Christmas 2010
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Joe and Frances 2010


Frances and I began the year in Florida where we welcomed in the New Year at my cousin Diane’s house.  My mother was there as well.  Although it was Florida, the weather was unusually cold during our entire visit which we had not expected and had not packed appropriate clothing for the cold weather.  Nevertheless, while we were there we enjoyed visiting with friends and family.  During our three weeks in Florida, we took a couple of days and went to the Bahamas.  The weather was very cold there as well but we were still able to attend a beach party, do some shopping and ride in a glass submarine.

We left Florida in the middle of January and went to San Diego where we embarked on an eight-day cruise to the Mexican Riveria.  The ship was big and beautiful and the weather was magnificent.  We stopped in three ports in Mexico including Acapulco.  The cliff divers there were amazing to see and all the ports in Mexico were beautiful and interesting.


Happy New Year 2010

Pauline and Dixie

Key West

Cloggin' Cousins

Uncle Christy

Bahamas Beach Party


Glass Bottomed Boat

How low can you go?

Carnival Spirit



Sunset on the Pacific

Local Church

Senor Frog




In July, Frances and I joined my cousin, Brenda,  and her family in Rome where we began a  four-week European holiday.  Italy was incredible.  We spent four days in Rome where we saw the highlights including the Vatican, Treve  Fountain, Ruins, etc.  When I took my first bite of food in a restaurant in Rome, I had a feeling of Déjà vu.  It was like my grandmother was cooking for me again. I believe it is impossible to get a bad bite of food or a bad drop of wine anywhere in Italy.  We dined along the Tiber and visited Napoli and Pompeii. 

The Tiber River

Roman Aqueduct


In Rome

Buono Cibo

In Rome


Spanish Steps

St. Peter's Cathedral

Treve Fountain

Garlic and Peppers

Treve Fountain

Roman Street at Night

Roman Forum and Colosseum

Preserved body in Pompeii

Our Group inside the Colosseum

Dinner by the Tiber

Tiber River and Castel Sant' Angelo


We then travelled East to the Molise region where we visited with relatives in San Croce Di Magliano.  It was the weekend of the Annual Gurto Family Reunion so it was very fitting that the celebration should be expanded to more of the world.  Our family reunion day was spent much the same as we would have in the USA, with a meal, much conversation and visiting, and a visit to the cemetery to remember those who have gone before us. The visit was incredible as we explored the town where my Grandfather was born and met with distant relatives.  Their hospitality was unbounded as they entertained and fed us.  Although we didn’t speak much Italian and they spoke little English, somehow we managed to communicate and the experience was unforgettable. 

On the way

Via Borgo Casale

No 108

Figuring out who's who

Rosa's Hospitality

The Juniors

Pizza and Beer the night before

Pizza and Beer the night before

The godfather parade through the streets of Santa Croce Di Magliano

The Seniors, Antonio, Angelo, Rosa

Joe, Antonio, Angelo, Rosa, Brenda

The house where Grandpa (Pietro) was born

Overlooking Campobasso

The Family Reunion Meal

The Family Reunion Meal

The Family Reunion Meal

The Mascias
Luigi, Anna, Flaviano, Vincenzo

The Gurto Juniors
Joe and Brenda

The Iacurtis
Vincenzo (Mascia)
Peitro, Luisa, Doriana, Rosa and Daniela

The Wards
Jeff, Toni, Luke, Brenda

The Gurtos
Joe and Frances

The Rosas
Domenico, Noemi and Luisa (Iacurti)

The Mastrangelos
Dora (Iacurti), Angelica, Flaviano


Antoinetta and Antonio Iacurti

Vincenzo, Pietro, Daniella, Rosa, Doriana, Luisa, Jeff, Brenda, Luke, Toni

Brenda, Rosa and An
gelo Iacurti

Guisseppi and Pietro Iacurti

Iacurti Family Reunion - July 12, 2010









Next we travelled to Firenze with a stop for lunch in Perugia with a former student of my cousin.  The art and culture of Firenze were unsurpassed as we were met at every turn with more and more incredible sights.  We took a day trip to visit the Tuscan wine country and Frances and I took the train to Pisa to view the Leaning Tower.



