A special poignancy visited the opening ceremonies of the 82nd St. Peter's Fiesta last night.
It was carried in the stoic grace of a fisherman's widow reintegrated in the joyous celebration of faith, surrounded by family, friends and community — a sea of affection.
Josie Russo, who lost her husband and father in a fishing boat's sinking in January that has become an epic tragic -mystery, carried with her in the procession along with two candles the son, born a month ago fatherless —like his mother had become on Jan. 3. The son will know his father only in facsimile and lore.
With Russo, her two children, the curly-haired 3-year-old Salvatore and the infant John Matteo, in the procession along with her siblings, each speaker at the start of Fiesta paid respect to the loss of the fishing vessel Patriot.
"The spirit of the sea is in Gloucester and all the fishermen," said the Rev. Ronald Garibaldi during the invocation after the statute of St. Peter, which connects this to all previous fiestas, was removed from the window of the St. Peter's Club, transferred to a platform and paraded around the outside of the Fort where the first Sicilian fishermen settled in the 1920s, unaware that they would infuse their culture into Gloucester's rich melange almost as an afterthought.
Matteo Russo and John Orlando were "loving, caring, hard-working good men," recalled Joseph Novello, the long-time president of the Fiesta Committee.
The typical manic edge of fiestas past seemed a touch softened by the presence of a family seeking to close its wounds and move on as fishing families have been doing back to the dawn of Gloucester's time when the main fishermen first were colonials, then Nova Scotians, Newfoundlanders, Irish and Portuguese.