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Town of Derry

When starting a tour of the town of Derry one of the first thing you can see is a winding bridge known as the Peace Bridge. This Bridge represents a long awaited union between the Catholics and the Protestants of Derry, or as Protestants in the north call it Londonderry.

The name Londonderry comes from the merchant companies sent in by the Queen who renamed the city when the walls surrounding the city were built in the early 1600’s. The Irish Catholics were very angry because this land had been known as Derry, “The land of the Oaks” for as long as it had been inhibited. In recent years the city counsel took it to court but the judge made his final decision remarking that only the Queen has the power to change the name back to Derry. The Protestants and the Catholics have fought in Derry for many years. As the tour continues you learn that there was war in Derry long before the “Troubles.”

You see the walls where in 1689, King James of England laid siege to the city of Derry. James wanted to take control of and occupy the city, because he wanted to reclaim his throne, and it was a gem because it was major port city that would provide major trade.  James also thought it was the “backdoor” to England. He believed the French were going to use the port of Derry to send their ships just before they invaded England. So in 1689 King James led an army to the walls of Derry and when he found the gates closed and a group of men called the “The Apprentice Boys” screaming “No Surrender” he responded by bombarding the city for 105 days without pause. After the bombardment the “Apprentice Boys” stood true to there word and did not surrender, when all was said and done it was the longest single siege in English military history.

There are many different murals around the city of Derry, each depicting a different story about the “Trouble,” a dark time in the history of Derry. One such mural was of a young man wearing a gasmask and holding a Molotov cocktail, this was a very common scene on the streets of Derry during the “Troubles.” Another mural was of Bernadette Devlin, she was elected into parliament and one day when another elected official bad mouthed Ireland, she punched him in the face and when asked if she regretted it her only regret she said was “not killing him.” She would also go on to organize many marches, and one of the leaders of the infamous “Bloody Sunday March,” which resulted in the deaths of many young lives.

There are many cultural markings around the city other than the Foyle River, which lies underneath the peace bridge. There is also the peace statue slightly up the street from the WWI and WWII memorial. There are four main city gates around the city, which allowed access into the center of town.

The City of Derry has endured a lot throughout history and there are still some tensions between Catholics and Protestants; however they are not as intense as they were during the time of the “Troubles.”





When entering the Famine Museum, the first thing in sight is a man and woman with their trunks and the word “emigration” written in big red letters across a banner.  You learn in depth about what drove the Irish away from their homeland, including the Potato famine, as well a first hand view into a single Irish family’s, the Mellon’s, experience.  But it was the Ulster American Folk Park where it was much easier to visualize and put the facts into real situations as to what these families underwent.

Every home and building was taken down and rebuilt in the park.  The first home was one room that would have slept a family of eight.  The smaller families who rented homes like this most likely never made it through emigration.  On occasion, the landlord would hire a ship to send his tenants because it would lower his taxes and he would be able to make better use of the land by growing crops or housing his animals.

The Blacksmith Forge was the only replicated building in the Irish part of the park.  The windows in the forge were small and there was no lighting.  The Blacksmith was able to properly light the metal by the temperature of his iron.  The Weaver’s Cottage housed two different looms, a woolen and linen, which created the yarn that was used to make their clothing.  The weavers would use bark, cherries, flowers, and other elements of nature to create different colors.  The Presbyterian Church had three different entrances.  The three wings held rows of boxes, which each family was assigned and paid for.

The Melon’s original home still stands in the park where it was built during the early 1800’s.  The family lived in this home before they migrated to Pennsylvania.  The famine forced many families to leave Ireland.  Even though the Irish received little encouragement from the Americans to migrate, families like the Melon’s still strived to have material comfort and personal independence.  The last family lived in the home until 1954, when a descendent of the Mellon family purchased the home and built the park around the home.

A white home with a straw roof, originally built by the Campbell’s, is a two family home.  Mr. Campbell had six children with his first wife.  When his wife died of illness, he married his second wife who already had six children of her own.  The Campbell’s migrated from Scotland to Ireland during the second tier of the plantation.  The home is complete with a dining room, study, small kitchen, living room, three bedrooms, and a nursery.  A unique feature of the home is the open fireplace in the living room, where they smoked their fish and meat.

