Families are complicated, but knowing who your father is, even though he may be absent, is typical. But some people grow up never knowing their father, who he is, or what happened to cause his absence.
For Larry Moran, a resident of the Village of Mallory, it took more than 70 years and, even then, he was reluctant to accept the information.
It all really started about five years ago when Larry sent a DNA test in to Ancestry.com.
“First, I learned I wasn’t Irish,” he says. “I’m Italian and English.”
Having been raised in an Irish family, this was something of a shock.
“And I had no idea who my father was, so I wanted to find out,” he says.
Larry also gave permission for Ancestry.com to search other DNA tests looking for family matches.
Rosemary Cairola was raised in an orphanage in Albany, N.Y.
“My mother left me at the orphanage when I was an infant and told them she would come back for me,” she says.
Her mother never returned. Beginning at age seven, Rosemary went through two adoptions, but neither worked out. By 19, she was on her own.
“The orphanage was not a bad place,” she says. “I was looked after by Sister Loretta, who also looked after some of the youngest babies. I helped her until I was adopted.”
Michael Pelton grew up in a boisterous, happy family, the oldest of nine siblings with many aunts, uncles and cousins.. Although as he grew older and did the math, he realized that his father had been storming the beaches of Normandy at the time he would have been conceived. When he had his DNA test done, it came back that he was half Italian, not completely English as he had expected.
After DNA searches, research, telephone calls and conversations with people across the country the three – Larry, Rosemary, and Michael – all came to the conclusion after several years that they all had the same father: Nicholas Promiscuo, a man who had been a World War II soldier and, later, a taxi driver in Albany, N.Y. They were half-siblings who, until just a few years ago, had never met.
For Villager Larry, the “awakening” started two years ago when a call came from one Heather Daniella.
“I’m your second cousin,” she announced. “I know who your grandfather was. My father, Jeff, is your first cousin.”
Larry, who had often complained bitterly to his wife, Cheryl, how unfair it was that he would never know his real father, was so excited he ran to the other side of the house, naked, to explain the strange call. “Honey I found my father!”
Soon, they visited Uncle Jeff in Albany.
“‘Oh my God, it’s Nicholas,” the assembled family kept saying. “Apparently I looked just like my father,” Larry says.
Another relative asked to hold his hand. It felt like Nicholas’ hand, was her response.
After meeting the Albany cousins, Larry went on to meet the Philadelphia relatives. He also learned another family story: His grandfather, Antimo Promiscuo, was born out of wedlock in Italy and was left at a church as a newborn. He was eventually adopted by a “Black Hand” family and emigrated to the United States.
Then Larry discovered Rosemary, his half-sister, now living in Oregon. He called, but Rosemary refused to talk. Larry ended up having several conversations with Walter, Rosemary’s husband, before she would listen.
“I don’t like talking on the phone,” she admitted.
Once the story was explained, they spoke regularly on the phone every Sunday. They met face-to-face for the first time last week when Rosemary and Walter flew into Orlando for the “family reunion.”
Rosemary brought half-brother Michael into the group.
Michael Pelton, the oldest of the half-siblings, after a stretch in the U.S. Navy, spent most of his life as a musician and singer and now lives in South Carolina with his wife, Joyce.
“We were doing this DNA test for Christmas a few years ago and it came back and said that I was 47 percent Italian. This can’t be right,” Michael says. “So, my wife said, ‘Well take it again.’ This time it came back 50 percent Italian. Well, my father’s English and my mother is Irish.”
Then the call came from Larry. “You’re my long-lost brother!”
“I was shocked. I didn’t completely believe him, but I decided to play along,” Michael says. “It was hard. It was a shock.”
One incident that Michael relates involved his father (Pelton) at the tavern drinking and mentioning that Michael was not really his son. When he told his mother, she looked at him with a stern face and, in no uncertain terms stated, “He is your father!”
It was not discussed again.
The story of their father, Nicholas Promiscuo, pieced together from evidence, family stories and old photos tells of a young soldier who, afraid that he was going to die in the war, “raised hell” as much as possible before going overseas. He eventually returned to the U.S., very much alive, but there was little he could do about his past deeds. He fell in love with Dotty, a beautiful New York showgirl (according to legend, stealing her away from a prominent New York attorney) and they married.
In an ironic turn, Nicholas and Dotty wanted to start off their married life without blemish – and Dotty was pregnant. Once again, according to legend, Dotty had a back-alley abortion that left her unable to have children. The man who had fathered several children out of wedlock did not have any children with his wife.
Nicholas died in March 2005. His obituary mentions his godchild, Kelly Remancus. Apparently, Kelly had lived next door in an abusive environment. Nicholas and Dotty became her substitute parents as she grew up.
John W Prince is a writer and Villager. He can be reached at [email protected].