Let’s Talk Clovis: The De Luca Family

Ciriaco De Luca (1888-1971) and Marian De Luca (1899-1981). (Clovis Museum)

Ciriaco De Luca was born in Italy on October 14, 1888 in the small mountain city of Buonvicino. He married Maria Guiseppa Sirimarco on June 26, 1909. She was the sister of Jim Sirimarco who arrived in Clovis in the early 1920’s. Jim established the legendary Jim’s Place on Clovis Ave.

Ciriaco arrived in California on September 11, 1911 and worked at the Los Banos Miller-Lux ranch. He drove a team of mules for four years. In 1915, Italy required their citizens to return to their homeland to serve in the Italian Army during WWI.

During the war, De Luca was wounded in battle three times and was discharged in 1919. Prior to his death in 1971, he received a decree from The President of the Republic of Italy that granted him the title of “Cavaliere of the Order of Vittorio Veneto”. He also received the “Italy Gold Medal” and “Service Cross”.  

His wife Maria died in 1915. Their son Salvatore would be raised by Maria’s mother. Ciriaco remarried again in 1919 to Marian Fasano (1899-1981). August 6, 1920, they boarded the SS Canopic for a 14-day trip bounded for Boston, MA.

They settled in Gustine, CA and lived with Jim & Rose Sirimarco. Their first child Teresa was born in Gustine on October 17, 1920. Their first son Angelo arrived on January 17, 1922. Ciriaco worked for the Gustine Carnation Milk Company.

In search of property, Ciriaco rode his bicycle 92 miles from Gustine to Clovis. He bought three lots (each 25-foot frontage) in the Stanford Addition (Bingville) from Ralph Brosi. A small shed was situated on that property.

The Stanford Addition (first survey in December, 1909) boundaries were: west, Midway (Sunnyside); north, 3rd Street; south, listed as ”County Road Previously Dedicated” (Bullard) and east, “existing County Road” (Fowler) The Stanford Addition was named for Elizabeth Stanford who was one of five persons that purchased the land from Fresno Canal & Irrigation Company.  

Stanford Addition was identified as “Bingville” by the early settlers since numerous gas driven/water pumps in the area provided the melodious sound of “bing, bing”. The area was annexed (two separate actions, in 1951 and 1959) into the city.

Ciriaco and Maria arrived in Clovis on August 15, 1923 in a horse and buggy. Dominica, their third child, would be born in their shed that year, as would her sister, Rosie in 1924. They built their home in 1924. Eight additional children followed: Joe, Victor, Frank, Eda, Verona, Gracie, Clara and Virginia. 

De Luca’s first job here was at the Helm Ranch (bounded by Shaw, Sierra, Cedar and Winery). He also worked at the Balfe Ranch and with the WPA (poisoning squirrels). He worked at Italian Swiss Colony for 13 years prior to his retirement in 1953.

Ciriaco was a charter member of the Rudolph Valentino Lodge No, 1449, Order Sons of Italy in America that was founded here in 1927.

Son Frank De Luca (7th sibling of 12) remembers his parents (with other Italians in the neighborhood) dancing a folk dance called the Tarantella. Everyone in his family began working at an early age. They would walk to various ranches to pick strawberries, almonds, figs and grapes.

Frank recalled telling his father as they were arriving at Mike Ferrara’s vineyard (near Tollhouse and Academy, 12 miles from Clovis) to pick grapes that if he and his sisters saw a snake they “were out of there”. Of the four young workers (Eda, Verona, Gracie and Frank) Verona was the first to see a snake. The young group immediately left and walked back to their home in Clovis.

The De Luca’s left us a rich heritage.