The Catholic Chapel was complete with a fireplace opposite each side, rows of pews, and a small confessional in the back right corner.  A small door led to the priest’s corridors, with a desk and a bench that his mattress pulled out of.  The Children’s School, built in 1845, had six rows of desks and benches.  Once the children’s handwriting was up to par, they were allowed advanced from the chalkboards to ink and paper. The children were required to bring their own turf or they had to sit in the middle of the room, away from the fireplaces in the front and back.  They were allowed to enter at whichever age they chose and allowed to leave school whenever they pleased.  Every child did not attend school, some stayed home and worked from the families, i.e. farming.  Out in the workforce, men make turf by cutting out bricks of dirt.  It was left to dry out for three weeks, then once it was brought to heat the turf turned to charcoal.

The small town was complete with a post office, two grocery stores, a saddle and harness maker, a rope and twine maker, a clothing maker, a pharmacy, and a printing press.

When the families migrated from Ireland to America, they traveled on the Atlantic Voyage.  They were afraid to leave their homeland in risk of never returning.  The lower level of the ship was made of bunks, which would each sleep a family of four.  Everyone on this level would go to the bathroom in the same bucket, drink water from the same jug, and they were rarely allowed out on the deck.  These unsanitary ways is what led to disease and death, which stopped many of the emigrants from ever making it to America.

In the park, most of the American homes were replicated. The homes were very similar to the Irish homes because it was the only way they knew how to build.  Some homes featured a room they had water flowing through the bottom where they would hand their meat and keep it fresh.  In Ireland, if they killed any animals on land that was not their own, they would immediately be brought to jail, but in America they were allowed to kill whatever they wanted.  Other homes were cabins, with farmhouses behind their homes, which held their coup.  Their various meats were fenced in behind their homes.

The Famine Museum gave us a great deal of information about the people of Ireland’s journey to America and the Ulster American Folk Park allowed us to see how they lived their everyday lives before, during, and after their migration to America.

The famine museum in Strokestown started with a tour of a household that was once owned by the Mahons, a rich family from the 1700’s. Mr. Mahon was a landowner who held a very powerful position in his community. The family’s enormous wealth is evident as you explore the house. The rooms are decorated with beautiful wooden dressers and tables, and even some of the wallpaper was still in tact. In the men’s quarters, ropes that hung from the ceiling which were pulled on whenever anyone needed a drink or something to eat. Servants were on call at all times, but were shunned from the house and lived in a different area of the property. When called on, the servants had to go through a tunnel that connected to the house.

The men and women of the house had different areas where they would spend time throughout the day and after dinner. The women had a “drawing room” that was perfect for sitting by the fire and socializing with any guests that were visiting. After dinner, the men would remain in the dining room to converse with each other about politics and agriculture. One shocking piece of information that our tour guide shared with us was that during these intense conversations, the men would be so paranoid about leaving (for fear that someone would sell or buy land behind their back) that they would keep a pot in the room in case they needed to relieve themselves! As you entered Mr. Mahon’s bedroom upstairs, you learned that he and his wife did not sleep together, their rooms were on opposite sides of the hallway. The reason for this was because Mr. Mahon was in constant danger of being killed by tenant farmers who may have been upset with him, so it was safer for them to sleep separately. Between Mr. and Mrs. Mahon’s rooms were a study room, baby room and playroom for their children. It seems as though the Mahon children were the center of attention in the house as their playroom had many toys. The kitchen is larger than a modern day kitchen, with lofty ceilings and many cooking tools.

The juxtaposition between the outside world and inside the Mahon household became obvious after going through the famine museum. On one end of the spectrum, the Mahon family was living in an opulent household with much more property than they needed. The other end of the spectrum was represented by the desolate images of the majority of the Irish population before and during the famine. Going into the museum after seeing such opulence was interesting, yet shocking. You do learn however that even a family who was as wealthy as the Mahon’s was impacted in some way by the famine. They were forced to change their lifestyle by downsizing their property and selling some of their belongings, such as famous paintings. A trip to the famine museum is beneficial because you learn more about one of the most important time periods in Irish history… The Great Famine.


