiotta could not be happier with her two children or more in love with her husband.

"I used to live in the country, so it was really different coming to the big city," she said. "My father taught me a lot of things. I love him so much."

For Colella, to see so many family members come out to the park to eat some pasta and play some softball was a big change from her modest, humble beginnings in Italy and New York.

"Today was very nice," she said. "I am very proud to see this family come together."

While it was a day of togetherness, everyone temporarily put their loyalties aside for a two-hour, competitive game of softball. Family members split off into two teams of roughly 30 players each for a full game, with one team wearing green and white shirts, and the other wearing red and white shirts. The green team won the game, scoring six runs against the red team's one.

After the game was over, the family was whole again, and they all went to home for a hearty Italian dinner that would make Felice and Arcangela Torti proud.

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