We drove back to Rome where Frances and I bade our cousins, “arrivederci” and boarded a plane to London.  We arrived after midnight and after some struggles with public transport, got to our hotel around 2:30 am only to find out that the tour was to begin at 4:30 am.  A very expensive 2 hour hotel stay.  We met our tour guide and our fellow travellers and boarded the bus to begin our 12 day – 8 country – European tour. 

We boarded the ferry at the White Cliffs of Dover and sailed across the English Channel to Calais, France.  We then travelled to Belgium.  We had lunch in Brugge then travelled to Brussels where Frances had a near miss with a pickpocket.  We saw the highlights in Brussels and the next day headed to Germany.  We took a cruise along the Rhine River where we drank German Beer and saw dozens of castles along the banks.  We explored a castle in Heidleburg and had a Germanic meal in the Black Forest. 

The next day we went to Austria.  We stopped in Salzburg, famous setting for “The Sound of Music” and birthplace of Mozart.  Then off to Vienna.  We walked along the banks of the Danube. We sipped champagne and listened to classical music in a palace, toured the palace of Maria Teresa, virtual “mother” of European royalty and rode in a horse-drawn carriage.

The world AIDS convention was being held in Vienna while we were there so we were relocated to a hotel in Bratislava, Slovakia for our second night.  The  streets were empty and the town seemed eerily quiet; perhaps it was just my expectation of a former communist country and perhaps it was because it was Sunday and most places were closed.  It was interesting nonetheless.

Then we headed back to Italy.  This time we visited the Northern parts.  Our first stop was Venezia.  It was everything one would imagine and more.  The canals, St. Mark’s Square, the narrow streets, the many bridges.  We took a gondola ride as the gondoliers serenaded us with Italian Opera tunes.  The next day we were at Juliette’s balcony in Verona and later that day we were outside the Duomo in Milan.  The fashions were marvellous in Milan and all the locals were very well dressed.  We toured La Scala and the rest of the city.

The next day saw us climbing to the top of a mountain in the Swiss Alps. (We had a bit of help for the first 5000 feet or so but we climbed the last 200 feet). We were drenched in torrential rain as we shopped for Swiss watches and Army knives.  We cruised on Lake Lucerne before we enjoyed beer and a fondue as we watched yodelling and alpenhorn playing later that evening.

Off to Paris the next day; a Seine river cruise, a classic meal in a French Restaurant near the Arc de Triomphe and a night tour filled our first day.  The next day found us atop the Eiffel tower with a breathtaking view of Paris. Frances and I had lunch in a café in the side streets of Paris.  I was surprised when I saw the movie, “Inception” that the stars were sitting in the very same seats in which Frances and I had sat . After lunch we viewed the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory and Venus de Milo in the Louvre. We rounded off the day by having dinner and watching the show at the Moulin Rouge.

A long drive back to London on the next day before walking around the main sites, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey.  We cruised the Thames to get a good overall impression.  The next day we toured Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square and St. Paul’s Cathedral before meeting with a friend for dinner in Soho near Carnaby Street.  Day three we walked across the Zebra Crossing at Abbey Road, toured the Tower of London and attended a play in Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.  Then it was off to Liverpool, home of the Beatles.  We took a Magical Mystery Tour Bus to see the birthplaces of all four Beatles, drove up Penny Lane, saw the gates of Strawberry Fields and many other Beatle – related places. We visited the Beatles Museum and had a drink at the Cavern Club.

Then back to London for one more night before our 30 hour journey back to Sydney.



The day after we returned to Sydney, my Grandmother passed away.  The next day I was on another plane to Miami to attend her funeral.  My grandmother was a very special woman.  She had just celebrated her 96th birthday the week before and we all thought she was invincible.  I was honoured to be asked to speak the Eulogy for her.  I have reprinted it here.

World War I began on August 1, 1914.  Woodrow Wilson was the President of the United States.  6 days earlier, in Buffalo, New York, Antoinette Dziedz, my grandmother, was born.  The daughter of a Polish mother, Mary Harhut, and a Ukranian Father, George Dziedz.  George and Mary had 3 other daughters, Mary, Anna, and Louise. Antoinette later changed her named to Edna because she didn’t like being called Toni.  She said “Toni is a boy’s name.” 

Edna was a teenager during the roaring twenties:  flappers, speakeasys, the Charlston and by the time she was 14, talking pictures were the rage.

