By Allison Collins
SIDNEY – Flanked by family, longtime Sidney resident Frances Zieno will see the plaque honoring her late husband and WWII veteran, Emanuel J. Zieno, the first time Saturday at the Sidney Veterans Memorial Park.
“I think it’s going to be beautiful,” Frances, 96, said. “My grandson and daughter and son are all going to be here … and my daughter worked for two years to get (the plaque) on there.” Chuckling, she added: “I can’t wait to see the picture. My husband was a good-looking man when he was young.”
The Zienos’ is an old-timey romance worth remembering.
Frances Zieno immigrated to Norwich from Italy in 1935 at the age of 13, after several stalled attempts. Frances’ parents and siblings immigrated before her, leaving her mother to mourn her eldest daughter’s absence, she said.
“My husband lived across the street from parents’ house,” she explained, “and he’d say, ‘Antonia, don’t cry, someday I’m going to marry your daughter.’”
When Frances finally made the crossing from Naples to New York, she said, “It was love at first sight.” True to his word, Emanuel Zieno, known as “Zeke,” married Frances in 1943, when both were 21.
Following his wartime service as a U.S. Navy Yeoman, First Class, the pair came to Sidney in the late ‘40s, where Frances has resolutely remained for more than 60 years.
Despite the total wreckage of her home in the 2006 flood (which necessitated a year in an apartment while renovation happened), she said, Sidney holds her heart.
“I don’t want to leave my house; I love my house,” she said. “I’ve been here so many years, I can’t go anywhere else. This house is memories.”
While in the village, Emanuel worked for more than a decade alongside his brother-in-law, who owned Sidney Appliance (now VEP). Emanuel died 31 years ago at the age of 65, shortly after retiring from the onetime Sidney retailer. Frances is a former Keith Clark employee.
Frances’ daughter Maria Aebi, 62, of California, said seeing her parents’ life and her father’s service celebrated in her hometown is something she’s long looked forward to. Maria’s brother Tom, 69, will join her Saturday; both grew up in Sidney.
“I can’t wait to see her reaction (to the plaque),” Maria said, “and seeing everyone honor my dad and having all the family there for that.”
“A lot of people knew him and he was a really nice guy; a great guy,” she added. “He had the nicest demeanor and nobody who knew him had a bad thing to say about him. Everybody bought appliances at Sidney Appliance (then), so everyone dealt with him at one time or another. It’s nice to leave this here in the town for him.”
Emanuel Joseph “Zeke” Zieno is one of the many U.S. veterans added to the park’s Victory Wall in the past year. All of those servicemen and -women will be recognized during Saturday’s dedication ceremony, happening at 11 a.m.
For more information, visit sidneyveteransmemorialpark.org.