Editors Note: Post on the behalf of michaeld

My migration story is similar to many others. My father, Bob DeVita, was born in America. But both of his parents, my grandparents, lived in Italy during their child hood. Both of my father’s parents came from a small town in Italy called Bonoglia. I believe my grandmother came to America when she was 16, she came with my great aunt Linda and their parents. My Grandfather came to America around about the same age. My grandfather lived in Ohio for a little while trying to find work. After a few months, he was actually wanted by the police for coming into America illegally. My grandfather walked from Ohio to Clifton New Jersey and that is where he settled in and met my Grand mother. My father grew up with his brother, cousins, aunts, and uncles. My Grandparents bought a house in a part of Clifton called Bottany village. My grandmothers sister, along with her husband and children, grew up in the house next door to my father. My grandparents moved to where I live now in 1979. My great aunt and cousins actually moved into the house next door to where I live now. My entire life I have had my fathers side of the family as my neighbors. When my father grew up, he had his family in the house next to him. He grew up playing with his cousins and friends. This is why I am so close with my fathers side of the family, growing up I had the same experience as he did. Growing up I also had my cousins next door to me.

My mother, Janice, was also born in America. She grew up in Clifton New Jersey just like my father. I am not as close with her side of my family because her sister moved to Las Vegas Nevada, one of her brothers moved to Maryland. She still has one brother who lives in Clifton New Jersey but he is an awful person and I try to avoid him as much as possible. There have been some issues with my uncles and my mom does not really like him that much. My mother’s mother was from Poland and came over to America when she was very young. I believe that she also grew up in Clifton New Jersey. She had 1 sister that I knew and she passed away when I was pretty young. My Grandfather, is Austrian and Hungarian, I am not positive where he was born though. My grandfather is actually and orphan so a lot of his background is unknown. I do know that he also grew up in Clifton New Jersey. He told me many stories about what he used to do when he was little in Clifton New Jersey. At age 18 he entered the war and was a part of the United States Air Force. He went to  many places with the Air Force. He went to a lot of places in the south pacific. Including Hawaii. He told me that one of his biggest regrets was that he was never able to fly an airplane by himself. He worked on aircraft carriers mainly. When he was done with the war he married my grandmother and started his own plumbing company, which he continued to do for many years after that.  My mom grew up with 3 other siblings. I believe she was the youngest of them all. My Father went to Monmouth College in New Jersey. He went there for a few years but did not finish. My mother went to Montclair State University, she graduated there with a teaching degree. My parents lived in Clifton their entire lives but my father moved from one part of Clifton to another in 1979. My parents randomly met a few times before my father finally asked my mother out. He actually asked her out at one of my favorite restaurants, The Hot Grill, easily the best cheese burgers and hot dogs on the east coast. My parents ended up staying in Clifton. My father started his own business and it was based out of Clifton so it was the easiest thing for them to do. My mother found a job near their home, in Livingston New Jersey.

During my life I have lived in the same place my entire life. I have not moved during my life. My family has thought about moving a few years ago, but they never ended up going through with it. As of this point I am not certain where I am going to attend college next year. There are a few options that I have right now. All the schools I am thinking about are good schools. It is going to be a tough decision, but I hope I make the right one.


My Migration Story

My mother was born in Easton, Maryland in 1958. She never left Easton, Maryland during her childhood. However, she did move one time from a house in Easton to another house in Easton. She left Easton when she attended the St. George’s boarding school after which she attended the Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey. Her first year after college she lived in Stanford, Connecticut in a rental home while working at the Convent of Sacred Heart school. The following year she moved to a small apartment in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and began working at the Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. The following year she moved to an apartment in Bryn Mawr and lived there for 2 years. She then moved out to a farm house in the country in a town called Chester Springs for 2 years. She then returned to Bryn Mawr for another 2 years before leaving shipley and purchasing a house in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. She switched her profession to a full time tutor and met my father because she tutoring one of his students. My father was then a teacher at the Shipley School but he had come to the school after my mother had left to pursue a tutoring career.


