A Greek-Italian marriage leads to local restaurant legacy | PostIndependent.com

A Greek-Italian marriage leads to local restaurant legacy

Immigrant Stories
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Contributed photoJoe and Anne Rosa on their wedding day, June 22, 1952, at St. Mary's Greek Orthodox Church in Bayard, Neb.

For more than 60 years, the Rosa family has been in the restaurant and bar business at the corner of Seventh and Grand in Glenwood Springs. It has always been a family affair. Joseph and Anne taught their three children, Tony, Angela and Joe Jr., the business. Today Angela and Tony remember their parents and the circumstances that brought them together.

Angela: I always knew my grandmother as “yia yia.” That’s Greek for grandmother. Yia yia came from Messenia, the southwestern region of Greece. My grandfather, Paposse, came to America through Ellis Island a year or so before her. He came with his brother, and they went to San Francisco and got jobs on the railroad.

He eventually wrote to his mother, who was still in Greece, and told her he wanted to get married. She wrote back and told him she knew of a real nice family that had a daughter, Lucille, who was also interested in getting married.

In her next letter, she sent my grandfather a picture of Lucille. Even though he was Greek, my grandfather was blue-eyed and blond and he wrote that he thought she was “a little dark.” His mother wrote back and said, “She is very nice. She needs to marry. Her mother has died and her father has remarried and she wants to come the United States.”

So the marriage was arranged and Lucille’s father put her on a ship by herself and she came over. It took her two weeks and she cried the entire time, because she was going to a strange land to marry a man she had never met.

They married and, for some reason, settled in Bayard, Neb. They had eight children, and Mom was one of the youngest. When she was 12, her dad died and her mom was left to raise the children and take care of the farm. There were quite a few Greeks who settled in and around Bayard, so she had some community support, but she did most of it on her own with the help of her older kids.

Tony: There is a little Greek Orthodox Church there, and the community revolves around it. Most of the people in Bayard are either Greek or German.

Angela: Mom’s sister Elsie was about 15 years older than Mom and she helped Yia yia raise the younger kids. Elsie eventually fell in love, got married and settled in Dillon, where she and her husband bought a restaurant. So when my mom turned 18, she left Bayard and moved to Dillon to help in the restaurant.

Tony: Yeah, and that’s where Dad met her. Dad’s parents came from Italy in the 1930s and settled in Milwaukee. We think Dad was born in Milwaukee, but we’re not sure. What we do know is that when he was 3, his parents were killed in a car wreck and he went to live with an aunt who was working in the coal fields of Wyoming.

By the time he was 13 or 14, he had dropped out of school and was working in the coal mines. He worked in the mines until he was 18. He had been in a couple of cave-ins and he decided he had had enough near misses. He wanted to work for himself.

So with the money he had saved, he opened The Cowboy Bar in Jackson Hole. And so, for the next 20-plus years, he followed the boom and bust of the oil and gas business and opened bars and restaurants.

Angela: Dad lived in the present. He didn’t live in the past or the future. He seldom talked about his past and we were young when he died, so we didn’t get a chance to ask him a lot of questions.

Tony: From Jackson Hole, he moved on to Rangely, where he opened the Ace High Bar. He always had an apartment in the bar. He lived where he worked. From Rangely he moved on to the Club 40 in Vernal, Utah, and then to Rock Springs, Wyo., and eventually to Rawlins for a while.

Angela: He did tell us about being in Rangely in the middle of the boom with no police or fire departments, surrounded by these guys who were always ready for a fight after a few drinks.

Tony: So he came up with a plan. He built a boxing ring outside of the bar and hired ex-prize fighters as bouncers. Every Wednesday night was “fight night,” and anybody who wanted to could get in the ring with one of the bouncers. It didn’t take long for those guys to see how tough the bouncers were outside the bar. They didn’t make trouble inside.

Gallacher: How did your dad manage to stay safe and sane in that environment?

Angela: Dad didn’t drink, but he felt really sorry for people who had a problem with alcohol. He would never buy customers a drink, even though that was the business he was in. He had a guy tell him one time, “Joe, this is the only place in town where I can sit at the bar all day and be sober when I leave.”

Tony: Yeah, Dad used to have to call the cops on some of those guys when they’d get out of hand. And the cops would come and throw them in jail, but the next morning my dad would go bail them out.

Gallacher: How did your dad end up in Glenwood?

Angela: Well, he hadn’t intended to end up here, but one day he was passing through on his way to Denver and his car broke down in Glenwood Canyon. He decided to stay the night and rented a room from Mrs. Zanella at the Rex Hotel. The next morning he took a walk and noticed that this corner (Seventh and Grand) was for sale.

Tony: He told me that he figured he would only be here for six to eight months, just enough time to fix it up and sell it. But that’s when he met Mom.

Angela: Mom was in Dillon working for her sister and one morning Dad stopped in Dillon for breakfast on his way to Denver, met her and fell in love. They became soul mates. Every night after he closed the restaurant here, he would get in his pink Cadillac and drive to Dillon to have breakfast with her.

After they got married they did everything together. They were inseparable. When Dad died, Mom never really recovered. She died three years later.

Gallacher: What are your favorite memories of them?

Tony: Dad always liked the sporty cars, and one Mother’s Day he went out and bought a red Thunderbird with a white top. He filled the back seat with roses and parked it under the bridge across from the restaurant.

Mom came out and was surprised, of course. She said, “Oh Joe, the flowers are beautiful and the car is nice. But I’d rather have the money.”

Angela: And she took it back!

Tony: And Dad was back to driving the station wagon around.

Angela: Dad always paid cash for everything. He had a vehicle repossessed when he was a young man and it really made an impression on him. He always said, “If you can’t pay cash for something you don’t need it, you want it.” And that’s how he lived his life. He lived within his means and paid cash for everything.

He was very consistent and taught us a lot of valuable life lessons. Most of our memories are working with our folks in the restaurant. We kids went to work in the restaurant as soon as we were able.

Tony: Dad loved to fish. Every morning he’d come in and shake me awake before daylight and we’d go fishing out in Glenwood Canyon for an hour or two and then come to work.

Gallacher: What would you talk about?

Tony: Oh, that was one of the rules. We weren’t supposed to talk when we fished. Dad said it scared the fish. We just enjoyed being together.

Angela: Dad didn’t talk much even when he wasn’t fishing. He was a very quiet man.

Gallacher: What about your mom?

Angela: Most of the memories are around working together. That’s what we did, worked and shopped. Mom loved to stay up late at night after we closed the restaurant. She would actually put a towel over the clock so that we could stay up all night and bake. She would say, “Angela, if you don’t know what time it is then you won’t get sleepy.” Sometimes we would stay up all night to clean the house when Yia yia was coming.

Tony: And no matter how clean it was, we had to clean it again.

Angela: She loved to cook, paint and clean. She was always doing something. In the summers we would go visit Yia yia in Bayard.

That’s where Mom and Dad are buried. My mother wanted to make sure she was buried with her family. My father hated Bayard because it was such a small town and there was nothing to do. But, of course, that’s where she took him to bury him.

Tony: That was Mom’s home, and Dad never really had a place.

Angela: She wanted to be with him when she died, so that’s where she took him. And that’s where we took her three years later.

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