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Morning Sun
  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: Jennie Careggio has a century of memories

  • If your life spans a century, you’ll probably see and do a lot of interesting things.

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  • If your life spans a century, you’ll probably see and do a lot of interesting things.
    “Everything I’ve done, I’ve appreciated it,” said Jennie Careggio, Croweburg, who turned 100 on Jan. 18. “A lot of people haven’t done anything, but I’ve done a lot.”
    That includes daily hard work and a few brushes with celebrities such as Count Basie and Blue Barron, a noted Big Band leader.
    She was born Jan. 18, 1911, in Chicopee to Angelo Carzoli and his wife, Elisa Marchetti Carzoli. Both were born in Italy, and Carzoli first came to the United States in 1905.
    “My grandfather worked in Wyoming for a while, then went back to Italy, married and brought his wife back here,” said John Careggio, Mrs. Careggio’s son. “She was 16 1/2, and he was 23.”
    “There were six of us, four girls and two boys,” Mrs. Careggio said.
    The family moved to Croweburg in 1912. They had a 40-acre farm and Carzoli worked in the coal mines. He also died there.
    “My father was killed in Mine No. 16 by a big rock fall,” Mrs. Careggio said.
    Times were hard, but the family survived.
    “We had cows on the farm and milked them,” Mrs. Careggio said. “I delivered the milk. I’d walk into Croweburg every morning with three buckets of milk in one hand and three in the other. We trusted people back then, and at the end of the month, when they got paid, they’d pay us for the milk.”
    There were no school buses, so she also had to walk to school.
    “The school in Croweburg only went to eighth grade, so I had to walk three miles in the morning to Arma to go to high school, and three miles back after school,” Mrs. Careggio said. “To me, education is something wonderful. If you don’t know anything, you can’t get anything. If you know something, you’ll have a chance.”
    Her favorite teacher was Ted R. Taylor, who later served as Girard superintendent of schools for many years.
    “He was a very good teacher, and so kind to the students,” she said.
    Her mother died when Mrs. Careggio was only 15.
    “After that, they were pretty much on their own,” her son said. “They had an aunt and an uncle who tried to look in on them.”
    She married John Careggio, who had first worked in the mines with his father, then attended an automotive school in Kansas City.
    “He got a job with Louis Watson, who had a garage on East Fourth Street in Pittsburg,” Careggio said. “He was let go during the Depression, so he started his own garage in 1931.”
    Page 2 of 2 - That was in Croweburg, and the couple’s house was moved in beside in in 1937 from Burgess, Mo.
    “They added a little cafe on the north side of the garage, and just did short orders like chili and hamburgers,” Careggio said. “Mother helped inside with the food. During the 1960s they added a grocery line. That was one of the original mom-and-pop stores.”
    He noted that the other grocery stores in Croweburg closed early and usually weren’t open on weekends, but his parents sometimes served customers until midnight.
    “That was when we’d get our biggest turn-around,” Careggio said. “They didn’t have anything like the 24-hour convenience stores that you find today.”
    Mrs. Careggio would travel to Pittsburg to get supplies for the cafe, including meat from Beck and Hill Meat Market, then pick up Frontenac bread on the way back to Croweburg.
    The famous Trianon ballroom was right across the street, and Mrs. Careggio frequently cooked for the musicians performing there, frying chicken for Big Band leader Blue Barron and Count Basie. There was a little controversy in those pre-civil rights days because the Count was an African American, but she dismissed such comments.
    “We got along just fine, and I didn’t care if they were black or white,” she said. “They were just nice.”
    The couple retired from their business in 1975, and Mrs. Careggio’s husband died in 1994 at the age of 90.
    They had two children. Son John Careggio, who cares for his mother, is a professor emeritus in art and design from Missouri State University. His sister, Elizabeth Kascht, is a retired nurse living in Overland Park. Mrs. Careggio has two granddaughters, several great-grandchildren and a great-great-granddaughter.
    Most of the family was present for a small gathering marking her 100th birthday.
    “I’ve got a nice family and nice friends,” Mrs. Careggio said. “I’ve been very lucky.”

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