- Giovanna Celestina (Linda) de Socio -
Judith ScanlanGiovanna Celestina De Socio was born into the family of Angelina (called Ange) and Francesco De Socio on March 24, 1909 in New York City, New York. She was the second of their four children. Their first child, Amalia (called Mollie), preceded Giovanna by eighteen months. Members of Francesco’s aristocratic family were selected to become the new baby’s Godparents. As was the custom of the day only the Godparents accompanied the child to the church. For some reason Ange’s wishes were not followed and the baby was christened Giovanna Celestina. Ange was not intimidated in the least and called the child by the name she had chosen. So Giovanna Celestina De Socio lived her life as Linda De Socio. It was not until well into her sixties when birth records were needed that Linda became aware of her “real” name.
In 1911 Linda’s brother, Pasquale (called Pat), was born, and in 1914 another brother, Fausto (called Frank), was born. By this time the family had settled in Providence, Rhode Island. The children’s childhood was marked by the abuse of their violent father. Linda’s memories of that time were of trying to avoid his rages. Often the four young children would find themselves huddled together listening to their mother suffering at the hands of their father.
About 1915 Ange found the courage and strength to leave the abusive situation. With little, if any education Ange set our armed only with an abundance of determination to make a new life for her self and her four children. Many relatives offered to take in a child to ease her burden but Ange vowed to keep her family together. And she did.
Out from under the constant threat of violence all the children blossomed. Linda was, by nature, a cheerful child who loved people. She was angered easily but was also fast to forgive. She was naturally coquettish and usually got her own way by being charming and witty. Although Linda was bright and possessed a quick mind, school held very little interest for her. In her early teens Linda loved movies, records, dancing, make-up and boys. One day, during school hours, Ange, caught Linda walking with a boy. Linda had sneaked off to the movie, “Long Live the King”, with this young man. Ange, worried by Linda’s frequent truancy told her (on the spot) “If you won’t got to school you will go to work!” Consequently fourteen year old Linda ended her formal education and began to work. Ange was working at the Imperial Knife Company in Providence and was able to get Linda a job in the shipping department.
The years that took the De Socio children from early teens to their twenties made for some of the best memories of their lives. These reminisces included lots of extended family members with big Italian dinners. Ange’s brother, Uncle Willie, became a surrogate father to Linda and the other children. He was sometimes stern but always in a loving manner that made Linda love and respect him. Much of each summer was spent with Ange’s sister, Jenny, at her modest summer home in Longmeadow, RI. There Linda and her siblings spent long lazy days at the beach with Aunt Jenny and Uncle Sandy and their family, Tony and Katherine.
As Linda grew into womanhood she perfected her coquettish manner and flirtatious ways and was never at a loss for the attention of young men. At eighteen Linda met and fell in love with Johnny Albiniano, son of a local bricklayer. Feeling the disapproval of both their families the two teenagers planned to elope. Linda confided in her sister Mollie. Mollie hating the idea of her sister sneaking off told their mother. Ange, knowing it was useless to try to dissuade the young couple, helped Linda arrange a nice wedding with all the trimmings. The marriage was in trouble from the beginning. Both, Linda and Johnny were too young to do little more than play at marriage. Inevitably, one year later they were divorced. Linda carried guilt with her the rest of her life regarding this unhappy union. She felt somehow that it was solely her responsibility that it didn’t work. Ironically, many years later, Linda’s niece, Patricia De Socio met an older male patient in the hospital at which she worked. He noticed her name and asked her if she was related to Linda De Socio. He told her his name was, John Albiniano, and of his involvement with Linda; commenting, “I didn’t do right by your Aunt”.
After her divorce Linda took up the carefree life of a young single working woman. Linda spent her days working at the Imperial Knife Co. and he evenings with friends and family. Linda’s passion at this time in her life was ballroom dancing and men. So the weekends were spent in a frantic whirl of one or two dates a night, dancing, and big family dinners. There was always a multitude of people in and out of the De Socio home. Ange was a great Italian cook and the friends of the young De Socio’s loved to spend long Sunday afternoons around their dining room table. During this time Linda had many suitors who were sincere in their affection for her. Unfortunately, for them she was having too much fun to take any one of them too seriously. She had poems written for her, jewelry fashioned for her, portraits painted of her, one beau even threatened suicide over her. Like the femme-fatales Linda adored in the movies she had perfected the art of keeping men devoted to her, but at arms length, always remaining a lady.
