July 17, 1950

September 21, 1950

By Catherine Vecchione

On Friday, September 30, 2005, my husband Robert and I, accompanied by Father Augustus of Saint Mary, Star of the Sea Church in City Island, visited Hart Island to honor the memory of my sister Maria Carmela Tartaglione.

Robert Vecchione photo looking toward highest ground on Hart Island.

Maria was born in the Bronx on July 17, 1950 at 1:50 P.M. to Nancy Lombardi Tartaglione and Luigi Tartaglione.

Since my parents wanted Maria to be born a United States citizen, they had left Italy and arrived in New York just a few months before her birth.

She was born with a congenital heart defect.

Robert Vecchione photo looking beyond geese toward L.I. Sound.
In her short life, she underwent several operations to repair the three holes in her heart, but the surgeons were able to repair only two.

As a result, she was not able to take in enough oxygen. She suffered as she tried to breathe.

In that much weakened condition, Maria's pallor would often turn blue due to the lack of sufficient oxygen.

My parents' limited resources were quickly exhausted in their quest to find a cure for their daughter.

Robert Vecchione photo looking toward children burial plot markers.
On September 21, 1950 at 4:20 A.M., Maria Carmela Tartaglione passed away in Fordham Hospital.

My parents unselfishly donated her heart for research to help other children with a similar condition.

I understand that children born with this defect can now be saved.

In addition to the unbearable grief of losing a child, they had to face the heartbreaking fact that there remained no money to give her a funeral service or private burial.

Robert Vecchione photo looking toward more children burial plot markers.
When my mother lay dying, I promised her I would try and locate Maria’s burial site.

NYCHS photo: flowers put at marker by Vecchiones and infaith group.

We knew she was in a New York City cemetery, but we had no idea where.

After searching many years, it was by typing in “Potter’s Field” on the Internet that finally led me to find what I had been looking for.

Thanks to the New York Correction History Society web site and webmaster, I was able to accomplish my mission and find the closure I sought, for both my mother and myself.

On Friday, September 30, 2005, we visited Hart Island.

All rights reserved on this and the 7 other Robert Vecchione photos.
We attended a service held by the Interfaith Friends of Potter’s Field.

There we met the members of the group, but also the family of Mr. Lewis Haggins, Jr. in whose memory the service was being held.

Afterward, near children's burial plots on Hart Island, Father Augustus of Saint Mary, Star of the Sea recited the Roman Catholic prayers for the dead in memory of my sister Maria Carmela Tartaglione.

NYCHS photo: Fr. Augustus joins Hart Island Interfaith Friends service.
My husband and I feel grateful and blessed to have been able to attend this beautiful event.

We write this account and provide these images for the NYCHS website in fervent hope that all families who wish to so honor the memory of their kin buried in Potter's Field would, from viewing this web page, draw encouragement to make a visit to the island to find their peace.

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