Fiorello Enrico La Guardia
Relevant Non-Istrians

Thea and Marie

Thea Almerigotti met Fiorello H. LaGuardia in 1915 while working as a dress designer in the garment district of New York, and they fell in love instantly.

Born in Trieste (or Capodistria?), (then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) like LaGuardia's mother [who had originated from Fiume], Thea was LaGuardia's opposite in looks: She was tall, with porcelain skin and blonde hair; he  was short, with dark hair.

They had a lengthy courtship, and it is said that Thea understood nothing could come before LaGuardia's goals and the political work he set himself to do. Consequently, it was not until after he ran for Congress (he lost in 1914 on in 1916), fought in World War I and returned to New York. After being re-elected to Congress, they finally married. Fiorello announced his betrothal to Thea in January and set March 8 for the nuptials.

MAJOR LA GUARDIA TO WED.

Congressman and Aviator Engaged to Miss Thea Almerigotti

The engagement has been announced of Fiorello H. La Guardia, a Major in the Aviation Corps, U. S. A., who was re-elected Representative to Congress last Autumn from the Fourteenth District, to Miss Thea Almerigotti of 103 Lexington Avenue, a native of Trieste, who has made her home in New York for seven years. The marriage will take place at an early date.

Representative La Guardia was born thirty-seven years ago in this city of Italian parents. His father, a military bandmaster, came from Foggia, Italy, where Major La Guardia was stationed last year. "When 10 he was sent to Budapest to be attached to the American Consulate, and in 1904 John Hay, then Secretary of State, appointed him American Consul at Flume, his mother's old home.

In 1906 he returned to New York, resigning his consular position, and studied law at the New York University. In 1015 he was Deputy Attorney General of New York, and in 1916 he was elected to Congress in the Twelfth District. After the United States entered the war he volunteered in the Aviation Corps. He sailed for Italy in September, 1017, and in September, 1918, was decorated by the King of Italy. He was injured at the front. His Italian decorations consist of the Italian War Cross, the Order of Merit of "War, and the Order of the Cavalier of the Crown of Italy. He arrived in New York on his return five days before his re-election in November last.

The New York Times
Published: January 4, 1919
Copyright © The New York Times

The morning ceremony was held in the Madison Avenue office of Cathedral College behind St. Patrick's Cathedral. The ceremony was conducted by Consignor Gerardo Ferrante before a small group of friends, Thea's brother in a U.S. Navy uniform, Louis Espresso as best man, the groom in his uniform (cap tilted rakishly), and the bride in a stylish fur-trimmed suit. Following a breakfast celebration at the Hotel Netherlands, the couple departed for their honeymoon.He was 35 years old, she was 24.

On the same day and in the same church Enrico Caruso also got married. Caruso was another close friend of both La Guardia and Attilio Piccirilli, snd they were frequent guests at one another's homes.

La Guardia was described as "ecstatically" in his marriage.

This portrait is purported to be Thea LaGuardia, wife of New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, seated in a green dress adorned with Art Deco jewelry, in ornate goldtone frame, 47x34in. It was recently sold at auction.

They settled happily into a Greenwich Village apartment on Charles Street, but five days a week he was in Washington. In June 1920, Thea gave birth to their daughter, Fioretta, named for LaGuardia's maternal grandmother. He, "was enormously fond of children, lavished on his own child the love of a man who comes late to fatherhood ". But his joy was not to last. Unfortunately, the baby was born with poor health and the frail Thea found it difficult to recover from childbirth. Hoping that the fresh air of Long Island woudl help her rebound, La Guardia rented a house in Huntington. This required him to spend hours commuting by train, but Thea showed no signs of improvement. Then she was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Seeking an even better place for her to get well, he took her and the baby to a sanitorium on Saranac Lake in Croton, New York, in the the Adirondack Mountains, but this meant he could be there only on weekends. Thea asked to return to the city. Borrowing money and pawning everything he had, Fiorello bought a house on University Avenue in the Bronx. Despite all this, Ten days after Fiorello had back surgery at Roosevelt Hospital in New York for a back injury he suffered in a plane crash, Fioretta died on October 13, 1921 of spinal meningitius, and Thea, her mother, died two days later.

