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My Italian Mom


Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my Mom. As Mothers Day approaches, I’d like to share with you some of what my mother meant to me, and a glimpse of what it is to be a fireworks wife. It’s not news that the Rozzi Family has been in the fireworks business for 6 generations spanning over an entire century. As with any family business, all family members are or have been involved in some way or another.

Although my mother, Jeanette Della Torre Rozzi 1923 – 2009) never worked a 40 hour work week at our factory, she was involved.

She lived it everyday. Every success and every tragedy, of which there were many, she was there as a source of strength and support. She had great strength, as many women of the greatest generation did, to persevere and endure. I’m not sure how she did it.

She raised seven children plus grandchildren and saw every one of her seven children work at a fireworks factory that she knew could be cruel enough to cripple or kill one of us if we weren’t diligent or we didn’t follow instructions or we just made a simple mistake.

She knew the dark side of the business all too well. After all, she looked after her husband with his hands wrapped with  2nd and 3rd degree burns from a factory accident. But harder than that, she held her husband up after his only brother, Paul Rozzi, was killed in front of him in a tragic explosion at the factory. She never told him to give it up or get a safer job.

She taught us about the sacrifices we all must make for the family business because we took care of the business and the business took care of us.

I can’t say she didn’t complain. She was pretty verbal when no one was around to cut the grass in perfect diagonal lines (yes, she was that Mom)….including but not limited to hospital corners, clothes folded neatly and crisply and stacked by size, no purses on the table, no dishes in the sink lol this could be a long list or keep her company during the lonely days and evenings all summer long when everyone in the family was working around the clock to put on the shows   She complained in funny ways that let me know she missed us. We were her whole world.

She cheered us on when we were dog tired on July 3 and gave me a shoulder whenever I needed one without judgement. She cooked her signature pasta for us and sent it up to the factory and asked lots of questions but mostly she prayed for us.

She prayed all the time but during the season, she prayed a lot more. She sat vigil in her chair in her favorite room and prayed with her plastic prayer cards (purchased in quantity from the catholic shop down the road) and rosaries and statues of the Blessed Mother Mary.

Before one of our biggest fireworks shows of the year, Riverfest in Cincinnati, she would show up at the barge with copies of the St. Joseph prayer in hand. She taped copies all over the barges that held all of the people she loved and were filled to the brim with explosives all wired and tucked into their mortars just waiting for showtime.

She buried a little plastic St. Joseph statues in the sand that provided the makeshift earth that supported the mortars that launched those loud beautiful shells into the sky that brought joy to so many. If you were lucky, she gave you a plastic laminated prayer card to keep with you at all times.

You might wonder why St. Joseph? Well, my Dad, brother and son are named Joseph (Italian thing) but it was actually what the St Joseph prayer represents. The end of the prayer read:

“Whoever shall read this prayer or hear it or keep it about themselves, shall never die a sudden death, or be drowned, nor shall poison take effect on them: neither shall they fall into the hands of the enemy or shall be burned in any fire…

So she gave out copies of prayers and buried statues and prayed a lot.


Riverfest, Cincinnati 2009. sending a prayer up to Jeanette “Rozzi Style”. Myself and Chuck Valentine (his laminated prayer from Jeanette)

I loved my mother for so many things, for her love of beautiful music, and all things Italian, for her love for her family and any stray who needed a meal and a family.  She loved to watch sports and cheered for her teams but I’ll always love how she felt sorry for the losing team.  Her food was heavenly. She made a bed you wanted to crawl into and never come out. I loved how she loved my Dad.

I loved her strength and compassion and how she believed in me when I couldn’t believe in myself.  And for the things she didn’t do that allowed me to spread my wings and do for her what she could not do for herself.

As mothers, we love our children so much that we naturally put them ahead of ourselves. The day they are born our life becomes more about them and less about us.  It’s a beautiful thing. There comes the time when we have no choice but to let them go and say goodbye. Except if you’re an Italian Mom, then you never have to let them go until they haul you to the nuthouse and make you. On certain evenings when the day slows down, I feel my Mom near. I know she’s there.  I smell something that reminds me of her or I hear her voice and say out loud “Hi Mom, what’s going on?”

So, as Mother’s Day approaches, it is again a time to reflect on all of the things your mother, or mother figure, is: friend, rock, confidant, cheerleader, partner in crime, or pain in the rear.

I’m eternally grateful for having Jeanette as a my Mom.