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18.4 Amelia Gabriela Pellegrini.jpg

Amelia Gabriela Pellegrini

April 24, 1936 - September 25, 1937

SEPTEMBER 25, 2017

Today marks the 80th anniversary of one of the most tragic events I’ve come across in my research and one I’ve been aware of since I was a young boy. I’ve never written about this event before, but I’m sure most people on the Pellegrini side of the family are aware of this story. 

It was on this day – September 25, 1937 – that my grandmother’s sister (my great aunt), Amelia Gabriela Pellegrini, succumbed to devastating injuries she received after boiling water spilled all over her body.


Amelia, who was known as “Babsy”, was exactly 17 months old when the accident occurred. She was at home with her mother (my great grandmother), Susan Pellegrini, as well as her mother’s father, Benedetto Iannacchione. Grandma Pellegrini was boiling water to clean the diapers and as she took the pot from the stove to the sink, one of handles broke and the water went all over Babsy, burning not only her skin, but also her lungs. It was an absolutely horrific accident and one that still stays in the back of my mind whenever I’m in the kitchen.


The accident occurred sometime in the afternoon, likely around lunchtime, and the first-hand account from my grandmother is that she heard about the accident while at school. My grandmother said, “I ran for my little sister,” and came home to learn that both Babsy and Grandma Pellegrini had been hospitalized with severe 2nd degree burns. 


Babsy lived several hours after sustaining the injuries before ultimately passing away at 1AM. She was laid out in the family’s home (480 Summer Street in Paterson) and my grandmother had told me on multiple occasions that she slept next to the coffin. She also added, “My mother dressed her in a little white dress with little white shoes.” Just thinking about the image is devastating, but I think it’s important to remember this little child on the anniversary of what had to be the most difficult day for the Pellegrini family to handle.


Babsy was survived by her parents, Anthony and Susan; her sister (my grandmother), Elizabeth; her brother (my great uncle), Dave; her paternal grandmother (whom she was named after), Amelia (Martinelli) Pellegrini; her maternal grandfather, Benedetto Iannacchione; and a host of aunts, uncles and cousins. She was buried in Calvary Cemetery in Paterson, NJ and almost 10 years after her death, her grandmother, Amelia, was laid to with her. The headstone shows two Amelia Pellegrinis in one grave – grandmother and granddaughter.

I often wonder about Babsy and what would have happened if she had lived. Would she have married? Had kids? Would we be close? What would we have called her? Aunt Amelia? Would Babsy have stuck and would we have called her “Aunt Babsy”? We’ll never know. All I know is she was a beautiful child and the thought of such a tragedy, even though it happened long before I came along, is one that makes me hold my kids tighter. 

Attached are some pictures of Babsy with her mother (who I think shares an incredible likeness to my late cousin Dina) taken in the summer before her September death, as well as one of her grave in Paterson. May she continue to rest in peace.

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