Jeanette Marion (Falivene) Bergonzi passed away peacefully on September 8, 2020, at the age of 88. She was preceded in death by her husband, Anso "Moose" Bergonzi, her sister Jacqueline (Falivene) Zawodniak, and her parents, Antoinette (Ciriello) and Peter Falivene.
She is survived by her sister Karen (Paul) Egliskis and brother Peter (Kathy) Falivene, her children Joelene (David Gross), Gregg, Karen, Janis (Kenny Bryant), Anson, Donna, Scott (Donna), Michael, and her friend who was like a daughter, Millie Diaz (Joe), her many grandchildren and even more great-grandchildren, all of whom will continue her legacy for generations to come.
Jeanette grew up and raised her family in Torrington, CT, where she founded Busy Bee nursery school, serving many children in the area. In the early 80's Jeanette and Moose and their youngest boys relocated to Port St Lucie, FL, where she continued serving the community.
In the late 80's, they traveled to Lemon Grove, CA, for a health retreat, and ended up joining the staff at Optimum Health Institute. Jeanette assisted in the health and well-being of others there for ten years. She then moved to West Palm Beach, FL. She was surrounded by friends who kept her busy, in between her travels to visit her many family members and celebrate the moments in their lives.
Jeanette will be missed by so many who remember her kindness and caring words — as well as the birthday, anniversary, and holiday cards she faithfully sent! She always lent a hand, her attention, and whatever resources she could share. She left behind loving memories and gratitude.
This was dictated by Jeanette to her granddaughter Nica Solomon, telling memories of her life:
I was born December 5th, 1931 in Torrington, CT in (I think but I'm not certain) the hospital to Antoinette (Ciriello) Falivene & Peter Falivene, both of whom (I think) were born in Torrington, CT. I was the first born. Peter worked for the Turner and Seymour company, which was a company that manufactured chains (welded and unwelded.) They were on strike a lot, so he came home with donuts a lot from the union. They were on welfare sometimes when Peter was on strike.
I worked in the tobacco fields. I also worked for a very short time on a Gladiola farm (before I was old enough to be officially employed). These were both summer jobs. I gave the money to my mother, and we came home, she would have a big pot of water boiling on the stove so we could take a bath. It was fun because a lot of my friends and classmates worked there too. We took the bus and sang songs and flirted with the boys.
I think I was in high school and I remember doing housework for one of the local doctors and his wife and babysitting for one of the local dentists and their kids. I walked to the doctor’s which was pretty far. I didn’t last very long in those jobs, but then I worked in a factory. It was called “The Torrington Company” and it was called “The Needle Shop,” and they made needles. And I worked in the office (“the packing room”) doing accounting. I remember walking to work, so it had to be high school (any younger and my mother wouldn’t let me)...and how the heck did I even get that job? It’s possible I was recommended by a teacher. It was fun because there were a lot of the girls there. We would talk, and go out together. Some of them were older than me so they looked out for me. So I’m thinking it had to be after I graduated that I worked there full time.
Parents & Siblings
My father was not very happy [at Turner and Seymour]. I never really talked to my father on a personal level. He suffered with bipolar disorder. I don't remember WHEN they started giving him shock treatments. But it did not really help.
My father was of German descent (his mother married an Italian). When I think of some of the unhappy days when he wasn’t well, I think that him being German (and people talked at that time about the Nazis, and there weren’t good vibes) was part of his problem. People talked. His father died and his mother remarried, and they didn’t want my father with them, so they sent him to live with his grandfather, which couldn’t have been too great either. He was still fairly young, but I couldn’t tell you how. I don’t remember how old I was, but he was admitted to a psychiatric hospital a couple times in Newton, CT.
I think they were all Catholic on my mother’s and father’s side, but we don’t really talk religion, so I couldn’t tell you.
[My father] was basically a good person, but his mental condition caused a lot of stress in his life. He liked to hunt and fish. He had hunting dogs. I don’t think he really knew what it was like to be a father. Even though he was good, whenever there was a holiday or something, my mother was a little sad because he wouldn’t be around to get ready or celebrate. But it was an outlet for him. We used to tell my mother that she should leave him, but she would never. He would lose his temper about weird things like not having his favorite bread at dinner or something. But he wasn’t a happy camper. His life was maybe not what he thought it would be. I never saw him raise a hand to my mother, but I would hear them arguing when I was in bed. I remember when he would have breakdowns. I would be so afraid that he would try to pick the kids up from school, and I didn’t want that to happen because I didn’t think he was trustworthy. Once he took the car and went to New York State for some reason I don’t know.
