You might remember the Cultural Note from April 2023 when we learned about the unusual immigration story of Gabriella Rose, the sister of our lodge member Bill Rose. To review, Bill’s dad (Albert) had married an Italian war widow named Eva while stationed in Italy during World War II. Eva had a four-year-old daughter named Gabriella born in 1942.

Eva was able to come to America with Albert, but sadly little Gabriella had to stay behind until she was ten years old, partly because of complicated immigration laws and partly because her grandfather wanted to keep her in Italy. When her grandfather died in 1951, her aunt started the paperwork to send Gabriella to America. After 12 days on a ship and a long train ride to South Dakota, Gabriella was finally reunited with her family. This is where we ended the story in April.

Now here’s the rest of the story. Gabriella’s life took another unusual turn even before she arrived in America. When she was eight years old, a man came to her home and said he was her biological father, a man who had been declared dead years ago. His family had even held a memorial service for him and his widow Eva had gotten remarried to her American soldier, Albert Rose. Of course, the whole family was stunned that he was alive, but little Gabriella was confused. She didn’t remember this man as her father, but she could see that she looked like him (and not like her blond mom) because they shared the same dark hair and eyes. When Gabriella finally arrived in South Dakota, she immediately told her mom about her long lost dad, which shocked her American family as well.

Then, after living in America for five years, the Rose family realized that sixteen-year-old Gabriella was not yet a citizen of the United States. Because her American step-father Albert had legally adopted her in Italy, the Italian embassy assumed she was an American, too. After more red tape, the embassy finally granted her full American citizenship.

After twelve years in America, Gabriella returned for a visit to Italy in 1964, but soon realized she had forgotten how to speak Italian. She learned it again after a few months in Italy and never forgot it after that. She was able to see her biological father several times while in Italy, even though his new wife disapproved. Gabriella was introduced as a “friend” to her dad’s two new sons until 1980, when a documentary reported the whole story on Italian TV. After that, they acknowledged Gabriella as their half-sister, although they never wanted a close relationship with her.

As adults, our lodge member Bill Rose and his brother Dennis were able to travel back to Italy with Gabriella, thanks to the show “This Is Your Life”, which sponsored their trip for a documentary on their amazing story. The Rose family history was finally sorted out after many years of heartache and legal battles, but as Gabriella said in a newspaper interview, “The war changes everything for everybody”.

For those of you gearing up for St Valentine’s Day, you are celebrating the life of an Italian priest who married couples in secret when Christian marriage was forbidden by the Roman Emperor Claudius II. Valentine risked his own life to marry young Italians. Eventually, he was caught and imprisoned, but continued to do good, even curing the prison warden’s daughter of blindness. Although condemned to die, he continued to write encouraging letters from prison, signing them, “from your Valentine”. Valentine was beheaded on February 14, 270 AD, in the name of love. Make a loved one feel special on Valentine’s Day in honor of this brave Italian.

Submitted by Charlene Pardo


Rose family history supplied by Bill Rose.