My father was born in Glen Cove, New York in 1957 and lived in Glen Head, New York. When he was 4 years old he moved to Oyster Bay New York where he lived for 6 years. After this he moved to a house in the same town where he lived for another 5 years. He then moved to Locust Valley, New York when he began attending the Taft School located in Watertown, Connecticut. He attended Taft for 4 years of high school at which point his family moved to Syosset, New York to live with his step mother. At which time he began attending Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. He attended Brown for 4 years. After college he returned to Syosset and then moved to Taiwan and lived there for 6 months while teaching. He then moved to Japan for 3 months to travel. He then returned to Providence, Rhode Island where he worked for Brown University. After this he got a job at the Adirondack Mountain School and moved to Long Lake, New York. He worked there from 1981 to 1982. He then moved to Pottersville, New Jersey and worked at the Prunell School for 4 years. Then he moved to Groton, Massachusettes where he taught at the Lawrence Academy from 1986 to 1988. Then he moved to Ardmore, Pennsylvania and began teaching at Shipley. At which point he moved to Bryn Mawr Pennsylvania. At this point my parents stories obviously intertwine as my parents met and bought a house together in Media, Pennsylvania and were married. My parents had me just after finishing their Masters together at the University of Pennsylvania. After I was born we lived at the house in Media until I was 6. We then moved to Newtown Square, Pennsylvania until I was 12. When I was 12 we moved to Montclair, which is where I am now.


It is always interesting to learn where and how your roots began.  We have a very close family and all our family even extended live very close to each other.  As I grow older I learn to appreciate the unique situation that my family has, “family.”  If there is a sporting event or a dance competition or play for anyone in my family or our cousins there is an entourage that attends.  I am very fortunate to experience this in my life and many people have commented and have only told me how lucky we are.

My mom’s first name is Donna and her maiden name is Azzolini.  Her mom was from Pennsylvania and her dad came over by boat from Bari, Italy.  My mom was born in Jersey City, but resided in Union city, New Jersey.  When she was about seven years old her family moved to the suburb of Rutherford, New Jersey a small town where she lived until she married in 1983, when she was just 21 years of age.

My dad’s mom was from Jersey City and his dad was from Nutley, New Jersey.  My dad John Bruno was born and raised in Rutherford only one block away from where my mom eventually moved to.  However, the age gap between them prevented the two of them from meeting during their school years, even though their mothers did work together at the notorious B’altmans.  My dad attended Fairleigh Dickenson College in Rutherford, New Jersey in 1972 and lived home until the completion of his four years of college.   He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology.  He then continued his education and attended Seton Hall Law School in Newark, New Jersey.  During the three years of Law School he moved around from Newark, Kearny, East Orange and then finally residing in West Orange until he married. He graduated Law School in 1979 earning a Juris Doctor Degree.   While my father was finishing Law school my mom was finishing high school getting ready to graduate and attend Monmouth College in Long Branch, New Jersey.  She lived on campus for one year and then moved to different apartments in the area for the next three years.

My mom graduated in 1983 with a Bachelor of Science and a triple certification in Education.   During my mother’s junior year of college my dad called a mutual friend of both my parents and asked her if she thought my mom would go out with him.  She told him to just call and see what she would say.  Even though their parents were friends the two of them had never been out socially.  My dad then called my mom up at college and asked if he could take her out to dinner and she said, “Yes.”   Who knew what would happen next, the dinner must have been a huge success or maybe there was something in the food.  They dated for three months got engaged and my dad asked my mom to marry him nine months later.  On August 20, 1983 they were married.

There is only one problem with the story of how my parents met, my dad has a totally different version of how they met and it goes something like this; “One day your mom’s friend Joanne called me up and begged me to take out her friend Donna (aka my mom) so feeling bad I called her to go out to dinner.  After dinner I thought it was the end but she (aka my mom) was relentless calling, hanging on my leg and pleading with me to take her out on another date.  There was no way of getting rid of her and she (aka my mom) begged me (my dad) to marry her.  So being the respectable, compassionate kind person that I am I felt bad said yes when she popped the question”.   I felt it was only fair to give both sides of the story and I will let the reader be the judge.  They married on August 20, 1983 and had their first child was born on July 12, 1984.

