Spatola Family Papers
- 1918 - 2012
Conditions Governing Access
This collection includes audio-visual materials. Access copies of audiotapes, audio cassette tapes, video cassette tapes, film reels, or other audio-visual materials may need to be ordered prior to on-site research. Please contact us to inquire about access to audio-visual materials. Photographic negatives may only be viewed with the assistance of the Archivist. Otherwise, materials are available for research at the Msgr. William Noé Field Archives & Special Collections Center. Advance appointments are required for the use of archival materials.
Conditions Governing Use
All materials available in this collection (unless otherwise noted) are the property of the Monsignor William Noé Field Archives & Special Collections Center and Seton Hall University, which reserves the right to limit access to or reproduction of these materials. Reproduction of materials or content is subject to United States copyright restrictions and may be subject to federal or state privacy regulations. Permission to publish exact reproductions must be obtained from the Director of the Archives and Special Collections Center.
Biographical / Historical
The Spatola family collection features material from three members of the Spatola family: Jerry, Bina Spatola, and Agata Spatola O’Connor. The Spatola family first came to New Jersey at the end of the 19th century when Gerardo Spatola Sr. emigrated from the Italian town of Camposele. The family was well known throughout the Newark community, most notably for their funeral home. The Spatolas first entered the funeral business in 1890, when Gerardo Spatola Sr. started to practice in Newark’s First Ward. His son, Gerardo “Jerry” Spatola Jr. then opened the Spatola Funeral Home, the first Italian-American Funeral Home in the state of New Jersey. Jerry ran the funeral home until his death in 1975, when daughter, Bina, took over.
The Spatolas were also known for supporting and celebrating Italian heritage and culture in Newark. They were heavily involved in the community’s celebration of the Feast of St. Gerard at St. Lucy’s Church. The festival as a whole began in 1899, between the time that St. Gerard Majella was beatified (1893) and canonized (1904). The feast day, which falls on October 16th, celebrations were headed by Gerardo Spatola Sr, and the annual celebrations have been coordinated by the Spatola family for over a century. Geta founded the St. Gerard Ladies Guild of Newark in 1966, garnering over 2,000 members to support the National Shrine of Saint Gerard at Saint Lucy's Church in Newark, NJ and the International Shrine and Orphanage of Saint Gerard in Materdomini, Italy. As one of the selected coordinators of the Feast of Saint Gerard at Saint Lucy's Church she was cited in the Congressional Record in 1977 by the late Congressman Peter W. Rodino the year that the St. Gerard Chapel was dedicated as a National shrine to St. Gerard.
Beyond religious celebrations, The Spatolas celebrated Italian life and supported their community throughout the year. They gave Easter baskets to the poor every year, doing so in front of Italian-run businesses such as the Vittorio Castle. Sisters Bina and Geta organized the first nationwide Frank Sinatra Fan Club known as the "Sighing Society of Sinatra Swooners, for which Bina handled all of the correspondence. The group enrolled over 1000 members from New Jersey to California and also published "Frank Fare," a monthly newsletter. The Spatolas were also close personal friends with New York Yankee’s baseball player, Joe DiMaggio, who gave them the shoes he wore during his “Sacred Streak.” In 2012, Bina Spatola and Gerald Spatola O’Connor, her nephew, were awarded the Columbus Lifetime Achievement Award for their contributions to the Italian Community of Newark.
It was through this Italian-American lens that the Spatolas were able to assert political influence. Jerry Spatola was active in politics through running the Gerardo J. Spatola Civic Association, which supported Hugh Addonizio’s run for Mayor of Newark. He also chaired the Newark Planning Board in the 1940s and additionally served as a commissioner for the Newark Housing Authority.
3.75 Linear Feet (4 archival document boxes and 2 flat storage containers)
Language of Materials
- Series I: Community Involvement
- Series II: Family Papers
- Series III: Funeral Home
- Series IV: Political Career
- Series V: St. Gerard Societies
Community Involvement includes a variety of documents such as membership booklets, correspondence and letters, newspaper articles, event memorabilia (like pamphlets and event itineraries), and photographs. Some topics classified in this series include the family’s involvement with their local church St. Lucy’s, membership to other groups besides the St. Gerard Societies and Funeral Directors of America, the family’s involvement in relation to popular figures Joe DiMaggio and Frank Sinatra, and various local and national awards family members have won (the most collected on is Geta Spatola’s Woman of the Year Award in 1995). The documents are labeled by type (such as letter, booklet, pamphlet) and then focused to which organization the documents pertain to.
Family Papers includes items directly relating to the family and their connection to one another. This series mostly includes photographs and newspaper clippings, which were often pictures as well, but also includes cards, letters, travel documents, and autobiographical information about the family. There are two topics that stand out in this collection. First is documentation pertaining to the death of Geraldo (Jerry) Spatola; this is mainly a collection of obituaries and memorials written by the family. The other is the “In April Rain” folder, which includes the original score, copyright, and performance details about Albina Spatola’s song.
Funeral Home includes documents pertaining to the Spatola Funeral Home. Some parts of this series include architectural plan and photographs of the funeral home building, registration paperwork, and reviews from the public.
Materials in the Political Career series includes scrapbooks, working documents, news clippings and related material, both documenting Jerry Spatola's own political career as well as monitoring the political climate in Newark.
Lastly, St. Gerard Societies includes material related to the working and events of the St. Gerard Societies, including the Gerald Spatola Civic Association.
There are no subseries in this collection.
Preservica Internal URL
Preservica Public URL
- Spatola Family Collection
- Angelina D'Angelo and Sheridan Sayles
- 2020 May
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