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North Salem’s Tuoti Family Holds 80th Reunion

NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – More than 50 members of the extensive Tuoti family had their annual get-together in North Salem Saturday. It was the 80th reunion in the family’s history.

Eighty-five year old Francis Tuoti was a tot of five when his parents invited relatives to their North Salem summer house for a Fourth of July celebration. The get-together has been held every year since, almost always at the Elizabeth Drive stone cottage, now Tuoti’s permanent residence.

Ola Tuoti-Borelli-Imhoff is the oldest living member of the clan. She flew in with her daughter from Evanston, Ill., to preside as matriarch. Now 93, she served as a WAC (Women’s Army Corps) during World War II, stationed in England, France and Germany.

The current patriarch, Francis Tuoti, recalled the early days of the reunion.

“There were three uncles, Zi Vit, Zi Cono and Zi Joe. They would sit together in three chairs on the lawn, overlooking the lake. They always wore vests, ties and hats. I thought they were so old – but I’m probably older than that myself now.”

He continued, “There was another guy – G. A. Claps – who always had to have his pasta on Sunday. So his wife, Camille, would bring it along in a big thermos jug.”

The Tuoti family immigrated from Avigliano, Italy in the late 1800s.

“When my great-grandfather was about to get on the boat the authorities detained him,” Tuoti recounted. “They thought he was Garibaldi, who was a wanted criminal at the time.” The Tuoti men were woodworkers and established themselves making pianos and fancy cabinetry in New York City.

Once the reunions became a tradition, Francis Tuoti’s father established an annual log. The earliest one is dated 1933. Every guest signed the book, gave a few personal facts, like age and hometown, and stated what he or she had eaten.

Traditionally, the serving of food starts as the guests begin to arrive around noon. Many bring home-cooked items and picnic baskets, along with chairs and smiles.

Hot dogs and hamburgers sizzle on the grill, salads get passed around. Later in the day, it is time for the giant lasagna.

It is not unusual for some people to be meeting distant relatives for the first time.

For others, it is a yearly chance to catch up with old friends and relatives. Every year the crowd seems to grow and there are many different surnames by this time.

Ribbons are awarded for special achievements, such as being the oldest, the youngest, the person who traveled the furthest and the one with the most no-shows. This year’s winner of the no-show award admitted, “This is only the second time I've come. But I’ll never miss another one.”

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