Reunited Across Years, Across Continents

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Sisters reunited after almost a lifetime, gathered in the Old Village, Village Hall (from l.) Nassau County Legislator Ellen Birnbaum, Great Neck Auxiliary Police Chief Captain Maria D’Amilio, long missing sister Lina, sister Amy, sister Marguerite and sister Rose; back row, Mayor Ralph Kreitzman and Legislate Aide Dan Small.

It took decades to pass, continents to cross, lives to be lived…until finally five sisters were reunited at long last. Well-known and well-loved in Great Neck, Great Neck Auxiliary Police Chief, Captain Maria D’Amelio realized pretty much a lifelong dream when she and her four sisters held one another in their arms at the airport, tearful and emotional, altogether again for the first time since childhood. And after initiating this search, due to her efforts, Maria was honored by Nassau County as a Trailblazer.

Their story began so many years ago, in a small town in Italy, six siblings, five girls and one boy. When they were ages three to 17, in 1955, their father died and their mother could only keep her oldest her son, and the oldest daughter Lina. Maria, Rose. Amy and Marguerite were sent to America, to be raised by their uncle. Maria was only four-years-old. Their uncle had two daughters but included his four nieces, eventually moving to Port Washington to raise the family in a lovely lifestyle, despite the death of his wife.

While the four sisters who grew up in Port Washington made their homes on Long Island, with many relatives living nearby in Little Neck, Lina stayed in Italy, married and began to raise a family. One day her husband responded to an opportunity for craftsmen to land jobs and move to an Italian community in Australia…and so they moved even further from family. The years went by, and other than one visit to Italy in 1964 (Rose did see Lina once), the sisters remained separated by life, and a lifelong dislike of flying. And their brother died recently, in 2013, in Italy.

But the strong desire to reunite never died within the sisters.

It was Great Neck’s own Maria who decided it was time the sisters got together and she contacted Wish of a Lifetime, an organization that helps reunite family and friends. Maria applied. The very day she phoned to check on her application, a call was coming through to her, with an offer to help. “I was in shock,” she said as she and her four sisters told the story to the Great Neck Record. It was a detailed application, much to do. Nervous and anxious, Maria credits Nassau County Legislator Ellen Birnbaum (and her legislative assistant Dan Small) with their hands-on help and Village of Great Neck Mayor Ralph Kreitzman with his encouragement and his faith in the reunion.

And so, just recently, with the help of Wish of A Lifetime, and the help of her son, Lina flew to America to see her sisters.

Rose, who had seen Lina during the years, promised to be the first to greet her oldest sister, but that was a promise no one could keep. When Lina entered the private room at the airport set aside for the reunion, no one could hold back; the tears and the joy flowed freely.

It was a wonderful time for all; parties, reunions, a chance to get to know one another once more.

For the Record, it was a beautiful afternoon listening to fascinating old stories and speaking openly with four very happy and appreciative sisters. Having lived her entire life in Italy and in an Italian community in Australia, Lina has an amazing command of the English language and was not at all hesitant to express her joy.

Will there be anymore reunions? Will they visit again? Rose says she will surely visit Lina again. But as for the others…the trips are long and the sisters do not generally enjoy flying. But having met these four remarkable women, having heard their stories and felt their love, never say never!

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