At 92, still driving to NY and working elections
by Ginger Costen
WEBSTER - Last week domestic diva Martha Stewart decided to document her attempt at online dating. Stating that it’s been six years since she’s had a man in her life, Stewart decided it was time to find someone and filled out the application for the dating website, Match.com, on NBC’s Today show. The current plan is for a production crew to follow Martha through her journey with regular updates and interviews.
While the concept of using the Internet to find a possible mate is certainly a 21st century phenomenon, the idea of the woman searching for and interviewing potential grooms is not.
Webster resident Gladys (Dell’Anna) Gorski’s parents met just that way more than a hundred years ago.
“My father Francis Dell’Anna was from northern Italy and moved to America right around the turn of the century,” said Gorski. But the trip for Mr. Dell’Anna was several years in the making. “He left home after his parents died when he was 12 years-old,” continued Gorski. Knowing the family farm would go to the eldest male child, Dell’Anna turned his attention to the gold rush in Australia. “He worked his way to Australia on a ship only to find that the minimum age for miners was 14,” she said. Dell’Anna sold fruit on street corners to survive until he was old enough to work in the mines.
“When he felt he’d made enough money, he went back to Italy only to find the family farm in shambles so he had his brother sign the farm over to him and he fixed it up before moving to America,” Gorksi said. Thirty-two year-old Francis Dell’Anna settled in Wilsonville, CT and began building bridges for the State of Connecticut.
Gladys’ mother, Julia Pizzetti, was a 24 year-old dressmaker living four miles from Rome when she decided to also move to America. “Her brother George had already moved to Webster in 1912 and through his letters encouraged my mother to join him,” said Gorski.
Julia Pizzatti quickly found work in the Corbin shoe factory in Webster. “My mother didn’t go to school in Italy and although she was excellent with stitchery, she couldn’t read the names of the colored threads, so she would take a sample of the thread to the spools and match the color she needed,” Gorski said.
As was the social customs of the early 20th century, women were expected to get married and have a family. So when Gladys’s mother arrived in America friends and family started asking when she was going to find a man. “After a while my mother put the word out that she was interested in getting married so men started coming by the house where she was staying to meet and talk with her,” Gorski explained. But it wasn’t love at first sight for several years.
Male suitors would stop by and while Pizzatti was polite and listened, it wasn’t until Francis Dell’Anna came calling that she knew she’d met the right man. “She told me the minute she met my father she loved his smile and her entire world lifted up when she saw him. She said yes and he gave her $300 to buy a trousseau and they got married a few days later in the Saint Louis Church in Webster,” said Gorski.
They lived in Wilsonville, CT until the time that Gladys was two months old. “My mother was giving me a bath and my two year-old brother was out playing in the fenced backyard. After my mother had dressed me she looked out in the yard and saw that my brother George had dug a hole under the fence and was gone.” By the time the toddler was found he’d managed to make his way alongside the French River, over a bridge and a set of train tracks before heading towards a group of children several streets away from his home.
“That was the end of Wilsonville and the day my mother stated the family was moving to Webster. We moved to our new home on Maple Street and I’ve been here ever since,” said Gorski.
Their house quickly became the gathering point for all the kids in the neighborhood. “My mother loved to garden and had beautiful flowers and vegetables but she couldn’t get the lawn to match because we were always running all over it,” said Gorski. “My father wanted us kids to stay home and play at our house, so the lawn never quite looked like Mom wanted,” Gorski said with a small impish grin on her face.
“Every morning we’d run up Maple Street over to Elm and then to School and Mechanic Streets or Park Ave and then back to my house and I’d always win,” she added.
Gladys’s love for adventure and for living life on her terms began at an early age when at three she was run over by a car. “My mother told my brother and me that we could go over to a friend’s house but if they couldn’t play we had to come right back. Well it was snowing and I wanted to go sledding and when our friends couldn’t play I decided we’d go sledding anyway,” said Gorski.
George Dell’Anna was five and Gladys was three; both were headed down Maple Street on the sled when they lost control. George was tossed off and Gladys kept on going onto Elm Street and right into the path of an oncoming car. She had multiple fractures and internal injuries. “I remember people coming to the house and everyone crying but I didn’t really understand why,” she said. “My mother couldn’t talk for three weeks.”
Gladys Gorski recovered with one leg shorter than the other and one foot noticeably damaged. But her quick wit grew even stronger.
“I loved to talk and never quite seemed to know when to keep my mouth shut,” said Gorski. So going to Catholic School was an ongoing battle. “I was born left-handed but the nuns forced me to use my right hand. To this day I struggle with knowing the difference between left and right,” she said.
Gorski was also not one to stand by when the nun’s comments or actions seemed to belittle her character or those of her parents. “I was a junior in high school when one nun tried to blame my upbringing for not understanding that Catholics were not to attend a movie during Lent nor were we supposed to wear knee-high stockings under our dresses,” she said.
In spite of a battle of wills and wits with the nuns, Gorski graduated from high school and with her parent’s financial support, attend Becker College. “Some of the other Italian women would criticize my mother for spending the money to send me to college,” she said. “But my mother told them that I would probably get married someday but if I needed to get a job; it wasn’t going to be in a factory. I learned a lot from my mother.”
Julia (Pizzetti) Dell’Anna died of breast cancer in 1946 at the age of 59. Gladys’s father, Francis Dell’Anna died in 1950. “Even though my parents were not supposed to show each other affection in front of us kids, I knew they loved each other,” added Gorski. But it wasn’t until the day her father died that she knew just how much he loved and missed her mother. “During the last couple of hours, he’d go back and forth between talking to me and talking with my mother. He kept asking her about the different moments in their lives and if she remembered them,” she added. “I still miss them both.”
Gladys was glad that her parents got to meet the young man who would become her husband before they died.
“I’d already graduated from high school and liked to go to the dances they had at the old high school downtown,” she said. “I’d gone to the dance with Johnny Gorski and he introduced me to his brother Joseph. I knew the minute I met him that I liked his smile and how much brighter my life felt with him in it,” she said. Gladys was 18 years-old when she met Joseph “Professor Dan” Gorski; he was 23.
He was in the military and was learning to be a physical therapist. After completing his tour of duty, he came home and went to law school at Boston College. Joseph Gorski served as Webster’s Town Counsel for 27 years. “He was suffering from mini-strokes and was beginning to forget what he was doing,” explained Gladys Gorski. He also played football for Webster’s professional team, The Red Wings.
They had two sons, Danny who lives in New York and Joseph, who lived for 11 days before dying from complications of abdominal repair surgery.
Gladys is 92 years-young and still safely drives locally and to New York to visit her family. She goes to Curves three times a week and although she’s retired, she’s volunteered at Webster’s elections and town meetings for the past fifty years. Her favorite memory of Webster is playing in LakeLake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg. Her funniest moment in her marriage was when she learned she’d been calling her husband Joseph by the wrong name. Joseph Gorski reminded other students of a professor named Dan so they opted to call him Professor Dan after a local television character. It wasn’t until she signed her marriage license that she realized his real name was Joseph and not Dan.