Fremantle Stuff > People > Emma Ciccotosto (1926-2013)
Carmelo Amalfi, Fremantle Herald, 22 March 2013
EMMA CICCOTOSTO was a relentless soul with the voice of an angel.
The Samson mother of four, grandmother of eight and great-grandmother of 11 was a foundation member of the popular choir Le Gioie delle Donne (The Joys of the Women). One of its songs will be sung at her funeral at St Patrick’s Basilica on Wednesday. Mrs Ciccotosto died in Fremantle this week, aged 86, surrounded by family and friends.
Born in Italy in 1926, young Emma and her parents left their impoverished rural village to settle in WA at the start of WWII in 1939.
Within a year, the family became embroiled in “enemy alien” fears that swept the British Empire following Italian fascist Benito Mussolini’s alliance with Nazi Germany and declaration of war.
“She was a trail blazer, no obstacle could be put in her way,” youngest son Brian told the Herald.
“There was a lot of bigotry and prejudice when the family tried to build a house in Waroona. But she convinced the authorities to build it.”
Emma’s father Giuseppe and older brother Dominic were both interned on Rottnest Island.
Unable to run the family’s 40-hectare property with her ill mother Marianina, the 15-year-old rode to Waroona police station to demand their release. A couple of months later, after much pleading and pestering, her father was released while her brother was taken to Harvey.
Brian Ciccotosto, the long-time general manager of the South Fremantle Football Club, and a 211-game player for the club in his youth, recalls the family moved from Waroona to Fremantle in the mid-1950s.
“Mum was a role model and matriarch of the family,” he says. “She also made great pizzas, the secret was in the dough.”
Mrs Ciccotosto married in 1943 and for most of her adult life lived in Fremantle. For 32 years, she worked at the old Mills and Wares on South Terrace where during the war years she was forbidden from speaking Italian.
She retired in 1986 and became actively involved in various social and sporting clubs, gardening and in voluntary community work.
Her book, Emma: A Recipe for Life (aka Emma: A Translated Life) won the WA Premier’s Book Award in 1991, the story of her life transformed into a successful stage production [mounted by Deckchair Theatre in the Customs House in 1992].
Ciccotosto, Emma & Michal Bosworth, Emma: A Translated Life, FACP.
Amalfi, Carmelo 2013, 'Trail Blazing Emma Dies', Fremantle Herald, 22 March. Photo also by Carmelo Amalfi.
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