My mother got a part-time job in a clock factory when we got older--school-aged. She was home when we got home from school. Grandma Falivene was a great cook. She had an old-fashioned stove that burned oil with no thermostat. And she baked these beautiful pies and we would ask her “how do you know the temperature?” but they were so good. My husband, Moose later asked me “why doesn’t your sauce taste like your mother’s?” and I didn’t know because I did all the same things, but it must’ve been the pans. She was a big help with the kids and all. There were a lot of kids. Then we had the nerve to have the Fresh Air program--Millie--from NYC.
And we had a well growing up that had a pump inside the kitchen. But that didn’t last too long. Guess what we had outside--an outhouse (on Cole st. where I lived growing up), but things got modern right away. We weren’t very well to do, but I remember we would be listening to the radio then you had to go outside to use the bathroom--and that wasn’t much fun. I said “how could I be experiencing what I’m experiencing now with cell phones and computers and men on the moon and all the things that are going on in this world--the water situation and the glaciers--and I’m here to witness that, and yet I had an outhouse growing up!” Because that’s not a lot of years, if you think about it, for all that to happen--what’s going on this world. At some point we got plumbing and an indoor bathroom. Only one bathroom--there wasn’t room for more than that. But we did have a wonderful pear tree and apple tree. Delicious pears. And mother must have made those pies with the apples. [The Trees] didn’t really survive very well, but I wasn’t living there when they died. But they are gone now.
I have two sisters and one brother. Jacqueline (Jackie) was born next, then Karen, and Peter was the last. My father wanted to “keep trying for a boy,” but my mother didn’t want one. So she said “If God wants me to have one, he’ll send me one.” And then she did have one, but he was a surprise since she thought she was too old. I don’t remember how much younger they are or when they were born. I only remember that Peter and Karen were close in age, and that Karen came much later after Jackie. Peter and Karen were so little at my wedding, but Karen was older. We are all pretty close, although how together can you be? Jackie moved to Massachusetts (then came back, but not in our hometown). Peter was in the service and was in the Vietnam war. Karen is an LPN, and trained in New York at Foundling hospital. Then, she worked in Torrington. Between me having all of them so close, and my sister Karen having all her boys so close, she would babysit for us a lot. Peter now lives in Litchfield, CT. And Karen lives in Torrington, CT. Jackie (died 2019] lives in Wethersfield, CT. All retired now.
Karen had three boys, and so did Jackie. Karen had Glenn, Steven, and David, and Jackie had Christopher, Bruce, and Brian (in order of appearance). And Peter has one son, Jason. Karen’s husband is Paul Egliskis. Jackie, besides her name being Jacqueline, married “Clem” (Clement) Zawodniak (Polish) and Jackie was so cute whenever they would go out to dinner, she would say her last name was “Smith” so she didn’t have to tell them how to spell her last name. We all took our husbands’ last names then. We weren’t modern, you know. It’s nice that you [Nica] kept your last name--otherwise I think you really lose your identity. Peter’s son, Jason, is through his first marriage to Linda, but I can’t think of her maiden name. But he is still married to his second wife, Kathy. But I didn’t really see a lot of Jason. I didn’t see much of Jackie’s boys in the beginning, but saw them more when they moved to Wethersfield. But Karen’s boys I saw a lot.
Grandpa Moose--I don’t really know the proper word--persuaded, convinced, Karen and Jackie to buy the homes they still live in. They paid nothing for it and he did a lot of remodeling, so they are both very content. And he did a lot of remodeling on our childhood house on Cole street. We all used to get together a lot when we lived on New Harwinton Rd. and Grandpa had built like a gazebo--it was like a roofed in area, and we had a bbq and an above-ground pool and tennis court and a garden, and we would have picnics for birthdays etc. Everyone brought something.
1st Joelene, July 1st. When she was just a month old, the whole town flooded. The Dam broke.
