Ralph Golzio, perhaps the last person with memories of the great Paterson Silk Strike of 1913 he was there alongside his feisty mother died Sunday, two days after the kickoff to the strike's centennial commemoration.
Mr. Golzio, a resident of the Totowa section of Paterson and the oldest alumnus of Stevens Institute of Technology, turned 103 in October.
The bitter, five-month strike, a watershed event in Paterson history and for the U.S. labor movement, involved 23,000 workers demanding improved conditions at the city's nearly 300 silk mills. One of the strike leaders was a weaver named Carrie Golzio, who was guided by the words of her father, who had been a wool weaver in Italy:
"No matter where you go to work, don't let them step on you."
Carrie became a picket line captain and was arrested several times. She brought her 3-year-old son, Ralph, to organizing meetings at the residence of an immigrant silk worker, Pietro Botto, on Norwood Street in neighboring Haledon. The house, a national historic landmark, is now the American Labor Museum.
Mr. Golzio's daughter, Linda Sous of Mahwah, said her father had detailed recollection of the gatherings at the Botto home. Angelica Santomauro, the museum's executive director, said Mr. Golzio spoke on video about his memories of the 1913 strike.
"I think he was old enough at the time to know there was something going on in his mother's life that was causing unrest," Santomauro said.
Steve Golin, the author of a 1988 book about the strike, "The Fragile Bridge," said Carrie Golzio, whom he interviewed in the early 1980s, most definitely would have brought Ralph to strike organizing meetings, especially on Sundays.
"It was like a picnic atmosphere, with a lot of music and speeches," said Golin, a retired Bloomfield College history professor.
Santomauro and Golin said they are sure that, with Ralph Golzio's death, there is now nobody alive who was present for the 1913 silk strike.
Mr. Golzio, who was born in the family home on Beech Street in Paterson, did not follow his mother into work at the mills. Nor did he become a carpenter like his father, Giovanni.
After graduating from East Side High School, he studied at Stevens Tech in Hoboken, graduating in 1932 with a degree in mechanical engineering.
Mr. Golzio worked at Wright Aeronautical before establishing an engineering consultancy. He retired at 78, but his mind kept racing along.
At 98 about the time he stopped driving he took to studying quantum and nuclear physics with the help of textbooks and instructors from his alma mater.
"He had a mind that was timeless and amazing," his daughter said.
The Stevens Alumni Association's Old Guard hosted Mr. Golzio's 100th birthday party. A friend, Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-Paterson, saluted Mr. Golzio on his 101st birthday. And in a Record interview on his 102nd birthday, Mr. Golzio paid homage to his mother.
"I had a very dynamic mother," he said, adding that she went "toe to toe" with Paterson's industrialists.
Mr. Golzio could not attend Friday's opening reception for the American Labor Museum's yearlong commemoration of the 1913 silk strike. He fractured his hip a month ago and then decided to forgo medicine.
Linda Sous said her father concluded that "his meds were becoming his food, and that wasn't natural."
In addition to Sous and her husband, Tony, Mr. Golzio is survived by another daughter, Thea Jones estranged we don't know hometown . His wife, Betty, died in 1984.
Services will be this morning wed at 11 at Festa Memorial Funeral Home, followed by burial in Laurel Grove Cemetery, both in Totowa.
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Published in The Record on Jan. 16, 2013