LaGuardia was devastated. Friends tried to console him and political enemies attempted to rouse him, but he didn't respond to either.  La Guardia  planned to be buried with them. To help him forget his sorrow and despair, La Guardia's friends arranged a trip to  Havana, Cuba, and his friend Attilio Piccirilli accompanied him. In his grief La Guardia conceived of the deaths of his wife and child as "victims of social murder." When asked by a reporter if he knew how to make better use of the city's money to improve New York City he excitedly replied, "Could I! Could I! Say! First I would tear out about five square miles of filthy tenements, so that fewer would be infected with tuberculosis like that beautiful girl of mine, my wife, who died and my baby...". 

Marie Fisher was 18 years old in 1914 when she started out as a secretary at LaGuardia's law firm, Weil, LaGuardia & Espen. When he ran for Congress in 1916 she helped with the campaign, and after he was elected she became his secretary in New York. Her calm, well-mannered and reliable personality contrasted well with his volatile nature and outbursts of energy. She became completely dedicated to him. When LaGuardia went off to fight in World War I, Marie was the liaison to his constituents. When Thea and Fioretta became ill, she took care of LaGuardia's home, and after their deaths, while LaGuardia grieved, she was the family spokeswoman.

During the1920s Marie was instrumental in building LaGuardia's political organization. She rarely took a forward position, instead staying in the background carrying out the plans, typing speeches and bringing order out of the campaign havoc. LaGuardia trusted her completely, an she became a fixture in his mind as well as in his office. She was always there when he needed her. On Feb. 28, 1929, Marie married LaGuardia in his Washington D.C. apartment. Minutes after the ceremony, LaGuardia went directly to the floor of Congress — Marie also accepted that his political career came first. As soon as she became his wife she stopped working in his office. LaGuardia once joked that by marrying her he had "lost a good secretary and gained a bum cook."

Because Marie was unable to have children, they adopted two children. Firs came five-year-old Jean Marie, the child of Thea's sister. Unable to afford to raise the little girl, the mother was delighted that Jean would be in the care of her former brother-in-law and his capable wife. The only condition of the adoption was that Jean be brought up Catholic. (As an adult, Jean turned Episcopalian, like her adopted father). The second child, Eric, was three years old, of Scandinavian parentage, and was adopted through a city children's placement bureau after he had temporarily been with another family. Photo (left) Eric, 6, and Jean, 7 with their adopted parents. Fiorello, however, would bristle at any referenmce to them in newspapers stories or biographical sketches in manazines and reference books as "adopted".

1933 - The La Guardia family having breakfast in their apartment. Left to right: Marie, Jean, Fiorello and Eric.

When they moved from their Harlem apartment to Gracie Mansion, a city-owned house, in 1942, they brought into their family LaGuardia's nephew, Richard, along with LaGuardia's cook, Juanita, and her son, also named Richard. LaGuardia often would spend his rare leisure moments playing with the children.

Marie lived well into her 80s, readily upholding her husband's legacy through appearances, dedications and oral histories. She died in 1984.

Source:

  • http://www.timelinetheatre.com/fiorello/FIO_lobby_display.pdf (corrected for factual errors)
  • Text - http://home.att.net/~ekjk/photos.html
  • Harry Paul Jeffers, The Napoleon of New York: Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (New York, 2002) - http://books.google.com/books?id=b5recXjLL2oC&dq=Thea+La+Guardia&source=gbs_navlinks_s
  • Portrait - http://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/6550500

Main Menu


Created: Monday, March 08, 2010; Last Updated: Thursday, August 06, 2015
Copyright © 1998 IstriaNet.org, USA