We are delighted to introduce you to Madelyn Rizziello (d. 9/28/2017) as part of our “Neighbor of the Month” series-an effort started in 2013 to highlight Elysian Valley residents and stakeholders. It is our sincere hope that doing so contributes in some fashion to better know one another, build, grow and appreciate the make-up of our community. The NW thanks Mrs. Madelyn for her contribution to EV. If you missed our earlier recognition (Robert Garcia, Frank & Lucy, Raul Martinez, Bob Berg, Pauline Pritchett, Ronald Muir, Susan Campos, Mrs. Lau Wong Svi Ching, Tracy Stone & Allen Anderson, Carl Dickerson, Mary Cardona, Marie Rae Gurule, Jed Donaldson, Francisco Gonzalez, Eduardo and Margarita Mora, Ramona Lopez, Michael Ham, Lily Jew), we invite you to visit https://evnw-la.com/category/neighbor-of-the-month-2/
This past Saturday I met Mrs. Madelyn Rizziello accompanied by her grandson George Espenhain and her medical caretaker Dora Ramirez. She was wheeled on this sunny Saturday to the site of Jardin del Rio community garden on Riverdale Ave. where George graciously shared her story. Mrs. Rizziello was born in Italy in 1912 and emigrated to the U.S. with her family via Ellis Island, NY. At 105 years old, she is Elysian Valley’s oldest living resident.
Her family settled in Gloversville, NY where she and husband Pat met, married and had two children (Patricia and Marie). Marie who is George’s mom is the only sibling still alive and today makes her home in Italy. While in Gloversville, Madelyn worked as a glove maker.
Ms. Madelyn with her husband and children made their way to California during the difficulties of the great depression. She has called Elysian Valley home since 1954. Her house is on the 1400 block of Blake Ave., a two bedroom, one bath purchased then for $11K. As a child of the great depression, Mrs. Madelyn grew up understandably frugal, not liking to spend money and preferring to window shop.
George describes his grandmother as a devout Catholic who loved to serve people, “took him to church in chains” and volunteered her ironing skills to the church. She is said to have been a great host who enjoyed cooking, cleaning, art and the occasional bingo game. “I always enjoyed visiting grandma as a young boy, because she always had pizza and chocolate cake in the freezer”, says George.
Madelyn is said to have been largely independent up to her 100th birthday. Soon after she stopped going outside and needing greater care and attention, it was around this time that George moved in to assist her on a full time basis. George is a studio painter by trade and a passionate photographer. He loves animals and can be seen throughout Elysian Valley walking his dogs, taking on local jobs, cycling, or alongside his grandmother.
When asked how he feels about the changes that have come to Elysian Valley, George describes them as generally positive but regrets the many services still lacking and is concerned with over burdening the area with unsustainable growth.
Nearing the end of our interview, Mrs. Madelyn voiced her desire to go home. Clearly, for her there is no place like home in Elysian Valley.