Nicola and Constance Maffeo

Pandemic Influenza Storybook

Storyteller: Gloria Gambale

Location: Pennsylvania

Illustration of a rocking chair

My grandfather Nicola “Nick” Maffeo and my grandmother Constance Maffeo came to America from Italy. Constance had a separate room curtained off when seven of their children got sick with the pandemic flu. When she entered the room she wore gauze over her nose and mouth. Of the seven children that got sick, four of them died. They were Frank, Nick, Rosa, and Dominic. Nick and Rosa were twins. One of the three surviving children, my aunt Mary Ann Maffeo, said that she knew when one of them was not going to live because Constance would sit with the dying child in the family′s rocking chair and sing to him/her. The rocking chair would creak and when it stopped, she knew they were gone.

Although she cared for seven sick children, Constance never got the virus. She died in childbirth at 38, bearing her fourteenth child. Her husband, Nick, lived to be 102 years of age.