Their first condominium, which they had purchased as a married couple, was in Woodridge New Jersey, where they resided for only one year.  With a new born the living quarters became very tight so they then purchased a home in Clifton, New Jersey where they have been living for the past 27 years.  My sister Jacqueline was born on May 20, 1987 and I was born on August 12, 1993 we were all born at Hackensack hospital and my sister and I have lived in Clifton our entire life.  My parents are in the process of building a home in Rutherford and will eventually move back to their roots sometime in September.

In September I will be moving to the dorms at Wagner College in Staten Island, New York where I will be attending school for the next four years.


DC to Montclair

My Mom, JoAnn Weisel, was born on October 24th 1957 in Salem Oregon to Bill and Janet Cassebaum. She was born into a military family, her father was in Oregon training to go over and fight in the Korean War. After a year and her fathers training and service they moved to a small town in eastern Pennsylvania called Mount Bethel. A few years later her sister and my aunt, Ellen was born. They grew up in a strict household. They would spend their time mostly outdoors, T.V and movies where rare, if ever. Both her and her sister played tennis, skied and hiked all around the area. She has told me stories of how they would drive about an hour away to Camel Gardens and go night skiing. She would spend her summers at tennis camp and winters skiing.

My Father, John Weisel, was born on April 11th 1957 in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Both of his parents where born during the depression. His father was a lawyer and his mother was a secretary. Growing up his household and life was not as strict as my mothers. He would cause mischief and mayhem; he would usually piss off his neighbors he told me. Someone who my dad spent a lot of time with was his grandfather, Otto. Otto had an interesting life, he had to drop out of school at the age of ten to work in a Heinz pickle factory in order to support his family, and at the age of twenty he was drafted into the army during World War One. He would tell me how he would spend many afternoons with him talking and hanging out with his grandfather. Besides his time with his grandfather his fondest memory he tells me is watching his team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, win four super bowls and dominate football during the 1970s. He watched his favorite cartoon, the Road Runner, which was on every Saturday with his older brother. My Mom and my dad grew up in different environments. My mom’s upbringing was much more strict and structured unlike my dads which was much less strict and structured.

Both my parents graduated high school and went to Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania. It is a school in the middle of central Pennsylvania hours from any major city. They meet each other during there sophomore year at a party at my dads fraternity house.

After college my dad and mom continued their studies at different universities my dad went to the University of Maryland and my mom went to George Washington University. They both got their degrees in Business. After college they moved back together when my dad took a job in Pittsburgh and my mom followed him there in order for them to get married. After living in Pittsburgh for a few years, my father got a job in Washington D.C. My parents decided that they wanted kids and me and my brother where both born in D.C. my brother 1989 and me 1992. After I was born we lived two more years in D.C. until my dad got a job in New York. Then during the summer of 1994 we moved from Washington D.C. to the suburbs of New York City, Montclair. My parents sent me to the Montclair Kimberley Academy for Pre-K and I stayed through my graduation in 2011. Then I will go the University of Arizona for my college career.

