After 37, 269 days Reta passed peacefully August 14th 2022. For those without a calculator that is over 102 years old. She was born in White Chapel, England in 1920. She is predeceased by her husband of 45 years Michael W. Orsini and her daughter Wendy Sonneville (John). Left to cherish her memories are daughters Linda Bland (Bob) of Goodyear AZ and Michelle Drysdale of Surprise AZ and son Michael Orsini (Kathy) of Webster NY. Grand children, TJ, & Calvin Holmes, Allyson Parsons-Drysdale & Jeff Drysdale, Andy & Tyler Orsini, Richard Herrick, Adrain, Ivan & Jennifer Sonneville. Great grandchildren Makenzi Felder, Dylan & Madison Orsini. Reta worked for the US Postal Service. She lived life to the fullest and was a wonderful mom. She loved to read as she would read 2 paperbacks each week. She enjoyed traveling between the east and west coast to see her family and travel to London to visit her large family of 8 brothers and sisters. Twelve years ago she shared her story of her adventures in coming to America. I share that with you below.
In 1944 war torn London Reta met a GI named Michael Orsini. They dated a few times before he was transferred to France and Germany. It appeared that this short relationship was over. Before the war was over Reta met another American GI and thought she fell in love.
In 1946, a short time after the end of the war Reta took a liberty ship from London to Philadelphia for the purpose of marrying this GI who now lives in Florida. She was the only female on board this liberty ship and ate dinner with the captain nightly. Upon arriving in Philadelphia she was met by that GI's uncle. After a few days she took a train to Florida to start her new American life.
It did not take long before she realized that this guy was not her dream come true. She decided not to marry him. Meanwhile, her friend Velda also came over from London to marry a GI that she met. He lived in Wisconsin. When Velda got there she discovered that he was already married. She sued for “Breach of Promise” Reta decided she would leave Florida and head to Wisconsin to comfort her friend Velda.
After spending some time together, Velda suggested that they go to Nashville which at the time was a “DRY” county. Velda had a friend in Nashville that owned a “private” bar and he gave them jobs as bartenders. By 1948 Velda and her friend, the bar owner were not getting along. Velda and Reta decided to leave Nashville and seek their fame and fortune in New York City. Back on the train and off they went.
Once in New York, Reta found a job. She worked at an auto-mat. This is like a self serve restaurant. She kept the bins full of sandwiches and pies. Velda and Reta lived at the Alvin Hotel on the corner of 42nd St. and Broadway. This was home to many of the Broadway performers. She said that the famous Nicholas Brothers also stayed there even though she never ran into them. You will laugh though at who she did run into.
One day the hotel manager called up to Reta's room and told her the laundry guy was in the lobby if she had dirty clothes to send out. She brought her basket of dirty clothes down to the lobby. She saw this black guy standing there and started to offer him the basket. He politely refused but she kept insisting that he take it. The manager seeing this called Reta over to his desk and asked her if she knew who that man was? She said no. He informed her that the man was Nat King Cole. He does not do laundry!
It gets better one night in 1949, Velda was out on a date and Reta decided to sit in the hotel lobby and read a book till Velda got home. As she sat there the elevator's bell clanged as the door opened. She looked up from her book and out stepped Michael Orsini, the GI Reta dated in London in 1944. After the war before he was discharged he was transferred back to London. He looked for Reta but she was on her way to the states. While there he did meet another lady that he dated till being shipped home to the states. After a few years in Rochester he was headed to London by way of New York City to marry that lady. He stayed at the Alvin Hotel and fate kicked in. He canceled his trip to London and after a few days together they were married in Manhattan, March 10th, 1949. They then moved to Auburn NY and started a family. Wendy, Linda, Michelle & Michael.
Eight Million people in New York, 100's of hotels but it was that lobby at that time. Also, if Reta never went to Wisconsin to help Velda, none of this would have been possible. STRANGE but TRUE!