One of those persistent suitors was a young policeman named Howard Scanlan. He was a good looking, fun loving, Irishman who looked great on the dance floor. After a five-year courtship Linda finally accepted one of Howard’s proposals of marriage. Since she was a divorced woman and not allowed to remarry in the Catholic Church, Howard’s family chose to protest the marriage. In keeping with this protest Howard’s family did not attend their wedding. Linda and Howard were married in a civil ceremony on September 9, 1939 in Providence, Rhode Island. She was thirty years old and he was thirty-four. After the ceremony Linda insisted that Howard take he immediately to see his mother. Linda greeted her reluctant new mother-in-law with a hug. This gesture surprised and touched the very formidable Lucy Scanlan and from that time forward Lucy accepted Linda into her family. The newlyweds spent their honeymoon attending the New York Worlds Fair. Some of the futuristic sights they saw were frozen foods, modern freeway systems and television.
Linda and Howard settled in Warwick, RI in a house half a block from the shoreline. Howard worked as a policeman and a volunteer fireman while Linda stayed home and became an excellent homemaker. Since Howard worked a night beat he would often arrange for one of Linda’s former boyfriends to take her out for the dancing she loved so much. They would end the evening by meeting Howard at a diner on his beat and all have breakfast together.
After three years of marriage Linda became pregnant and on August 15, 1942 Kathleen Linda Scanlan was born in Warwick, RI. This dark eyed, curly headed baby was pampered and indulged by all the people that surrounded her. Kathie blossomed with all the attention and grew into an adorable well-behaved child, a pleasure for any adult to have around.
While on duty with the police force Howard sustained a back injury which made the long New England winters very painful. As a result of Howard’s injury, in 1944 the Scanlan family Linda, Howard, Kathie and faithful dog “Laddie” packed up the car and headed west to warm, sunny California. There they joined Howard’s mother who had moved to the Los Angeles area some years earlier.
When they first arrived in Los Angeles Linda and her family rented a room in the home of Howard’s Aunt Lillian. Not many details are known about Linda’s first year in California. Howard had a series of jobs and there was a failed attempt at some business venture involving Howard and his mother. In mid 1945 Linda discovered she was going to have another baby, and on January 4, 1946 Linda’s second daughter and last child Judith Joan Scanlan, was born at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles. Linda loved to tell the story of lying in her hospital bed when the door opened and there stood Clark Gable with his arms full of roses, he was to visit a friend and had gotten the wrong room. Things were not going too well between Linda and Howard at this time and when the new baby was six months old Linda and her two daughters took a train back to Providence, RI. The reason for this separation is lost to the past. What is known is that after a summer of relaxation and being surrounded by family, Linda returned to California and Howard. Linda, Howard, Kathie, Judy, their dog, Laddie and a cat moved into a tiny little trailer in the San Gabriel area, a suburb of Los Angeles.
By 1948 the family had found some stability, Howard had a decent job and they were now able to rent a house. It was on Isabelle Ave. in South San Gabriel. The rent was fifty dollars a month. The children cheerful and growing enjoyed playing with all the other children in the neighborhood. Kathie was taking tap dancing lessons, which Judy was anxious to start as soon as she turned three years old. It was at this time that tragedy struck Linda and her family. On Christmas morning little Judy awoke with flu like symptoms and had no interest in Christmas or her presents. The doctor said, “don’t worry give her a few days”. The few days passed and Judy’s condition worsened. A specialist was consulted and Linda and Howard were given the news that every parent, of that era, lived in fear of hearing.
Judy had contracted a severe case of polio. Judy was placed in isolation where her parents could have no physical contact with her. She kept asking, Mommy why won’t you touch me?” Judy was completely paralyzed. One nurse made the comment to Linda that Judy would be better off dead for if she lived Judy was certain to be severely disabled. The family was devastated, their four lives irrevocably changed forever. Many months passed and sadly, as predicted, Judy would remain severely disabled, using a wheelchair as her means of mobility.