My families geographical background is something that I have always been interested in. Every year we have a Breen Family Reunion and I love hearing stories of where my certain relatives grew up and well as the times they lived in. My mom is the one who has sparked my interest my families life stories. She was born on an army base in Honolulu Hawaii as my grandfather was a colonel in the marines. From the time she was born up until she went to college, my mom never lived in one place longer than 5 years. From the mid 1960’s to the mid 1970’s, my grandfather was serving multiple tours in Vietnam. This caused my mom and her two sister to move around a lot. From Kindergarten up until 8th grade, she lived in Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Jersey and back to Virginia. At the end of eight grade her mom and dad divorced and she moved back to Hawaii where she spent all of high school. She was accepted to Penn State among other school, but she chose PSU in particular because she spent her summers with her grandmother in Pennsylvania. By her senior year she became close friends with my father, Ken Breen. Unlike my mom, my dad was born and raised in once town, and that was Montclair New Jersey. The youngest of three brothers, my dad grew up in a very happy childhood. He went to Mt. Hebron Elementary school and went to church every Sunday at St. Cassian’s. From the time he was 6 years old up until he graduated high school, my dad spent his summers on Sebec Lake in Maine (the same placer where I spend my summers). From 6th to 8th grade, my dad went to The Montclair Academy. At the Montclair Academy my dad was friends the fathers of my friends who attend MKA now such as Kyle Duca and Nick Donatello. He also had Mrs. Dancy as his homeroom advisor. During his time in middle school my dad had older brothers at the upper school. He served as the water boy for the Academy football team (the team where Mr. Hrab was the defensive coordinator). From the time he was 6 years old up until he graduated high school, my dad spent his summers on Sebec Lake in Maine (the same placer where I spend my summers). His freshman year would be the first year that The Montclair Academy and The Kimberley Academy would merge into MKA. This made my Grandparents uneasy, so my dad was sent to Delbarton for high school. My dad boarded at Delbarton year-round where he would be an all-state cross country runner. Like my mom he was accepted to Penn State were he also ran cross country his freshman year. However, his cross country career ended as he could not keep up with Penn States 17 mile a day regimen. Interestingly enough, my mom and my dad never crossed paths at Penn State until their senior year. They shared a political science class together and became good friends. After they’re graduation in 1984, my mom and dad parted both ways but both lived in New York City for some time. A few years after graduation they, ran into each other again. My mom’s apartment roommate was friends my dads apartment roommate and after seeing each other again they began dating. After three years of dating they married in the summer of 1990. For their first year and a half of marriage, they lived in Hoboken New Jersey. My mom was working for Woman’s Day magazine and my dad was working for a small advertising company called Sauchi & Sauchi. After my mom became pregnant with me, she quit her job and she and my dad moved to Bloomfield New Jersey. In 1992, I was born into the house on 17 Parkview Drive, which was right down the street from Brookdale Park. I spent the first 7 years of my childhood in that house in Bloomfield, during which time my brother Liam was born. In 1999, as a kindergartener at MKA, my family moved to Essex Fells where I would start first grade at EFS the next year. I have since lived in Essex Fells, and transferred back to MKA after my EFS 6th grade graduation. I have been at MKA since 7th grade and next year I plan on attending Ohio Wesleyan. I feel like my family’s background has had a huge influence on me. My mom coming from such a diverse geographical background has allowed me to become a more worldly person. My dad on the other hand lived in one place his entire life, but has taught me to thrive in the surroundings you find yourself in. I would not change a thing in my family’s background; I love them just the way they are. They have molded me into the person I am today.

My dad’s lineage traces back to the late 1500s, my ancestor William Bradford being the first governor of Massachusetts – we even still have a deed from 1762 to another ancestor, Aaron Graves, from King George. My dad’s side of the family has been in a town called Sunderland, Massachusetts, for at least a couple hundred years. He was one of five siblings, and was one of the first in his family to go to college, at Amherst college in 1972, just 10 minutes away from his home town, where he majored in chemistry. In 1976, he graduated from Amherst and began graduate school for chemistry at the university of North Carolina.

My mom was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, the sixth of nine children. As far as her ancestry goes, it’s not quite as clear, although there is definitely ancestors in Ireland, England, and Scotland, as well as some other northern european countries. In 1971 she was the first in her family to go to college, at Tennessee Technical University, where she majored in organic chemistry. In 1975, she graduated, and moved to North Carolina for a job. A year later, in 1976, she applied to graduate school, at the university of North Carolina, for biochemistry.

As part of a graduate class of only 27, my parents met fairly quickly, and by 1978 they got married. In late 1980 my dad completed grad school, my mom finishing a few months after. In 1981, they moved to California for their post-docs, at the University of California in Berkeley. For a few months they lived in San Jose before moving to Berkeley. In October of 1982, my brother Daniel was born, and the following year they moved to a town called El Cerrito. In 1986, my parents got jobs at the pharmaceutical company, Hoffman La Roche, as senior scientists. In April of that year, my sister Catherine was born, just before they moved to New Jersey. For six months, they lived in an apartment in Cedar Grove before moving to Nutley. In 1992, they moved to a different house in Nutley, and in April of 1993 I was born.

In early 1996, for my parents’ work, our family moved to Welwyn, Hertfordshire in England. Between March 1996 and August 2001 we moved between four different houses, but all in generally the same location. That august we moved back to America, living briefly in Clifton before moving back to the house I was born in. Since then, we’ve stayed in the same house.

