An interesting connection

To the editor:

I guess there are many Dean Martin stories, and here is my family’s:

My grandmother’s uncle, Salvatore Vitelli, in 1910 became the legal guardian of four children from a family in distress named Barra. Vitelli was born in 1868 and died in 1957.

In the book “Dino” by Nick Tosches, on Page 13 it stated that the Barra family moved to Kilgore Street in Steubenville where my grandmother lived for more than 50 years. Our families were paesans, from the same town in Basilicato called Noepoli, province of Potenza, Italy.

There actually were five children in the family, but the oldest brother was sent back to Italy.

There is a mistake in the book — the author claims a man named E. DeMitt Erskine and a woman named Salvatora Vetella assumed legal guardianship of the four children.

My great uncle probably never went to school and spoke broken English, so the recorder at the probate court wrote down the name as he pronounced it, and it sounded in the feminine as Salvatora. Likewise, the misspelling of the last name. So, Salavatora Vetella actually is Salvatore Vitelli.

I have a copy of the probate court document from 1910. When Vitelli died, I was 9 years old, and I remember him. This was 1957.

The 12-year-old little girl in 1910, Angela Barra (Barr), married Guy Crocetti in 1914. They had a son, Dino Crocetti, who became Dean Martin, in 1917.

On the birth certificate of my grandmother from 1893, a witness to her birth was a woman named Angiola Barra. So, somewhere in the past the two families did cross, perhaps as godparents.

Jim Rinaldo



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