Linda and her family resumed the tasks of daily living on Isabelle Ave. Kathie started school, Howard continued working, and Judy was in and out of hospitals. Linda was the typical good mother of her day and kept it all going. In the early fifties the family moved a few blocks way to a house on Evelyn Ave. Howard now worked in Pasadena in a war surplus store. Kathie continued school and happily inherited her parents’ facility for making friends. She was very active with the Girl Scouts, and stayed with the same troop (and group of girls) from grade school all the way through high school. Judy, it seemed, was more in the hospital than out. Including a ten-month stint in the Shriners Hospital in San Francesco for rehabilitation. Linda was devoted to the care of her daughter and the months that she was away were extremely difficult for her. Linda kept herself active, she and the neighborhood ladies would gather two and three evenings a week to sew or make crafts. At this time, Linda, joined a canasta club that lasted into the mid 1980’s. She also enjoyed taking part in an organization called The Mother Singers. Linda was a tireless worker for the March of Dimes and received commendations for her efforts. Linda and her sister Mollie were very close while growing up and as adults that didn’t change. Mollie joined her sister in California a few years after marrying Lewis Clay.
As the fifties progressed Linda and Howard grew further and further apart. The fact that Howard’s very outspoken mother very often lived with them contributed to their numerous problems. In spite of the discord within the household there were many outings as a family. Sundays were usually reserved for visits and leisurely dinners with Linda’s sister, Mollie, and her husband, Lewis.
Since Mollie and Lewis had no children of their own, Kathie and Judy were the objects of their Aunt and Uncle’s affection, continually indulged and pampered. Extended trips to California made by Linda’s mother, Ange, and her brother Pat, served to ease the tensions in the family as well as delight the children. There were few relatives in the Los Angeles area; however, Linda and Mollie developed a large extended family that they invited for most holiday dinners creating a festive atmosphere. Both Linda’s daughters grew into extremely well behaved, intelligent, pretty girls. Kathie, cheerful and fun, was always surrounded by her many friends. She loved singing, animals, and scouting activities. Judy, cheerful though quiet, loved animals, especially cats, and played the hand fate dealt her with a marked amount of grace for a child.
Unfortunately by the late fifties Linda and Howard, although living in the same house, were completely estranged. Kathie, in her late teens discovered she enjoyed ballroom dancing also. And to Linda’s great delight she and Kathie would often spend Friday and Saturday nights out dancing. It was one of these dances that brought Linda together with Vern Hoffman, the man who was to be her third husband. Linda realizing her feelings for Vern were getting serious asked Howard for a divorce, which he granted. Although the first few years after their divorce were strained, Linda and Howard developed a friendship that lasted the rest of their lives. Ironically, Linda and Kathie met their future husbands at the same dance hall, called “Bonnie Lees”. On October 20, 1960, at the age of eighteen and with reservations on her mother’s part, Kathleen Linda Scanlan became Mrs. Roy Rowley.
By the early 1960’s Linda and Judy were living in a tiny apartment in Monterey Park. The relationship that Linda and Vern shared was always volatile. Linda, born a flirt, still enjoyed dancing with a variety of partners, unfortunately Vern was possessive and jealous. This combination of personalities caused many arguments. Vern often became enraged by some imagined infidelity and stormed off, sometimes for days or weeks. Vern was an outdoorsman and introduced Linda to a whole new set of activities fishing, hunting and camping. Adventures she took part in with a city-girls trepidation. Linda was thrilled that Vern doted on Judy, now in her mid teens. He, in turn, was very pleased when the three of them would go camping together. He would carry Judy up the sides of mountains and down to the banks of rivers. There are many photographs of Judy sitting in fallen trees, on rocks or in snow bank.
On August 28, 1961 Linda’s first grandchild, Toni Lee Rowley, was born. Linda was ecstatic and made the comment that the “sight of her first grandchild was more exciting that the first glimpse of her own children.” November 3rd, 1962 brought the birth of Tina Marie Rowley, Linda’s second granddaughter. Kathie and her family were living in Los Angeles. Roy, Kathie’s husband, worked with Howard who was now the manager of The Pacific Fire Extinguisher Company.
