Chicago Remains to Be Seen

The Di Salvo family

One of the most beautiful and unique grave markers you will find anywhere identifies the final resting place of Angelo and Rosa Di Salvo at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillside, Ill. The elaborate and detailed marble statue features five nearly life-sized figures.

An older woman is seated at the center of the monument, behind a small stone railing, and her left hand rests on an open book. Surrounding the woman are two young women and a young man and, on the opposite of the railing, a young girl. Based on the clothing, the statue looks as if it could have been made from a family photograph taken in the early 20th century. The intricate detail in the carving, from the flowered vines cascading over the low railing to the lace on the womens' clothing, is amazing.

The statue marks the graves of two people -- Angelo Di Salvo (1869 - 1932) and Rosa Di Salvo (1872 - 1927) -- and includes two small photographs of them. But who are the people represented by the statue?

Angelo and Rosa Di Salvo were immigrants from Italy, and the parents of three children -- Clementina, born in 1894; Anthony, born in 1907; and Cecelia, born in 1910. All three children were also born in Italy.

By 1920, the family was living in Chicago's Little Italy neighborhood, in the 200 block of De Koven Street. Angelo Di Salvo was working as a laborer at a foundry, and his eldest daughter, Clementina, was working as a seamstress. Clementina was also a 26-year-old widow, and her daughter, Lena De Lucco, was also living with the family.

(As an historical aside, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which destroyed most of the city's central business district, killed an estimated 300 people and left more than 100,000 homeless, started not far from the Di Salvo's home. At the time of the fire, Patrick and Catherine O'Leary's home was a few blocks away on De Koven Street, where the legend claims that a cow in a barn behind the O'Learys' home kicked over a lantern and started the blaze, which then traveled north into the heart of the city. The site of the O'Learys' farm is now home to the Chicago Fire Academy.)

When Rosa Di Salvo died in 1927, at the age of 55, her children would have been 33, 20 and 17 years old, and her grand-daughter would have been 12. So, perhaps the figures standing around her on the memorial represent her children and grand-daughter.

Angelo Di Salvo died five years later, in 1932, at the age of 63. Their daughter, Clementina, the young widow, married Joseph Di Vito, and she died in 1987, at the age of 95.

But the most amazing and unique aspect of this marker isn't its beauty or the intricate detail work of the sculptor. The entire statue is mounted on a platform and it rotates. It doesn't move on its own, but if you push it, the entire top half of the monument swivels 360 degrees. Considering the size and weight of the monument, it isn't too difficult to move, which means it must be perfectly balanced.

But why was such an amazing and elaborate monument created for the Di Salvo family? Is there a reason they wanted their family sculpture to be able to turn in any direction?

Unfortunately, those questions remain unanswered.

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