Seven Gen­er­a­tions And Still Go­ing Strong

The Oakdale Leader - - NEWS - By AU­TUMN NEAL Leader Cor­re­spon­dent

It started back in 1902, when Fiore (Frank) Bianchi ar­rived at El­lis Island, all the way from San Gi­nese, Italy. How­ever, his search for work was far from over. Though he spoke no English, he was soon em­ployed with the South­ern Pa­cific Rail­road to work near Stock­ton, Cal­i­for­nia. As the rail­road line pro­gressed, he dis­cov­ered a quaint town, with views that re­minded him of his home in Italy. In 1903, he pur­chased land to be­gin his farm, and his fam­ily soon joined him abroad.

And so started the seven gen­er­a­tions of Bianchi-Gio­van­noni in Oak­dale.

Kirt and Lindy Gio­van­noni cur­rently pos­sess the pho­tos, his­tory record­ings, and an­ces­try of the long line, and were more than will­ing to share such rich his­tory with the com­mu­nity that their fam­ily helped es­tab­lish. The fol­low­ing in­for­ma­tion was gath­ered by LeRoy Gio­van­noni from other fam­ily mem­ber’s rec­ol­lec­tions, as well as Lindy’s or­ga­ni­za­tion as she delved into the ge­neal­ogy.

“This is the only line I could find that was seven gen­er­a­tions strong in Oak­dale, and stay­ing in Oak­dale, and ac­tu­ally in­volved in Oak­dale,” Lindy Gio­van­noni shared.

T-Shan­tine Bianchi joined his son’s Orange Blos­som ranch af­ter the death of his wife. Though his ar­rival dates re­main un­clear, he still spent a good amount of his life in Oak­dale. To this day, there are no pic­tures of T-Shan­tine, but his de­scen­dants re­call him be­ing a man who worked hard at the ranch, and who “en­joyed lo­cal sports and gath­er­ings.” Ad­di­tion­ally, as the be­gin­ning of a seven-gen­er­a­tion Oak­dalean line, he was the first fam­ily mem­ber to be buried here in town.

While T-Shan­tine was the first of the line, Fiore has been re­ferred to as “the man who started it all.” His fam­ily be­gan to join him in Oak­dale, Cal­i­for­nia in 1903 – this is most notably when his wife, Le­tizia Bianchi ar­rived in Orange Blos­som, along with their son, Geno (changed to Gene) Bianchi.

A few spe­cial notes for Fiore in his fam­ily’s doc­u­ments are that he was part of the “Ital­ian Cav­alry,” was a “circus trick rider,” a “farmer,” ad­mit­tedly a “boot­leg­ger,” as well as an “avid Oak­dale sports fan.”

His daugh­ter, Dena Maria Bianchi (later Gio­van­noni), was born Aug. 15, 1905 in Oak­dale – just over 113 years ago. She was the first mem­ber of the line born in Oak­dale, the first to be­gin her ed­u­ca­tion at Oak­dale schools, and con­tin­ued to lead an ac­tive role in the com­mu­nity through­out her life.

“There were ru­mors in Italy, in the lit­tle vil­lage they were from, of for­tune in Cal­i­for­nia, Aus­tralia, Ar­gentina, so the brothers split, and Fiore was the one who went to Amer­ica,” Lindy re­layed, “and thank good­ness he did, be­cause we’re all here to­day.”

Not only did these ru­mors lead Fiore to Cal­i­for­nia, but suc­cess en­ticed other Ital­ians to join him in the Cen­tral Val­ley. Dena later mar­ried Gino (changed to Geno) Gio­van­noni, a fel­low vil­lager from San Gi­nese, and had two sons, LeRoy and Gary Gio­van­noni.

Dur­ing World War II, when the pub­lic pool lacked em­ploy­ees to care for it, Dena stepped up to man­age it with her son, LeRoy, who’s still alive to­day. Dena would run con­ces­sions while her son man­aged other as­pects of the pool.

“There’s a story; Frank Clark pub­lished a book,” Lindy ex­plained. “He wrote about Dena in his book. He was a poor child, and she would watch him out­side the gate of the pool. Af­ter all the kids had come through, she would wave him in and she would, out of her own purse, give him a nickel or a quar­ter for a hot dog so he could swim with the rest of the kids ... this woman was the salt of the earth.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, those who’ve been around in Oak­dale for long enough, can rec­ol­lect the Bianchi Depart­ment Store. Dena, Rose (Gene’s wife), and May (Kirt Gio­van­noni’s aunt) all worked to­gether to run the store.

“It had all your ath­letic gear, at that time, your sweaters …” Kirt listed on some of the fea­tures of the store. But most can con­firm it was more of a “finer depart­ment” store that was fully in ser­vice for close to 25 years.

In ad­di­tion, Dena was an “ac­tive mem­ber of Na­tive Daugh­ters of the Golden West” as well as a mem­ber of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, ac­cord­ing to the fam­ily’s doc­u­men­ta­tion.

Her brother Gene also made sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions to the com­mu­nity, as seen in the name of Oak­dale’s Gene Bianchi Com­mu­nity Cen­ter. He, as well as a few other gentle­men (fre­quently Ital­ian), would of­ten meet in the morn­ings at Moss Rose Bak­ery be­fore their shops opened to drink cof­fee to­gether. Lindy had joined them on oc­ca­sion and de­scribed them as “the most charm­ing, in­ter­est­ing men.”

The line con­tin­ues, with the fourth, fifth, sixth, and sev­enth gen­er­a­tions – all of whom are still alive to­day.

Next week, look for Part Two of the Bianchi-Gio­van­noni his­tory, where we fo­cus on LeRoy, Kirt, Katey, and the twins that will hope­fully con­tinue the line of this unique Oak­dale his­tory.

PHO­TOS CON­TRIB­UTED

Dena Bianchi was the first in the seven-gen­er­a­tion line to at­tend Oak­dale schools, and was ac­tu­ally en­rolled in Oak­dale High School. Be­cause she and other stu­dents lived in the Orange Blos­som area, the school bus (pic­tured here) would have to pick up the stu­dents to bring them to school.

Pic­tured is the “man who started it all,” Fiore (Frank) Bianchi hold­ing his son, Geno (Gene) Bianchi. Be­hind them is the iconic Knights Ferry cov­ered bridge.

Fiore Bianchi’s chil­dren, Dena (left) and Gene (right) later be­came prom­i­nent mem­bers of the Oak­dale com­mu­nity, with the Bianchi name hon­ored within the city’s com­mu­nity cen­ter.

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