Even thought their relationship was full of turmoil, in 1964 in Carson City Nevada, Linda and Vern were married. Vern was a successful plastering contractor and for the first time in Linda’s life money was not a worry. Linda and Vern moved into a new doublewide mobile home and he took her to pick out a brand new car.
On May 10, 1965 (Mother’s Day) Kathie presented Linda with her third and last grand daughter, Patricia Ann Rowley. Kathie and her husband, Roy, had bought a house and were making a life for themselves in West Covina. That same year Linda and Vern had another on of their rows, only this time Linda moved out. It wasn’t long after that incident that Vern left for Alaska, to work on the oil pipeline. They corresponded for a while, but Linda and Vern never resumed their marriage. Her last contact with Vern was in 1969, when he came to the Los Angeles area for a visit. He left promising to come back in a few months, Linda never heard from him again. In April of 1965, Judy, at age nineteen, began her last protracted stay (sixteen months) in a hospital, Rancho Los Amigos. Linda, now living with her sister in Van Nuys, CA would make the forty-five minute drive to Downey every other evening after work to visit her daughter. When Linda’s marriage to Vern dissolved she went to work at The Jordan Electric Company, in Van Nuys. She managed the shipping department for seventeen years. The Jordans, Rex and Esther, admired and appreciated Linda and became her close friends.
In 1967 Linda and Judy rented an apartment in Reseda. The following year Linda was diagnosed with uterine cancer. She under went surgery and a form of radiation treatment. Luckily she completely recovered. Linda still loved to dance and would attend ballrooms, in the area, once or twice a week.
In 1971 Linda’s sister, Mollie and he husband Lewis, bought a house across the street from their own for Linda and Judy to live in. These were good years. Watching her granddaughters grow. As grown women, the three girls would often reminisce about weekends spent at Grandma’s doing jigsaw puzzles, making pizzas, lounging around the pool with friends and many other happy activities. Working with the Jordans, playing bingo and accompanying Judy to the ballet and other cultural events that they so enjoyed added to these good years. Linda loved the thrill of gambling and there were many trips to Las Vegas with marathon bingo sessions. Linda and her sister Mollie made several trips back to Rhode Island. They always enjoyed reminiscing with their brothers, cousins and elderly aunts. Ange, their mother died in 1976. Although a continent separated them the De Socio family was always very close.
Linda was blessed with limitless energy and a hardy constitution; she seemed to bounce back from just about all life handed her. As the 1980’s began, Linda now in her seventies, still worked. Her younger co-workers marveled at her ability to greet them at six in the morning, work all day as a prelude to full evenings of bingo or canasta. In the mid 1980’s, The Jordan Electric Company was sold. The new owners pleaded with Linda to relocate with them to Carlsbad, California. Linda declined, and took a job at a bulk mailing company in Van Nuys.
In 1986 Linda was diagnosed with a reoccurrence of her uterine cancer, after seventeen years it had metastasized to he lung. The prognosis was grim, one year to live. Linda, however, “felt fine” and believed the doctors had made a mistake. Which in fact they had, Linda lived several more years. The side effects of the chemotherapy were quite debilitation though and made it necessary for her to retire. In 1989 Mollie, now a widow, sold the home that Linda and Judy lived in, and they moved in with her.
In her last years Linda enjoyed her family; her granddaughters, Toni, Tina and Patti, who had grown into three beautiful young women; her daughter, Kathie, who had found happiness with a life partner in a second marriage to a wonderful man, Owen; her daughter, Judy, who was the source of as much pleasure as pain and who was now her devoted companion; and her sister, Mollie who was always there for her. Linda never lost her charming flirtatious manner and in her eighties used to delight in saying “I’ve had three husbands and I’m not done yet.” She endured eight years of cancer treatments astounding her doctors, friends and family with her fortitude and humor. Linda lived her life straightforward, facing head on whatever came her way. She died at home with her family by her side on February 21, 1994, a month before her eighty-fifth birthday.