Was it fate that reunited Amedeo Carzoli’s 104-year-old creation with his great-great-granddaughter on Chicago’s West Side?
By Mark Vruno
Joe Carzoli (from left), Fr. Woerter ’86, Bob Carzoli and Gina Carzoli ’19 pose with the statue that the patriarch of their family created 104 years ago.
There was much sadness in June when Queen of Peace High School (QOP) in southwest-suburban Burbank closed due to financial hardship brought on by declining enrollment. Founded in 1963 by the Sinsinawa Dominican Order of Nuns, the all-girls Catholic school had capacity for 1,400 students, but its 2016-17 enrollment had dwindled to below 300 girls. Nearby St. Laurence has gone co-ed, in hopes of drawing in female students that Marist and Mother McAuley don’t lure.
Beyond the tears for the school that was, there were her remnants – several statues among them. Everyone, it seemed, from former faculty and alumnae to members of QOP’s final Class of ’17, wanted a piece of Peace. One underclasswoman got permission from her family to claim the convent’s statue of St. Dominic; her consenting parents assumed its height was under 24 inches, not realizing that the religious artifact was, in fact, life-size.
“It stands nearly six feet and is just too big for a home,” explains Father Dennis Woerter, O.P. ’86, Fenwick’s Director of Campus Ministry who himself towers tall at 6’4” and had been saying masses at Queen of Peace. Sister Trina Marie Ulrich, Fr. Dennis’ campus-ministry counterpart there, thought the Friars would appreciate the statue. Fr. Woerter had said baccalaureate masses at QOP and presided over its final all-school mass. Fenwick President Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P. accepted the Sisters’ gracious offer.
“So, I folded down all the seats and put the statue in my car. It looked like dead body lying flat in my red Prius,” Fr. Woerter recalls with a laugh, “with St. Dominic’s head resting against my right arm.” After the 12-mile transport north on Harlem Ave. to Oak Park, he spotted a signature under its base. He explains, “Student helpers in the Maintenance Dept. were helping to unload the statue when I first saw it:” Amedeo Carzoli 3-7-1913. The last name rung a bell, but why?
The sculptor’s signature on the statue’s base, dated 3-7-1913.
A young woman by the name of Anjelina Carzoli ’19 happens to be a junior at Fenwick. Could there be a connection, he wondered, or was it a coincidence? “I picked up the phone and called Gina’s father, Joe, and as soon as I said the name Amedeo, he said, ‘That’s my Great-Grandfather.’” It was around Father’s Day, and when Joe called his Dad in Arizona with the news, Amedeo’s grandson, Robert (Bob) Carzoli, had chills running down his spine. Bob’s father was one year old at the time.
It turns out that Amedeo Carzoli (1890-1970) had his own studio in Chicago on Flournoy and Campbell streets, which is near Harrison and Western on the West Side, according to his great-grandson Joe, who resides in Elmhurst and is Vice President of Labor at video firm Program Productions, Inc.; Joe’s brother, Robert, is the company’s CEO. Their great-great-grandpa also had worked at one time for the Deprato Statuary Co., which was established in 1860 by four immigrant brothers from the Tuscan town of Barga, Italy.
Amedeo (right) and Tilly Carzoli with two of their sons.
“My father used to tell us stories about how he and his brother would watch their mother paint these small statues that their father had made. They called her Tilly, short for Italia, and she would rub tissue on the paint to make it just the right shade,” says Bob, who swam at St. Ignatius and is in town this week for Program Productions’ company holiday/30th anniversary party.
His granddaughter is intrigued by all the family history. “This all happened because Father Dennis just happened to see my Great-Great-Grandpa’s signature on the bottom of the statue,” says Gina, whose cousins, Bobby ’10 and Samantha Carzoli ’12, preceded her at Fenwick. “Thanks for noticing that, Father!”