Saturday, September 1, 2012

His roots are in the garden

In omaggio a Angelo e Olga, grandi amici di famiglia, che ci hanno ospitato nella loro accogliente dimora senza neanche conoscerci.
 His roots are in the garden
Angelo Debartolo looks for more zucchini in his northside garden, which includes apple, pear and peach trees, along with numerous vegetables. Debartolo has been gardening since he was 6 years old in Cosenza, Italy. He spends hours in his garden every day now that he is retired.
Angelo Debartolo, 68, of Kenosha has been gardening since he was 6 years old in Cosenza, Italy. "Over there everyone depends on the food they grow," Debartolo said. "In a big city it's a little different, but most people make a living out of it. You don't have that much." He remembers coming to Kenosha as a 14-year-old boy, not speaking any English. Debartolo would help his father intlile garden. He would do the handy work of watering and lifting. "My parents' garden was smaller than what I have now," Debartolo said. Debartolo grows hundreds of plants. He spends hours in his garden every day. "My only job is to wake up my wife every morning," Debartolo said. He wakes up at 5:30 a.m. with his wife Olga. She leaves for work, and he begins to prune and take care his fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers. "I love to do this," Debartolo said. "I like to eat them, I like to see them grow." Three times a week, the gains a little helper. His grandson, Enzo, 2, helps the same way Debartolo used to help his father. "My grandson does what I do," Debartolo said. "He loves to pick and eat the cherry tomatoes."

Beginning the garden
Debartolo envisioned his garden when he built his home in 1980. "When I bought the lot, I knew I wanted to garden," Debartolo said. Initially, he and Olga purchased one lot. Later, they bought the land next door to expand their yard. Debartolo used the extra space to plant peach, pear and fig trees. "My wife has never planted a flower," Debartolo said. "I made a garden to go against my wife a little bit. She doesn't garden."

Retired after 35 years
Debartolo never spent as much time in his garden as he does now. A driver without insurance hit Debartolo on the side of the road, effectively forcing him to retire in 2002,Debartolo said. He was transported to Froedtert Hospital
in Wauwatosa, where it was found that his pelvis broke in two places. "I'm really lucky that I am still walking," Debartolo said. He left American Brass in 2003 after working there for 35 years. Gardening became an outlet. It kept
him active and healthy. "I started doing a few things after (the accident,)" he said. "Now I am doing it all mostly myself." Lavish plants soon developed in his backyard. "The trees have grown," he said. "Six years ago I planted the pear tree. Now look how big the fruits are." The pears are softball sized, dangling from the tree. The occasional thuds indicates a ripe pear has dropped in Debartolo's garden.

Tons of produce, tons of use
Many of the vegetables and fruits that Debartolo grows are used in traditional Italian cuisine. Debartolo makes a number of dishes with his produce: zucchini bread, wine and minestrone soup. I When he isn't eating the massive tomatoes and two-foot zucchinis, Debartolo is giving them away to his many friends and family members. He is an avid bocce ball player and a member of nearly seven organizations. After all of his giving, Debartolo cans the remaining produce. "My two favorite times in my garden are June when I see them grow and in September when I can them," he said.

Angelo Debartolo's pear tree, at left, has grown significantly since retirement in 2002. Debartolo grows a variety of flowerss in addition to the many fruits, vegetables and herbs in his northside garden. He will can his tomatoes and store them in his garage.

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