Tailor Made Talent
by Cate Murway
Tailors have a thousand years of oral traditions passed from master to apprentice. They take simple cloth and weave wonders. Clothes made the man and the woman, conservative yet elegant clothing made from high quality, simple fabrics, projected statements about roles in society.
As with other crafts, would-be tailors served an apprenticeship, often beginning training as children, coming from their workspace to measure and pin.
Pierino “Peter” Cocci and Domenica [Nepa] both immigrated from Italy.
Domenica’s Aunt Maggie introduced them and they were married in St. Ann’s Church.
“They had no car. They rode to church in a horse and buggy. She was married in a dress she borrowed from Aunt Maggie.”
The couple bought a small home on Cherry Street
and then relocated to Lincoln Avenue upon Domenica’s insistence.
She was very business minded and she persuaded Peter to
buy the house and to make a storefront
for his Peter Cocci Custom Tailoring Shop.
They raised their five children, Armando “Monnie”, John Thomas,
Anna, Virginia and Vincenzo “Vincent” in their home
above the store. Peter’s father had been a tailor also.
Amid store room walls lined with assorted fabrics, different colored thread and patterns, a beginning student worked on stitching and basting and grew to be an accomplished artist.
Virginia [Cocci] DiMaggio, BHS ’42 had always helped in her family store. She even made men’s shirts. "Fit" in tailoring was-and is-everything!
Ginny has found her perfect fit.
Her sister, Anna had been enrolled in art classes and she had given Ginny a gift of a gold tray that she had designed. Ginny was talked into attending the classes she felt she couldn’t afford. They shared brushes and supplies.
At one time, she used strictly oil paints and elaborate gilded gold leafing and learned reverse glass painting. Now she creates her superb handiwork with watercolors on paper and refurbishes vintage furniture.
She confirmed, “I loved painting!”
Ginny’s father and brother, John, worked long hours in their polished manner, and loved the challenges of fitting people. Sometimes legs were different lengths, it's all about adjusting the hips. They fashioned classy bespoke suits for some famous customers: Albert Einstein wasn’t always as spiffy a dresser and the Emperor of Japan danced on his handmade cloak.
The moribund art of hand-crafted clothing is a skill that still must be learned from childhood.
During the Depression money was tight. Water pipes burst because they had no heat and ice was dripping down from the ceiling. A piece of cardboard in the bottom of their shoes covered up the holes in the soles, but was not a good fix on a rainy day.
Her father provided additional food for his family with his love of offshore fishing. In 1950, he earned his place in the Thousand Fathom Club of NJ when he hauled in a 275-pound tuna.
His namesake, grandson Peter Cocci proudly owns the TFC patch.
Her mother took on additional sewing work at the Grundy woolen mill, making the cuffs for the officer’s uniforms.
Ginny’s brothers worked in CCC [Civilian Conservation Corps] Camps, created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, building bridges, campsites, picnic areas, and planting trees. They also graded and bunched asparagus at Starkey Farms in Morrisville and earned 17 cents for each basket of string beans they picked from the 110 acre S. H. and James F. King Farms in Tullytown.
Their mother kept them fueled with homemade pasta.
“The attic was like a grocery store with the pasta hanging over rails. She made her own sausage and root beer and wine. I think we had soup daily.”
They had a running creek in their backyard and they got their eggs from the 2 chickens they kept.
All their clothes were homemade and many pieces were knitted skirts and sweaters.
Ginny’s oldest brother CPO Monnie and her youngest brother, Vincent joined the Navy.
During War World II, they were pleasantly surprised to find that they were both stationed in Hawaii.
John delivered newspapers. His most legendary customer, Senator Joseph R. Grundy would invite him in for hot chocolate on cold days.
Anna left school. “The times were bad and she had to work”, Ginny explained.
“She babysat for my brother and his wife who also had to work.” Anna also found employment at the Dial Soap Works and on the farm for the Landreth Seed Company, drying the tomato seeds in cloth bags and packaging them.
Ginny had participated in the Girl Reserves at Bristol HS. She already knew how to sew. She had basted suits and helped her mother make the buttonholes.
She opened a dress shop at the shore on the corner of Lincoln & the Blvd. in her brother’s shoemaker store, “Monnie’s”. She did all the sewing work for the Lakehurst sailors.
When she returned to Bristol, she went back to school to learn to read blueprints and did riveting work at Kaisers during the war.
Ginny shared that she wore a blue “astronaut” uniform and the “guys were whistling”. She worked alongside a small person who did the riveting in small spaces.
According to her yearbook, “A dark eyed senior of 12C1, never worries ‘til day is done.”
She was later asked to assume the position of Mr. Playton’s secretary. Her father convinced her to take the job- “more respect”.
“People danced in the street when that war was over.”
“I loved to dance. Dancing was my thing. I’d do all my work for my mother and my father so I could go.” She listed her hobby as “Rug cutting” in 1942.
Their first date was on a Memorial Day.
Unknown to Ginny, Russ’ sister, Mary worked with Ginny’s father and Mr. Cocci had actually made the pants that Russ wore on their date. They drove to Seaside Heights in her powder blue Chrysler Airflow ’38 to meet her brother. John and Russ already knew each other also. “Blissfully married” was her yearbook prophecy.
