In barbershops & salons people still talk to strangers & this is where I met Virginia & Laura. It was immediately obvious they enjoyed life & had been for a long time. I expected they would have interesting stories. Inspired by Studs Terkel & Humans of NY, I arranged to interview/photograph them. These sisters spent most of their lives together. During our conversation they kept returning to familiar themes that helped define who they are. This post is a prelude to my upcoming trip. I will be interacting & photographing people from a different culture to get a snapshot of their lives and sharing it on this blog.
Virginia Curro was born in 1917. Talking about her childhood she spoke of a wonderful relationship with her mother who gave her the self-confidence she was lacking. Her home life was being part of a “secure family that wanted their children”. Mom was wise, father humorous & her sister could do anything. Memories of her brother focused on a generous person who enjoyed helping people. She still had admiration for her Latin & piano teachers. Due to the depression she was unable to finish college & got a job with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. Later, she ran the office for her sister & brother-in-law’s dairy ranch in California. She never married.
Laura Curro Lapari was born in 1914 and also talked about the benefits from a good education. Unlike many young women of this time she got a college degree at Flora Stone Mather College with a degree in Romance Languages. Reflecting back she recalled people there had “less than an open mind”. Studying in Italy with her sister, Laura met the man that would become her husband. Part of that time in Italy she was an interpreter for American Intelligence during WWII. Her memories of her mother are as humble yet regal & “someone who could give Confucius a run for his money”. Since her parents both had emigrated from Italy they lacked an extended family, which she feels made her “close to her sister from birth”. Describing Virginia she called her an angel.
It was obvious Virginia is more reserved than her older sister but still engaged with people & the world around her. Talking about music she told me songs made her happy by touching her heart with wonderful memories of family. She is philosophically curious as to how people phrase their thoughts. She thinks to many people rely on media instead of forming their own opinions. Virginia is still inspired by “an aggregate of the people she meets” & describes how her and Laura “hold each other up”.
Laura is dramatic with her voice & her actions. She thought of becoming an actress but taught High School & at Case Western. She speaks 5 languages has written 7 children’s booklets while a trilogy she wrote about her father-in-law is waiting to be published. Currently, her time is spent writing an autobiography. Emotions filtered her voice as she told me about the depression. Asking if I had heard the song Brother Can You Spare a Dime she was visibly depressed telling me “it hurts when I hear that song…I saw that”. Laura acknowledges the greatest gift as “love of family”. She enjoys watching The Great Courses & thinks she would be a better teacher today than she was before.
These 2 women, 1st generation immigrants born in Cleveland, are a touchstone to a different era void of the reach of the Internet but rich in personal interaction. There is depth to each of them transcending longevity. A foundation of family & education was a springboard to a life they embraced & continue to enjoy. Their individuality compliments each other in a way that may be unique to sisters. They are articulate, funny & generous with wonderful memories full of details. I hope this brief essay gives you a taste of the strength of their character as well as warm personalities that make you smile.
I knew their glasses would be a challenge in getting good portraits but I worked with the reality of the situation. I like using available light but it does cause moments of angst. The showroom of Imagine provided nice afternoon glow with an eclectic background juxtaposing the basic clothes they wore. I found interviewing 2 people while taking photographs wasn’t as challenging as I thought. Everybody has a story to share. The link & longevity of these sisters is indeed a special story. I feel lucky to have spent a few short hours learning about these 2 wonderful women.