Sing Out Aunt Theresa
Theresa at our Booth New York Fancy Food Show 1999
My father's family brought twelve children into the world and started a family business that has, at this point, outlived all but one. Sadly, on November 25, 2017 we lost a member who, to me, embodied the spirit of that magical household most perfectly. Theresa Di Camillo Hargrave--known affectionately in our family as “Aunt Tre”-- drew her final breath surrounded by her son and daughter and grandchildren.
My father’s family, besides being shop-keepers and bakers, also had a musical bent and a theatricality that mesmerized me--Aunt Tre was a woman who embodied all of these qualities. Her gifts were recognized early in her life: her intelligence was hard to miss and in a mercantile family it was essential when ledgers are tabulated. It was, however, her vocal abilities that stood out for me most prominently: Theresa was a song-bird, notably a mezzo-soprano who could hit high "C". Her personal style and dramatic bearing were born out of her musical gift.
"Theresa Circa 1948”
No detail in the visual, musical or food world was lost on her. And yet she combined with this esthetic sense an ability as a bookkeeper to read a ledger like a novel. So rare, this combination of the esthetic and the practical.
Her contribution to both our business and family life was essential. She possessed the foresight and organizational skills, once she had retired as Gourmet Office Manager, to collect, collate, index, and above all organize the Di Camillo Bakery Family archives. She opened a “file” on every single member of the family and their accomplishments. This was no small feat— she methodically proceeded, year after year, to catalogue the entire Di Camillo Bakery story and history, from its founding in 1920 to the present.
Theresa & Michael Fancy Food Show, New York Coliseum 1982
My memories of her are endless and vivid and amongst my most cherished. Early in our foray into the national world of specialty food, my father, our business president assigned her to keep the books for my burgeoning national biscotti business. Her accounting and organizational skills were already well-established in the family business. Theresa did the payroll for decades (errors not acceptable)! And thus began an adventure for the two of us. Travels to Fancy Food Shows across the country followed and my version of "Travels With My Aunt" started.
My most vivid memory of her is our first International Fancy Food Show at the long-gone New York Coliseum at Columbus Circle in New York. Our brand had already been bought by the New York retail elite: Zabar's, Dean & Deluca, Balducci's and Bloomingdales and we had been cited by Florence Fabricant in the New York Times. We were as excited as if we had had star-billing on a Broadway marquee. The night before the show opened there was a Specialty Food gala dinner to inaugurate the opening of the show for exhibitors. It was held at the glitzy glass-and-chrome renovated old Commodore hotel next to Grand Central Station. Interestingly, this was the first and much publicized development by the brash, young developer from Queens, Donald Trump! At this dinner my aunts and I were seated at the table with several food luminaries, notably Julee Rosso, a reigning food-star and one of the authors of The Silver Palate cookbook and brand. The sit-down dinner started with all attendees standing to sing the national anthem. Theresa began singing at a modest level but seeing an opportunity to stand out I pressed her leg to sing out. Gradually she was at full-throttle and many eyes were on us (as I mentioned Theresa could reach high C).
I have no doubt she is now a soloist in the celestial choir. Sing out Aunt Theresa!
Theresa, Regis Philbin and Michael 2005
- Michael DiCamillo