The End of an Era for Community Group

Italian Mother’s Club of Morgan Hill Disbands
It was fitting that the last meeting of the decades-old Italian Mothers’ Club of Morgan Hill should end at Mama Mia’s restaurant.

The club, in existence since 1939, twirled their last bit of pasta together last Wednesday, according to club secretary Carrie Billalba, who was the only non-Italian member of the group.

A number of reasons led members to decide to disband, including busy schedules, family situations and other activities.

“We did decide, however, to meet next year, for a kind of reunion,” Billalba said. “Maybe that’s something we can continue.”

The social club has been led, over its six-plus decades, by presidents from many of the well-known Italian families in Morgan Hill, including the Guglielmo family, the Lepera family, the Ghiradelli family and the Giordano family.

“On April 18, 1999, we celebrated our 60th anniversary with a dinner-dance for our members and guests at the Elks Lodge in Gilroy,” Billalba said. “There were 168 present.”

As secretary for the club for more than 20 years, Billalba has worked with three of the club’s 19 presidents, Carm Rasmussen, Virginia Lomanto and Anne Gualtieri.

“We were mostly a social club, but we always had projects,” she said. “We liked to help the community, to do service projects. We did things for the rest homes, like taking eggs to dye for them. Nothing very big, just small things to help others.”

But even the small projects and the monthly meetings became too much for the group.

“I’m really sad to see it break down,” said Billalba. “But it’s just difficult now, with young families, with challenges with grandchildren, with so many activities. For many reasons, people found their time more and more limited.”

The group decided it would be better to make a decision not to meet than to dwindle down to nothing, she said.

The history of the club is intertwined with the history of the Italian community in Morgan Hill.

“It is quite a close-knit community,” Billalba said. “Many of them have been active in some way or other either in other community groups or in business.”

And some club members, because of the nature of the meetings, literally grew up as members.

“One of our oldest members, Rose Mammini, as a child went to meetings with her mother,” Billalba said. “Children did come, over the years, and some of them grew up to be members.”

Though the club will not meet formally every month, and the members may meet once a year for a reunion, Billalba said many of the members will continue to keep in touch.

“For many of us, the group has been very important,” she said. “It will be hard to have it just fade away.”

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