Sunday, February 1, 2015

#9 John Raymond Perasco (1904-1947)

Grandfather Perasco

John Raymond Perasco
My husband’s family history has a few brick walls…one involving his great-grandfather, John Ryan, and another involving his maternal grandfather, John Perasco.  These two “Johns” have been the focus of many research attempts on my part and other family members. John Perasco’s wife, Frances Eleanor, was calmer by nature, leading me to believe the high energy, the passion-for-living approach, and strong social tendencies of both my husband and my mother-in-law come directly from John Perasco, 100% Italian and a first generation Italian American.

Unfortunately, John did not speak much of his family history (and, perhaps he did not know much himself) even with his wife, Frances (as my mother-in-law recalls asking her about it); sadly, John died young at age 43 after an airplane crash, so his children and future grandchildren did not get more opportunities to ask him directly.

Est. 1920's, John Perasco, handsome rake
What his children knew about him was that he was born on January 7, 1904 in Syracuse, New York. And, that his parents were Italian immigrants.  It was also believed that he had two older siblings, and that there was a notable age difference between John and his sisters.  A birth certificate for John could not be found and, in fact, in later years when John went to apply for a pilot’s license, he had to go through a formal process to prove his U.S. citizenship.  While US Airman records show that the process was achieved, the records did not maintain that proof of birth for future reference. In 1927 and 1927, John was living in Pasadena working as a laborer.   

John and Frances Perasco, early days as a couple

John and Frances with dog, Trixie
John met his future wife, Frances Eleanor Richardson, in Los Angeles and by 1930, they were living in San Gabriel and John’s occupation was an Oiler (road worker).  

Their eldest daughter recalls that her mother shared with her that a relative or cousin introduced Frances and John.  She also recalls that this same women lived in a guest house in the back of their house in San Gabriel; she remembers her mother calling this woman “Ned”.  Interestingly, the affidavit that was completed to assist in the proof of John Perasco’s U.S. birth was signed by a woman named Edith Crickelair in 1942.  Without proof yet, I consider it a possibility that "Ned" could also be this Edith Crickelair.  This becomes another avenue to research.  They were in the San Gabriel house at the time of the 1940 Census (John being listed as a truck driver).  Included with the Perasco household on the 1940 US Federal Census was a woman named Sadie Berrier, noted as the maid.  Frances was a nurse, working full time; I also wonder if this Sadie may have been the “Ned” that John’s oldest daughter recalls or if this was merely someone hired to help with the young family while both parents worked.  More research opportunities! 
The Perasco home, San Gabriel, CA

Frances and John had three children, born between 1933 and 1942. Frances and John moved from San Gabriel to Oroville shortly after their 3rd child’s birth in 1942.  
John and 1st child, daughter Shirley

John worked doggedly to obtain his pilot’s license and, after a few unsuccessful attempts, was successful in obtaining his pilot’s license.  In reviewing his airman’s files, it was interesting to note how determined John was at passing both the written and actual flying test.  At one point, he was a test pilot during the WWII and, in later years, a crop duster in Oroville.  Family stories and his US Airman records state that at least one neighbor complained that he was flying too low near her property in Oroville.

John Perasco, test pilot

On left, John Perasco, test pilot

In early September 1947, while crop dusting, John’s airplane crashed.  He survived the actual crash but stayed nearby to try and save his airplane.  Unfortunately, the burning chemicals from the crop dusting were overly inhaled by John and he died of those injuries within a couple days.   John is buried in the Old Oroville Cemetery next to Frances, who died in 1973.

John on vacation
We have little else to help break down the family history brick wall that I am hoping, once penetrated, tells us more of John’s ancestors and relatives.  We have tidbits of stories, including that John only made one meal, a delicious homemade marinara sauce that his youngest daughter has since documented… and, that there is some recent speculation that he was not born in Syracuse, New York but Siracusa, Sicily.  The only reference to his family members were listed on his obtained birth record, father Joseph Charles (stating a birth “in Europe”) and mother Anna (no maiden name given), although census records were inconsistent on this information.  It was also shared through family stories that Anna died when John was young and that he was often left to tend to himself afterwards.  We were not successful in finding any evidence of their life or presence in Syracuse, New York…nor were we able to find anything in immigration records or at Ellis Island.

There are not many “Perasco” families listed in ancestry sites. Interestingly, there are a few, with some close name variations that have either Greek or Turkish ancestries.  Given the geography of Italy, Greece, and Turkey, it would not be surprising to have some migration and movement across those countries as we go back in time.  Or, another possibility is that the name Perasco was misspelled during immigration, making a search in Italy a bit more difficult.  I will keep the search going and one day, I hope to take John Perasco’s history back to know about where his parents came from and what happened to his siblings.