Marazita family prime example of ‘Greatest Generation’

Published 3:35 pm Saturday, May 29, 2004

By By LOU LIEBETRAU / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- For some families within our community, Memorial Day will be especially significant this year as their loved ones are presently serving in the Armed Forces.
Niles is, and has been, the home to numerous veterans, some of which, like Ernest Marazita of the Niles High School Class of 1941, are no longer with us but still have family members remaining here in Niles.
After a bit of gentle persuasion, we were able to convince Al (Ernest's younger brother) that we would like to know more about both Ernest and the Marazita family.
He has obliged us by dividing this information into segments beginning with a brief history of the Marazita family, followed by the brothers' war years and finally, how the Veni Sweet Shop managed to survive during these turbulent years.
Al begins…
Like all immigrants in the early 1900s, my father, Frank Marazita, left a young wife, Josephine, and a son, Joe, back in Italy and came to America to gain a better life for them.
Shortly thereafter, World War I began and this country was involved in it. The federal government informed my father that he must choose to either enlist in the American Army or return to Italy. With no hesitation, my father enlisted in the American Army. This was just great because this would then automatically make my mother and brother (Joe) American citizens and once the war was over, they could come right over to this country.
My father was in "G" Company in the famous "Lightening" Division. While in combat in the Argonni Forest of France, he was machine-gunned across his body, causing injury to his foot, inside thigh and also his shoulder. Unfortunately, since he was also sprayed with the terrible "mustard gas" he was blinded for some time. If a soldier lay wounded, it was customary for a comrade to run his bayonetted rifle into the ground and place his helmet on it. A retreating German soldier did this for my father, and obviously, it was this act of compassion that saved my father's life. He was hospitalized at a base hospital in France until he recovered from both the effects of the mustard gas and until his wounds were healed, then returned home to America and immediately sent for his wife and (by then) his eight-year-old son.
Very soon thereafter, my parents were blessed with more children. First born was my brother Joe, then he was followed by the births of Paul, Dominic, Ernie, Mary, Virginia, John, Tony, Phil, Albert and, last of all, Warren.
As I'm sure, like in all large families, the focus was first on the "Family." My father was the family's "strength" and my mother was its "heart."
Five Marazitas served in the Army at different times. John, Paul and Ernie were in World War II. Tony served in Korea and Albert in peace time.
While Paul was heading to the Pacific area, Ernie was deployed to Europe, where he served as a medic in the 502nd Collecting Co. 9th Army. His battles and campaigns were in Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe. He attained the rank of sergeant and among his decorations and citations were the American Theater Ribbon, EAME Theater Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, Victory Medal World War II, plus not one, not two, not three, not four, but five Bronze Stars.
The Bronze Star Medal is awarded to any person serving in any branch of the military service who, while serving in the armed forces on or after Dec. 7, 1941, has distinguished himself by heroic or meritorious achievement or service, not involving participation in aerial flight in connection with military operations against an armed enemy.
The award recognizes acts of heroism performed in ground combat and single acts of merit and meritorious service.
My brother, John, was with the first occupational troupes in Japan after World War II. Tony was a combat engineer in Korea. While in combat there (and before his term of service was up) President Harry Truman extended these men's time of service to an extra year before they were able to return home. All these brave American were "icons" and we owe them a debt that could never be repaid them! With Memorial Day almost upon us, what better way to honor these local "icons," who served our country so well than to give generously to the forthcoming Niles Veterans Memorial Monument, soon to be erected in the Niles Riverfront Park!
Veni Sweet Shop and World War II
Brother Joe, and his wife, Josephine Marazita, began an new era for the Marazita Family and for the Niles area. They brought high-quality, homemade candies and ice cream soda fountain lunches to Niles.
Their grand opening took place on Dec. 7, 1939. Thus, the torch was passed from our father, Frank Marazita, and the Niles Fruit Company, to the Veni Sweet Shop.
During these terrible war years, help was hard to get, so this meant that the family all had to pitch in . Our sister, Virginia, would come downtown directly from school to assist through the very busy noon hours with Joe and Josephine. Our brothers, John and Tony, did their part by helping at the counter both at noon and then again after school. John, Tony and Virginia were extremely young, but their hep was very certainly a godsend for owners Joe and Josephine.
According to Virginia, a very popular menu lunch of the day consisted of ham salad or olive and nut sandwich plus a generous bowl of homemade soup and, of course, cherry coke. The price of this lunch was 70 cents.
My brother, Tony, showed his patriotism by going all around our neighborhood collecting any items of aluminum for the war effort. He then used the cash he earned to buy United States war bonds. As a matter of fact, all of my brothers, as well as my sister, Virginia, invested in war bonds, as did our father! Virginia invested almost all the money she earned at Veni's in war bonds. She also thriftily saved the remainder so that years later, this accumulated savings paid for her to enter St. Mary's College. While there, she took up oil painting and oil colors. She was noted throughout the States for her proficiency in this field. She was also well known for the children's books that she wrote.
My brother, Joe, was a civil defense block leader during these war years. Warren, Phil and I were too young to help out at the Veni's, but nevertheless, spent as much time as possible earning money so we could purchase war bonds. Warren searched and dug up worms to sell to two grocery stores owners in our neighborhood who were very avid fishermen. warren remembers receiving a lapel pin with a portrait of President Franklin D. Roosevelt on it. Warren was in grade school and did not hesitate to tell me how frightened we all became when our City of Niles had its many blackouts. When these blackouts did occur, all lights had to be shut off for about an hour so that from the air an enemy could not have seen any city lights.
The Veni Shop survived and prospered, through these troubled times, thanks in a large part to the Marazita brothers and sister, Virginia. Their help was priceless for owners Joe and Josephine. It was a way of life for this ambitious family. We all helped out gladly because of just one reason -- family.
The back of the Sweet Shop menu read: Ice Cream, made of the purest ingredients under the Most Sanitary Conditions, our Home Made Ice Cream is the Best You Can Serve the Youngster.