In 1999, my brother Daniel moved back to the states to attend Phillips Exeter Academy, and my sister followed suit in 2001. In the fall of that year, my brother graduated from high school and moved to Massachusetts, to attend Amherst College, where my dad also went, majoring in fine arts. He graduated in 2005, and moved briefly to Houston, Texas before moving to New York City, where he currently lives.

In 2004, my sister moved to Washington, D.C. to attend Georgetown University, double majoring in Physics and Government. In 2008, she moved to Palo Alto, California, to attend graduate school at Stanford University for physics, where she currently lives.

My parents initially did not even want to move to New Jersey – on a road trip to Massachusetts while they were living in North Carolina, they drove through New Jersey and at first thought that it would be a terrible place to live. After a few business trips to Nutley’s Roche facility, however, my mom came to love the location, and I was the first Graves to be born in New Jersey. My lineage is a mixed bag of both long-time residence and an amalgam of many countries, both the United States and many european countries. Having moved all over as a child, I’m used to being a collection of cultures, and interestingly enough, I intend to make my first personal journey to college down in Nashville, Tennessee at Belmont University, my mother’s hometown. Where I’ll go after then, I don’t know, but I know that I’ll be ready for whatever comes next.

Jersey Born and Bred

My parents grew up not far from each other in small suburban towns in New Jersey. My father was born in Chicago in 1959. His family was living there at the time due to his father’s job working for the wall street journal. My father was the fourth child in his family, and after his birth the Fusco family moved to Essex Fells New Jersey, as his father accepted a job working for his father’s construction company. This company built many roads in Montclair and Newark New Jersey. My father and his five siblings (four boys and one girl) were typical kids who grew up in the 70’s. They enjoyed partying, going to concerts, playing sports, and lived a life that had little parent involvement. My father’s background consisted of a mother who was fully Irish and a father who was part Irish and part Italian. His father’s mother was Irish and moved from outside of Toronto to New Jersey in the 1920’s. His father was raised as an only child in Montclair. After his childhood, he graduated from the University of Virginia where he had played soccer. My father’s mother grew up in Chicago (may have been part of the reason why his father took the job there in the 50’s). The reason for her family’s migration to this city was most likely because of an Irish contingent that had existed there at the time. My grandmother went to Northwestern University because it was close to her home. After my father’s childhood in Essex Fells, New Jersey, he traveled out west to the University of Arizona to go to college. A few of his brothers were already going to school out there, so it made sense for my dad to go to the same school. After graduating, my father moved back east to New York City while two of his brothers stayed (and still remain) in Arizona. The reason why my father migrated back east after college was because he studied finance and economics in school and wanted to work on wall street, which he ended up doing and has been successful ever since. He met my mother in New York City and together they decided to move to New Jersey because it was an easier environment to raise children than the city atmosphere.

My mother’s background was similar to my father’s in that she spent most of her life in New Jersey and New York City. Her parents were married for many years and when they divorced, her mother moved to Princeton while her father remained in Ridgewood where she had spent her childhood. Both of her parents were made up of English, German, Irish and Scottish backgrounds. Both of her parents also grew up in New Jersey. After graduating from Ridgewood High School, my mother’s father went to Lehigh University. My mother’s mother went to Centenary College in New Jersey. My mother was one of four children in her family. She and her siblings moved with their mother to Princeton after their parents got divorced. She spent her high school days going to Princeton Day School and then went on to graduate from the University of Vermont.
My parents actually knew each other growing up because their parents were friends. My mother was best friends with my dad’s younger sister, but did not know my dad well at all because he was five years older. While my dad was off in Arizona, my mom was still in high school. Later on in life, when my mom graduated from college and started a career in New York, my dad called her out of the blue asking her to go with him to a black tie event that he needed a date for. They dated for a year and a half, and my dad, as American as baseball, proposed to my mom on Valentines Day.

Both my mother and father’s families have been in New Jersey for generations. Any migration that occurred was caused by job offers in different places or marriage issues. Because of the different backgrounds of my parents’ grandparents, and beyond, I like to think of myself as a melting pot of ethnicities. My first move will be up to Massachusetts to attend Amherst College, and I’m excited to explore that part of the country!

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