The following appeared in the community newspaper Hometown Focus in November 2010
Mary Seppi of Buhl visits Italy in her 100th YEAR
By Louise Fort HTF Contributor
After the nine hours of flight from Minneapolis, the Boeing 767 began its decent to the Paris airport and the pilot had one last announcement. He thanked Mary Banal Seppi for traveling with Delta and wished her congratulations and good luck as the 100½ year old journeyed on to Lavis, Italy to return to her immigrant roots. Everyone in the jumbo jet broke out in applause and turned their heads to get a glimpse of the Centurion. In 1914, at the age of four, she had immigrated to the United States with her parents and they settled in Buhl, on the Iron Range of Minnesota.
Hours later, after her second flight and clearing customs, she was greeted with welcome signs at the airport in Verona, Italy. She had traveled to the Trentino region of northern Italy with her daughter LoRetta Seppi; son Richard and his wife Sherrie; grandson Tony; and three friends, Debbie Corradi, John Palcich and myself. This was the beginning of a two week stay in the mountains north of Trento and a whirlwind of media attention.
On the third day after arrival, Mary had already appeared in three regional newspapers and a television crew form Trento arrived at the hotel to interview her. With ease, she spoke to them in Italian and humbly answered all of their many questions. She was featured on the midday and evening news the next day.
Monday, September 13th was her very special day in Lavis, when she returned to the church of her parents, St. Uldarico. The parish priest welcomed her and showed her the baptismal font she was baptized in and also presented her with official stamped baptismal papers. This time there were numerous television crews surrounding her, including one from the Italian national television station. Her next appointment was at the city hall, where she was greeted by Mayor Graziano Pellegrini of Lavis and presented with gifts, books, plaques and the key to the city. She was honored at a luncheon at the Hotel alla Nave in Trento and concluded her day at the home where her grandparents had lived in Ceola, Trentino, Italy. She had visited the home once before, when she returned to Italy in the 1960’s with her husband Ernesto. During that journey, they had spent the night there and slept in her grandparent’s bed.
Mary’s return to Lavis was featured on regional and national TV and again in four more newspapers. The Minnesota group also visited Rome for three days and as they traveled to St. Peter’s square using the public transportation system, a woman on the bus paused and said to Mary, “I just saw you on television!” Mary toured Rome by foot, as well as tour bus, visiting St. Peter’s Basilica, Trevi Fountain, the Coliseum and the Il Vittoriano monument in Piazza Venezia. She ate in cafés, drank water from the fountains, and enthusiastically enjoyed doing the “Caesar Shuffle” with the group.
Throughout the fourteen day stay in Italy, friends and family continually stopped and visited the Seppi family to rejoice in Mary’s ability to return to her roots at age 100½. On the last day as they wished Mary and the group a safe journey home to Minnesota, hugs and kisses were exchanged, tears were shed, and silent prayers for Mary were said, with hope that she would return to Trentino once again.
Louise Fort lives in Hibbing.