Mangiapane Alberto 1910-2000
Alberto Mangiapane was born January 7, 1910, in San Vito Lo Capo, Sicily, to Pietro and Libornia Aiuto Mangiapane. Alberto, who was called “Baetho”, began fishing in Sicily at the age of 7. In 1929 he left Sicily for Detroit and later, in 1930, made his way to Monterey to find his family and join the fishing industry.
When he arrived in Monterey with $20 in his pocket, he found his cousin James Davi and began fishing on his boat. This association would last 30 years. He worked hard to send money back to his family in Sicily to repay them for having mortgaged their house to buy him passage to the U.S..
In 1937 he married Nancy Balesteri. Starting out with very few belongings and $2000 in debt, they both worked tirelessly to build a life together. They had three children--Peter, Bella (Bert Cutino) and Angela (Terry Wecker). Nancy worked in the sardine factories on Cannery Row, while Baetho fished in the waters of Alaska, Monterey, San Francisco, Mexico and Port Hueneme. He was known as a skilled fisherman and the best in his profession up and down the west coast. He could fish anything, even difficult spot prawns. He gave a helping hand to everyone on his boats and would generously share with them the wisdom and professional expertise gained from his years of experience.
Baetho also had many tales of the sea to share. He often told of the close call he and his brother Mario had when heading out on Monterey Bay one day: A whale swam beneath the Nancy M., lifting her out of the water. If they had not been in the cabin, they would have been thrown overboard.
When Baetho wasn't’t fishing, he loved dancing. The smile on his face when he was doing the polka with Nancy would light up the room. He would wear her out and then would get his daughters and spin them around the dance floor. Baetho and Nancy frequently went on cruises with friends and enjoyed their travels to distant ports. They also made many trips to Sicily to visit his brother Filippo Mangiapane and his sister Maria Compagno and their families.
Baetho loved cooking and gardening. His homemade ricotta was never equaled; it was a perfect complement to Nancy’s handmade cannoli shells. He loved smoking salmon and making his cracked olives. Every day he would make a cioppino with fresh fish for his grandchildren and friends who would drop in. His garden produced prolific amounts of tomatoes. He would string the tomatoes together and hang them in the kitchen to use at will and he provided them to his family and friends to hang in their kitchens. When he ran out of room in his own garden for all his tomatoes, he asked his next door neighbor if he could plant some there and share the produce. The next door neighbor that provided land for his extra tomato growing was the department of motor vehicles on Webster Street in Monterey. Most nights Baetho and Nancy had friends over for dinner or dessert and coffee and to play cards. They entertained at wonderful dinner parties with course after course of delicious food, which never ran out. Baetho was happiest when he was with family and friends; the door was always open to them.
Baetho was not an educated man, but he could fix anything from plumbing to electrical and construction—a jack of all trades. Baetho was very involved with San Carlos Cathedral and the Italian Catholic Federation. He was also a member of the Moose Lodge.
Baetho passed away on November 9, 2000. It was a life well-lived and celebrated. He had a tough life growing up in Sicily, but he made it to America and worked extremely hard to achieve a good life for himself and his family.
For Baetho’s funeral Bella’s brother-in-law, Pete Cutino, wrote a tribute to him as well as all the Sicilian fishermen who earned an education and living from the sea
All of you Sicilian fishermen are experts. If you design, plan and make gill nets, lampara, half-ring seine nets--well, that’s higher mathematics. It is called algebra and calculus.
If you know the effects and forces of speed, momentum, weight and tonnage--that’s physics. If you understand currents and tides and the conditions of the sea--that is oceanography. The movement and signs of the different types of fish and other creatures of the sea are marine biology.
Better than any TV weatherman, you understand and can predict the weather; they call this meteorology. You know the land points from Sicily to Africa, to Alaska, to Mexico and California, and that is geography. And you even determined the preservation of your fishing nets by using chemistry.
You did all these things without books. Professors in these fields would have to study years to catch up with you.
Those very true words perfectly suited Baetho, who lived his life by, on and for the sea.
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