Frontier Diary: Man who liked to garden set roots in Glenwood
Glenwood Springs Historical Society
“To maintain a joyful family requires much from both the parents and children. Each member of the family has to become, in a special way, the servant of the other.”
— Pope John Paul II
Early each morning, before going off to work, John Guadnola tended to the plants in his large garden at his home at 1128 Colorado Ave. in Glenwood Springs. His philosophy of planning, nurturing and giving the plants the opportunity to thrive and produce on their own was the key to the success of his gardens. That philosophy was the key to every aspect of his life, including creating a harmonious and productive home for his wife and children.
It was in the 1880s when Guadnola came to Colorado’s Western slope from his home in Grimaldi in Southern Italy. Like so many men from Italy, he worked in Colorado’s mines. Then in the late 1880s, when he worked for the Denver and Rio Grand Railroad building the line from New Castle to Grand Junction, he decided that Western Colorado was to be his home. He returned to Italy with the idea of starting a family and immigrating permanently to the United States.
Assunta Ruffalo of Grimaldi became John’s wife in about 1897. The couple left Italy, but their travel to the United States was not direct. A coffee growing boom was occurring in Sao Paulo, Brazil, so the Guadnolas traveled to Brazil to help John’s brother on a coffee plantation. The first three of John and Assunta’s 10 children — Anthony, Rose and Mary — were born in Sao Paulo. In 1904 the family immigrated to the United States, living in four Colorado communities before settling in Glenwood Springs in about 1907.
John worked as a laborer, was a road supervisor for Garfield County, and worked for the Denver and Rio Grand Railroad. He and Assunta were a couple of strong religious faith and values, which they instilled in their children. They were not a financially wealthy couple but believed in love and generosity and friendship and community. They encouraged their children to pursue their various talents, especially music, drama and dancing. The children in return took jobs while living at home to support the family.
As the family grew, it became necessary for the Guadnola family to move from their home at 820 Minter Ave. to a new home at the edge of Glenwood Springs’ city limits at 1128 Colorado Ave. With the exception of the walkway to the house, every inch of the ground around the house was turned to productive flower, vegetable and herb gardens through John’s joyful gardening efforts. Chickens provided eggs, with surplus production shared freely with the neighbors.
Of the Guadnola children, some remained in Glenwood Springs, and others moved to various parts of the county. Anthony moved to Los Angeles, married, and worked as a typographer for the Los Angeles Examiner newspaper. Elvira entered the convent, becoming Sister Charles Marie Guadnola, Sister of St. Dominic of Akron, Ohio. Joseph studied law at Notre Dame University, graduating with a law degree in 1931. James worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps, married, and became the postmaster in Grand Junction, Colorado. Daughters Rose, Adeline and Esther married, raising their families in other Colorado communities. Son Charles passed away at the age of 18 in 1929. Mary remained in Glenwood Springs, living with her parents, and for 40 years was an accountant for the Glenwood Light and Water Co., later the Glenwood Springs Electric System. Patricia “Patsy” earned a bachelor’s degree in teaching, studied music at the Julliard School of Music in New York, and taught music in the Glenwood Springs schools for 51 years. She too lived with her parents at the family home on Colorado Avenue.
John Guadnola died in 1948 at the age of 81 years. He was remembered as a man possessing a strong work ethic, humor and faith. Assunta Guadnola passed away in 1962 at the age of 85 years. She was remembered for her service to St. Stephen’s Catholic Church.
The Avalanche Echo newspaper wrote of immigrants in 1923, “We who were born native can little conceive the courage and fortitude, the privation that a family must undergo to venture forth unto a new world, and new home, among strangers speaking an unknown tongue and there make good.” John Guadnola, because of his fearless pursuit to create a wonderful life for himself, his wife and his children, put down deep roots in Glenwood Springs. His nurturing philosophy formed his family and transformed for the better the community he called home.
Willa Kane is former archivist of and a current volunteer with the Glenwood Springs Historical Society and Frontier Historical Museum. “Frontier Diary,” which appears the first Tuesday of every month, is provided to the Post Independent by the museum, 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs. Summer hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, call 945-4448.
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