Before the next world war began, Edna married Howard Smith. Grandma had 8 children, 4 daughters; Dot, Lorraine, Joyce and Diane; and 4 sons, Howard, who is known as Jerry, Daniel, William and John. 

Over the years, Grandma had 25 grandchildren, 30 great-grandchildren and 3-great- great grandchildren. Although the family is large, we have remained close throughout the years and Grandma is the glue that has kept us together. In the early days, we would all travel to New York to see Grandma – many of the relatives lived there and we would be able to stay in touch that way.  It was in that way that my siblings and myself were able to establish such a close relationship with our cousins.

Grandma moved to Florida in 1968 and moved in with Aunt Diane.  I don’t know what Aunt Diane anticipated when Grandma moved in with her but I truly doubt that she expected that Grandma would be with her for 42 years.  I know that she is astonished at the duration of the stay and she is also thankful that she had the opportunity to spend so many years with Grandma. I hope that she knows how very much the entire family respects her and appreciates her generosity and hospitality in looking after Grandma for all these years.  I would like to publicly acknowledge the gratitude that the entire family feels for the sacrifices that she made, and in the kind and caring way that she looked after Grandma for the past 42 years. 

From early on, Grandma instilled in us the importance of faith in God.  She was the epitome of faith and an example to us all. She would always worry about getting her planned giving envelopes each year and, in her later years, when she was unable to attend mass regularly, would misplace her envelopes and on the particular Sunday would often put in an envelope from a past or future week.

Grandma was an avid supporter of the Church through her BINGO.  Members of the family would regularly accompany her to her bingo nights.  Grandma had an amazing ability to recall numbers.  She could remember bingo games from years earlier and could tell you how much money she won on a particular night, which numbers she won it on, or, more likely, which number she needed to win the big jackpot. 

Grandma loved music and dancing.  Her favourite song was Harlem Nocturne, but she also listed as her “favourites” Monday Monday, Those Were the Days, and the Pink Floyd Album, “Dark Side of the Moon”.Every wedding or other celebration where music was played would see Grandma getting up to dance.  She would get carried away with her moves and would sometimes take a bit of a spill during a particularly vigourous twirl. 

Grandma took the opportunity to play cards, board games or verbal games whenever she could.  She was an avid game player who took each game seriously and loved to win.  She showed no mercy to her opponents whether they were 7 or 70. 

Grandma loved her family deeply and visited them as often as she could. Until fairly recently, Grandma used to travel between Florida, Ohio and New York to visit with her children.  Everyone loved it when Grandma visited. Grandma had  a great sense of humour.  She was able to get the joke every time and could always laugh at herself when she made a mistake. It is Grandma’s laughter and smiling face that I’ll remember always.

Of course one of the highlights of Grandma’s visits was when she made Pierogies.  It was a long process and our mouths would be watering all day in anticipation of the delicious taste.  No matter how many pierogies Grandma would make, they always ran out. 

We’ll miss you, Grandma.  Thank you for all you have done for us, for the love you gave us and for the wonderful memories that you leave us.  As God welcomes you into Heaven and you are greeted by all those who have gone before you, we will always cherish the time that we shared with you and your love and memories will remain in our hearts forever



Unfortunately, there were other deaths this year as well.  Our very good friend, Jean, who was like a second sister to Frances, passed away in June. In July, Frances’ only surviving aunt on her father’s side, Nora, passed away. My mother-in-law’s only sister, Pat, also passed away this year in October. 

The latter part of the year saw Frances recuperating from a non-serious, yet major operation.  She had 4 weeks away from work but is getting better and is almost back to normal.

On a lighter note, Dominic has completed his degree in Software Engineering with honors.  He received a high distinction on his thesis and he came 8th in the course overall.  He will be graduating in March.  We are very proud of his accomplishment and look forward to attending the graduation.

Timothy has also successfully completed all of the coursework for his degree in Software Engineering except for his thesis which he will do in 2011.  Timothy took a trip to Las Vegas in September where he viewed the sights and visited a software game design company.

Jeremy has successfully completed his third year of his teaching degree.  He has worked with refugee children at his former primary school, helping them to read.



With all of its ups and downs, 2010 has been a very busy year for all of us.  We look forward to the New Year and hope that it will have more ups than downs.  We wish that for all of you as well.  Blessings to you all.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.