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Local Authors

La Nostra Costa (Our Coast): A Family's Journey to and From the North Coast of Santa Cruz, California (1923-1983)
by Ivano Franco Comelli

Ivan's book is recommended reading in conjunction with Memories of the Mountain by The Ladies of Bonny Doon Club.  Here are some enticing tidbits from Ivan that tie the two together (paraphrased from his email):

From Ivan's email of April 30, 2006:

Book Cover
My book "La Nostra Costa" (Our Coast) is about my family's journey to Davenport and the North Coast and roughly covers the period 1923 to 1983.  It mentions Bonny Doon (with pictures of Italian families picnicking on the old Iacopetti property in Boony Doon.)  It also includes a humorous story which occurred behind the Iacopetti Store later to become the "Lost Weekend Bar" and now the Bonny Doon Vineyard Tasting Room.  I also write about the tragic events which happened in 1947 to certain members of the Delucca and Rocchi families which are pictured in a photo on page 101 of "Memories Of The Mountains."

I think the two books "Memories of the Mountains" and "La Nostra Costa" compliment each other.  I am certain that people familiar with Boony Doon and/or the Coast would enjoy both."

Thank you.  Ivano Franco Comelli

Ivano Franco Comelli is the author of La Nostra Costa (Our Coast), published by Authorhouse, www.authorhouse.com, telephone: 1-888-280-7715.
Also available in the Santa Cruz Area at Agnus Dei Christian and Capitola-Cafe Bookstores.

From Ivan's email of May 1, 2006 was after he had been in touch with Jim Silva, whose mother is in the picture on page 101 of Memories of the Mountain:

Yes, I have been in touch with Jim. He put me in touch with his cousin Peter Raffin, Norma Rocchi Raffin's son.  I hadn't talked to him since the Raffin murder in 1947.  He informed me that his younger brother Richard had passed away two years ago.  He was very gracious, however, he didn't talk much about his mother's death.  His wife Violet informed me that it has only been recently since Peter has started talking about the incident.  She told me that Peter was in the backyard of house and actually heard the shots when it happened.  That kind of sent chills up and down my spine.  What a tragedy.

As for the book, it "can be had" locally at Esther (Frizza) Wilson's bookshop at Agnus Dei Christian Bookstore, 138 Walnut Avenue, Santa Cruz, 831-457-2636 (This beautiful shop is located in the old White's Mortuary Building.  Talk about "Ghosts of the Coast.), or the Capitola-Cafe Book Store on 41st Avenue, 831-4415 (ask for Judy Stenovich).

You can also include my e-mail address ivcomelli@arilion.com, for those who wish to communicate with the "author".  I welcome comments good, bad, or indifferent.  [...] Thanks for your help.  Ivan


Following is a press release from Authorhouse.Com, the publisher.  Order from Authorhouse.Com: Paperback (6x9) $13.80 ISBN:1420879766 or Dust Jacket Hardcover (6x9) $18.50 ISBN:1420881922

La Nostra Costa (Our Coast) by Ivano Franco Comelli
Cultivating a Dream on the California Coast
Author's Family History Provides Insight into Italian-American Life in Santa Cruz, Calif.

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Santa Cruz is well known today as a relaxed college town.  But this coastal city has also become home to numerous Italian immigrants who began their American dream.  Ivano Franco Comelli shares personal history and sheds light on the plight of new Americans in La Nostra Costa (Our Coast): A Family's Journey to and from the North Coast of Santa Cruz, California (1923-1983).

Comelli, a retired San Jose police officer, begins this fascinating true story in Nimis, a small agricultural village in the northeast region of Italy known as Friuli.  The year was 1923, and Benito Mussolini had just seized power.  Comelli's father, Gervasio, had a choice to make.  Either re-enlist in the Army or seek a new life in America.  He chose the latter.

Book Cover
La Nostra Costa (Our Coast) offers a lively account of Gervasio's beginnings in a new land, from his early days as a ranch hand to his return to Italy, where he met his wife, Valentina Bressani.  When the eager young bride joined her husband in America during the Great Depression, all that awaited her were hard work and "infernal coastal winds."  Using historical events and intertwining local family names with historical figures both famous and infamous, Comelli brings to life the true and adventurous story of the Italian immigrants who settled and worked "su per la costa" or "up the coast."  He recounts his youthful perspective of what it felt like to be declared enemy aliens during World War II; describes what it was like for his family in Italy to live under Nazi occupation forces; and details the story of Valentina's youngest sister, who survived the war only to be wrongfully branded a collaborator by Italian partisans.  These and other stories, as well as stirring photographs, serve to open people's eyes to an incredible family story and the saga of an entire culture.

Readers follow Comelli's story into adulthood, when he left "la costa" behind to begin life with the San Jose Police Force.  In chilling detail, he describes how certain violent acts, such as the assassination of his best friend, changed his life forever.  From an innocent childhood in an immigrant household to a career in the murky world of crime and punishment, La Nostra Costa (Our Coast) takes readers on an unforgettable journey.

Comelli graduated from San Jose State College with a bachelor's degree in law enforcement and served 30 years with the San Jose Police Department, rising to the rank of captain.  In 2001, his article, "Wrong Side of the Highway," was published in the book, Una Storia Segreta: The Secret History of Italian American Evacuation and Internment during World War II (Heyday Books).  La Nostra Costa (Our Coast) is his first book.  He currently lives with his wife, Mildred, in Monterey, California.


Katie Niekerk 'La Nostra Costa (Our Coast)' offers glimpse into older Italian generation
Saturday, May 20, 2006 ... By Katie Niekerk, Lifestyles editor for the Gilroy Dispatch, Hollister Free Lance, and Morgan Hill Times

Comments or questions for Katie Niekerk can be directed to (408) 842-9404 or kniekerk@gilroydispatch.com.

With the recent debates surrounding immigration, it can be easy to forget that those who travel here from other countries have stories, families and beliefs that have molded them into who they are today.  But Morgan Hill resident Ivano Franco Comelli has made it his goal to share the personal histories of Italian immigrants who sought their American dream on Santa Cruz's northern coast.

Comelli, a retired San Jose police officer, is the author of "La Nostra Costa (Our Coast): A Family's Journey to and from the North Coast of Santa Cruz, California (1923-1983)."  The true story begins in Nimis, a small agricultural village in the northeast region of Italy.  Benito Mussolini had just seized power, and Comelli's father, Gervasio, had to make a choice: re-enlist in the army or seek a new life in America.  He chose the latter.

"La Nostra Costa (Our Coast)" narrates Gervasio's beginnings in a new place, from his early days as a ranch hand to his return to Italy, where he met his wife, Valentina Bressani.  The book goes on to depict the true stories of other Italian immigrants who settled and worked up the coast.  Comelli also describes what it was like to live in Italy under Nazi occupation forces and what it felt like to be declared enemy aliens during World War II.

Comelli's life as an adult has also been full of adventure and life-changing experiences while working with the San Jose Police Department.

Comelli, born in Santa Cruz, lived in Monterey County for the past 11 years before moving to Morgan Hill about a year ago to be closer to his seven grandsons, all who live in Morgan Hill.  His daughter and son-in-law, Madeline and Chris Fritter, are longtime residents of Gilroy.

"I had a lot of memories about the coast, and the prime reason I wrote the book is I wanted to put them down so that future generations will know about the coast as it was, especially coastal farming," Comelli said.