Greg came next. This is when Grandma Falivene said “now you have the perfect family, a boy and a girl.” And of course, we went on to have 6 more. Karen, Jan, Anson, Donna, Scott, Michael
As you know, besides the eight kids, we had Millie join our family in the summers. The Fresh Air Program sent these inner city kids out to the country for the summer. Once they turned 16, they were on their own, so they had to find their own way of getting there. She still calls me and sends checks in the mail. She took dad and me to Puerto Rico with her husband. Her brother was shot and killed in the subway; Millie and her mother were mugged; her father and mother were separated (i don’t know if they ever divorced); and Millie had a lobe of her lung removed a little while ago. She calls us mom and dad. She started coming when she was five years old. Her own mother suggested we adopt her, but I had too many teenagers I felt like I couldn’t really. She came when grandpa was in Hospice. She is just like my kids.
We also had a young fellow from Spain stay with us, and a fella from Ethiopia, Mr. T. Word spread that we were gullible, and Mr. T was going to trade school and needed a place to stay. He was with us quite awhile. We gave him Greg’s old room, so Greg always remembers him. I could never say “Jaime” correctly so the young man told me to call him “James.” He was going to the high school for awhile and was an exchange student. The biggest reason we did things like that is because the kids went to parochial school and didn’t have much exposure to how the other half lived, and we had no neighbors. Some of my friends got involved with the Fresh Air Program that same year too.
The home we lived in belonged to Grandma and Grandpa Bergonzi and we bought it from them. I think Grandpa Bergonzi actually built that home, if I’m not mistaken. One year, in the middle of winter there was a pool truck. Moose called the pool guy to come and flood the tennis court so the kids could ice skate. First he flooded the front yard. But we played volleyball in the tennis court (it wasn’t really regulation) and the kids would have friends over to ice skate. You didn’t have to go far. That was good. We had a lot of property and didn’t really have neighbors. We had a nice hill on the side the kids could slide down on their saucers in the winter. And Grandpa Moose was always remodeling or adding rooms on or something. His mother and father were very good and would pick up the kids whenever we needed help or whatever. That house is still there, and as far as I know people still live there. But I had a nursery school there you know. 3- and 4-year olds would come just before they went to kindergarten. They came out of the woodwork with their kids. People I knew of, or through the church, or knew of me or in the neighborhood, I don’t know. Grandpa built easels for us so kids could do their art work. And we had the tennis court and I would take them for walks in the woods. Of course I had hired help. It would have been too much for one person. It was just one other person. I had 6-8 kids for just a few a few hours. It wasn’t an all-day childcare. It was nice.
I was a dress-maker you know. I used to make the girls’ dresses and my clothes--coats and capes and dresses. I never got into making the boys’ clothes with the button-fly pants, I don’t know why. But I’m sure if you talked to them now, they would tell you they didn’t much like their upbringing. They weren’t happy having so many siblings and going to parochial school and wearing uniforms--even though their father was coach of the basketball, baseball--anything they played, he took control of it. They’ll tell you we forgot to pick them up a couple times when they were at their meetings or something. And that they would have to wait until one of our friends would see them or eventually we would remember. I’m sure we could have done a lot different as parents, but like I tell them now, no one trained us. They didn’t have classes on how to be a parent. We were so bad off--even financially--we weren’t very well set. I remember there was an amusement park, and if the kids had good report cards, they’d get free rides, so naturally we did that. Lake “Quassapaug” I think, don’t ask me how to spell it. You know we were young and ignorant and didn’t have much. When Grandpa started his own business after working for someone, whenever we were down and out and our bills had to be paid, he’d get a job. I think maybe once he had an actual contract. Otherwise, he would have just a handshake. And people would call him to come get a check. He had a good reputation. So when we moved to Florida people asked us “why? Isn’t business so good?” And we said yeah, but we got tired of the cold, I guess.
Did I ever tell you [Nica] I was in Berkeley when you were born? I saw you being born. I remember delivering one of my kids, they had me flat on my back, and I asked them “I’m sorry for the inconvenience but can you raise the bed up a little bit?”
There is only one “n” in Jeanette. Otherwise, as my high school English teacher used to remind me, it would be “Jean”-nette.