Gilia Jacuzzi Peruzzo died Thursday, March 21, 2014 in The Dalles, Oregon at the age of 105.
She was born in the Italian village of San Vito al Tagliamento in the province of Udine on Sept. 15, 1908, the 13th child of Giovanni and Teresa Jacuzzi.
Her older brothers had come to the United States starting in 1907. When her father realized his sons were not going to return to Italy, he decided the whole family should move to the San Francisco Bay Area in California. However his plans were delayed by the outbreak of World War I.
In later years Gilia would fascinate her children and grandchildren with stories about the Austrian invasion of her part of Italy. She saw her first Christmas tree when the Austrians put one in the loft of her family's barn and decorated with candles. Then they gave the children chocolates.
Then when the Austrians were chased out by the Americans, she saw the American flag for the first time and again got chocolates from the American soldiers.
In 1920 the last nine members of the Jacuzzi family in Italy were able to come to America. Gilia, who was 12 at the time, recalled she was the only one in her family who didn't get sea sick and she was able to roam the whole ship at will.
It was in Berkeley, California that the Jacuzzi family settled. Gilia and her sister Stella were sent to Burbank Junior High School where they learned English. With the completion of the eighth grade Gilia had to quit school and go to work to because of a tragedy that engulfed the family.
During World War I, her brothers in California had become interested in airplanes. They manufactured propellers for the Army Air Corps. After the war they built a cabin
airplane and were contemplating starting a passenger service from the Bay Area to Reno, Nevada. However the plane crashed in Modesto killing one of Gilia's brothers.
At their father's urging the brothers gave up their airline dreams and struggled to start manufacturing other items, including washboards.
Gilia found a job in San Francisco sewing pillows. She commuted daily on a ferry boat with two of her sisters who found jobs as seamstresses.
In her early teens she met Jack Peruzzo, who came from a small town very close to hers in Italy. The two were married in Berkeley at St. Joseph's Catholic Church when Gilia was 17 in 1925. She continued working as a seamstress getting a job at Olga's Wash Frock Shop in Berkeley.
She was exceedingly proud of getting her citizenship papers during the 1930s and being able to vote for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. She and her fellow workers donned colonial day costumes to carry a huge American flag during a parade supporting the NRA (National Recovery Act).
In 1954 her husband's job took him to Portland, Oregon. The couple settled in Milwaukie on Oatfield Road. Gilia became active in the League of Women Voters and the committee to start a community college in Clackamas County.
The committee was successful and Gilia was honored for her work in the college's creation.
She continued her activities with the league until she moved to the Springs of Mill Creek eleven years ago. At her assisted living home, she spearheaded a campaign to get a proper flag pole and American flag to honor American veterans. She was well-known for giving advice saying that at her age she could say anything she wanted.
She is survived by her three children, Nilda (Dan) Rego of Moraga, Ca.; Esther (George) Regula of Portland and Dr. Peter (Karen) of The Dalles. Also surviving are 11 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.
Services will be at St. Peter's Catholic Church in The Dalles on Thursday March 27, 2014 at 11 a.m. Graveside services will be Friday, March 28, 2014 at 11 am at Gethsemani Catholic Cemetery in Portland, Oregon.
Remembrances may be made in memory of Gilia Peruzzo to the Clackamas Community College Foundation, 19600 Molalla Ave., Oregon City, Or. 97045.
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