They have two daughters, R.N. Virginia Joy and licensed hair stylist Linda Joy; 4 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren.
Russ was an Industrial Engineer for the late former grocery store owner C. V. Hill. That company was a leading designer and manufacturer of refrigerators and store fixtures. In 1929, the company worked with Clarence Birdseye to design a specialized showcase for his "frosted foods". They were also the first to offer colors other than white for their "Color Blend" merchandise.
They traveled to Italy to research her family and her maternal grandparents, Biagio and Philomina [Cappelletti] Nepa.
Biagio came to America [Ellis Island] on October 18, 1912, at the age of 51, traveling on the ship, Taormina with his wife and some of his children, Domenica  who would be Ginny’s mother, Antonio  and Orazio .
Her mom was born on the small seaside town of Tortoreto Lido along the Adriatic Sea.
“It was so beautiful there. It was like heaven.”
They stayed at the picturesque Hotel Quattro Palme for a few days and experienced the rumble of the wind and the speed of a tornado.
Ginny’s creativity and multi-talents have been shared with her entire family.
Her daughter, Ginny “does some wood decorating, mostly for Christmas”. Her creations include wooden trees with lights and decaled and sparkled clear-coated sleds.
“My mother is very talented.”
Daughter Linda, even though she “feels like I’ll never do anything like my mom”,
has painted a magnificent old ship with billowing sails on canvas for her husband,
AF Staff Sgt. Ed. She also crochets blankets, gowns, and booties for her granddaughter.
“Learned that from my maternal grandmom.”
Linda’s wedding gown was custom made from a picture.
“I knew she could sew. I knew she could sew anything.”
Linda gave Ginny a picture from a bridal magazine .
While visiting the relatives in Italy,
a pattern was cut to her size “in paper thin sheer material like organza”.
Her masterpiece handsewn beaded gown
and headpiece was intricate, delicate and detailed,
including buttonholes and a fashionable trim.
Ginny’s niece, Beverly [Breslin] Kalinowski shared, “She is a wonderful lady and a great godmother! She has been like a mother to me for as long as I can remember.”
Another niece, Lorraine Marie Cocci, proprietor of NOW The Unique Mini Boutique, formerly [“Surfer Girl Hanging 10”]leather crafts, was “fascinated and influenced” by Ginny.
“Going to her house was like going into a museum. I would sneak upstairs in her art room and I loved the oil paint smell. It still brings back memories.”
Lorraine always drew and painted. She was gifted with an oil paint set when she was in the 6th grade.
Ginny’s favorite color is blue and her beloved collection is Wedgwood!
She played the piano for years since the age of 5 and loves classical music. She performed at the dance recitals for the Sara C. Granzow Academy.
Her music teacher, Blanche Washburn played the console of the 3/8 Kimball organ at the Grand Theatre. She cherishes the metronome her instructor willed to her.
Ginny shines in her community endeavors as a Bristol Cultural and Historical Foundation member and a BHS reunion coordinator, along with her classmate, Agnes Ann Virostek Dick.
Her individuality and inspiration continue to make the world colorful and a tad less mundane.
She works late into the night with tiny brushes making impeccable minute marks creating imaginative, one-of-a-kind hand-painted greeting cards.
She follows this thread: Her pattern for success has been found in her art.
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Rosario J. 'Russ" Di Maggio
Posted: Tuesday, February 21, 2012 4:00 am
Rosario J. 'Russ' DiMaggio of Bristol passed away Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012
at his residence with his loving family at his side. He was 87.
Born in Trenton, N.J., Russ was an industrial engineer
with C.V. Hill Refrigeration Co., Trenton for 40 years
until his retirement in 1986.
He was a member of St. Mark's Church in Bristol, where he was one of the first lecturns at the church. He was a member of the Chaplin of the four Chaplins, a member of the Knights of Columbus 906, where he was a former Treasurer. He also was the former director of the Knights of Columbus Track Meets, member of the Bristol Moose Lodge 1169. Russ was also involved with many local activities and organizations in Bristol.
Russ was the loving husband of 63 years to Virginia C. DiMaggio (Cocci); son of the late Pietrio and Theresa DiMaggio (Zota), father of Virginia Joy DiMaggio of Morrisville, Pa., and Linda Joy Kuzma (Edward) of Bristol.
He is also survived by four grandchildren; Valerie Stilner (John), Anna, Erika, and Edward Kuzma III; three great-grandchildren: Bryce, Dominick, and Layla; grandson-in-law, William Myers; caregiver, Carol Alen; and many nieces and nephews.
Relatives and friends are invited to attend Mass of Christian Burial at 11 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012 at St. Mark Church, Bristol. Friends will be received Wednesday evening from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Wade Funeral Home, 1002 Radcliffe Street, Bristol, Pa. and Thursday morning from 10 to 11 a.m. at St. Mark Church. Entombment will be at St. Mary Cemetery, Trenton, N.J.
Memorial contributions may be sent to St. Mark School Endowment Fund, 1024 Radcliffe Street, Bristol PA 19007. Wade Funeral Home, Bristol