She’s 99 years old, with a beautiful smile and a sense of joy that is contagious. It seems people can’t help but smile themselves when they see Josephine Bartolotta. I know I did when I met her recently. She was born on Oct. 6, 1917, when the Main Street lift bridge was just three years old. The sixth of 10 children of Salvatore and Rosa Bartolotta, Josephine grew up on John Street on the north side, later renamed to the more dignified State Street thanks to her dad’s influence. The walk to school on East Avenue included daily crossings over several railroad tracks. Josephine recalls an accident involving a train and a man crossing the tracks. From that point on, and despite the prevailing north side bias, her parents arranged for her to attend the school on West Church Street. No dangerous railroad tracks – just the lift bridge to contend with.
Her family has been a source of pride for a lifetime. Brothers Anthony, Lewis, and Victor served their country during World War II. Her father taught Italian to school teacher May Chesbro in exchange for English lessons. Josephine recalled his friendship with Doc Kraai and their somewhat challenging conversations, given the three languages involved, English, Dutch and Italian.
Josephine knows a lot of people. That’s what comes with being a vibrant, active member of the community for longer than just about everyone. Many know her from 31 years of teaching religious education classes for the Church of the Assumption. Even more recall her career for our local newspaper, beginning in 1953 as a proofreader. She also served as office manager and supported the company’s other branches in Penfield, Victor and Webster.
Josephine’s “Fairport Looks Back” columns are a lasting contribution to our community. She relentlessly sifted through newspapers from the past for stories of interest, of babies born, weddings, retirements and the news of the day. In one example, her “Fairport Looks Back” column recalled 1945 and detailed the contributions of Parce Avenue’s Gropp family to the war effort. This included five sons serving in the military and both parents, each working in the defense industry. Their daughter did her part too, as Josephine’s column noted: “…their only daughter, Katherine, has already contributed 14 pints of blood as an additional aid to the war effort.” For me, Josephine’s extensive collection of columns are an interesting and useful source of information.
The name Bartolotta is special to many people in Fairport and Perinton. I am grateful for the opportunity to have met and learned from Josephine Bartolotta, one of this community’s true gems.