Wednesday, August 02, 2006


In my book "La Nostra Costa" (Our Coast) I sometimes refer to those "Ghosts of the Coast". Well here is a story of one "ghost" who may have actually walked away from his grave.

Many readers have asked question about the "Gentle Giant" who appears on the front cover of the book. His name was Francesco Bragazzi, better know "su per la costa", as "Carabiniere". Carabiniere, who was part-owner of the Hotel D'Italia in Davenport, died in 1945. According to my father's God-daughter, Thelma (Micossi) Gill and her cousin Rina Micossi, Carabiniere was buried at the the Holy Cross Cemetery in Santa Cruz, California. Thelma, who was a teenager at the time, clearly remembers the funeral (she states that a special coffin had to be ordered because of Carabiniere's "gigantic" size). She remembers the exact spot where Francesco was buried, not too far from where her father, Frank Micossi is buried. Yet if you go to the cemetery today there is no marker for a Francesco Bragazzi. The records of the cemetery (according to Ed Patrone, Operating Manger) do not contain any indications that a Francesco Bragazzi was ever buried at the Cemetery.

What ever happen to Carabiniere? Did he simply get restless and decided to take a stroll. Thelma insists that he is still there and that another body was mistakenly buried over his grave. If so the cemetery records to not acknowledge this.

One explanation was told to me by Bill Sarrow, an "amico della costa", who is married to Gloria Bella, daughter of Charlie and Carmelina Bella, once owners of the Ocean View Hotel, which also was located in Davenport. (Both Hotels, Ocean View and Hotel D'Italia, were later consumed by fire, and are no longer there.)

At the last Davenport/Coast Road Reunion, I happened to show Bill the cover of my book. He immediatey exclaimed, "I know that man! He is the guy with the missing body!" He then went on to say that he once saw an aritcle in a magazine entitled, "The Man With the Missing Body".
According to Bill the aritcle was about Carabiniere. The explanation given in that article, according to Bill, was that Francesco Bragazzi's body was donated to a university for medical research. It was believed by some the Carabiniere suffered from gigantism, (excessive growth of the body as a result of oversecretion of the pituitary growth hormone).

If so, Carabiniere's body must have been exhumed. Why is there no record of this in Ed Patrone's records.? Certainly persons close to Carabiniere, such as Thelma and Rina, would have some knowledge of this.

Bill Sarrow's explanation certainly seems plausible. However; Thelma and Rina insist that the body is still there buried under someone elses grave. On the other hand, Carabiniere might have just got up one night and simply "walked away." In life he was an amazing man. Whose to say that this very special man couldn't do it? IvnO


Thelma Micossi Gill said...

I can't help adding to this weriteup "The Ghost Who Walked". Frank Bragazzi came to America in 1916 from Italy and became my father's partner at the Hotel De'Italia until his death on april 15, 945 (Easter Sunday). Preceding his death - he was ill for about two weeks with what he thought was the flu. He died in his sleep and was suffering from an enlarged heart. He was 55 years old, born in 1890. I remember picking out his casket at the Brenkwitz Mortuary. He was such a large man that they had to special order it. He was buried at the Holy Cross Cemetery on april 20, 1945 ten stalls from where my father is buried on the far left side of the cemetery. Basically he had no relatives here on the coast but had a cousin in Sanfrancisco that owned a bar in "North Beach". He would take me with him once in awhile.

Frank Bragazzi had a couple of alias, known as "Carabiniere" and "Big Frank" (my father referred to as "Little Frank."

Aside from his activities at the hotel he was also a Brussels sprout broker. Those ranceri (rnchers) that were not affiliated with Poletti Packing or Phyffer Packing - he would act as their broker.

Subsequet to his death we were contacted by UC Hospital Asking that he come up for a visit. We wrote to explain of his death and they wanted to know if an autopsy was performed. To our knowledge he's still buried in the plot.

Since he had no known relatives, to our knowledge, in this country his estate was handled by the Murphy & Adams Legal Firm.

I would very much like to know what Journal the article "The Man With The Missing Body" was published from. I would certainly be interested in researching it.

The last paragraph of the posted comments makes reference to the fact that someone else could possibly be buried in that grave. If you could ask Rina Micossi why someone inadvertently was buried in her grave,"717" which she had to have exhumed in October 1976.

Holy Cross should have 1945 records readily available. I plan to pursue this issue.

Ivano Franco Comelli said...

E-mail to Thelma:Thelma: I visited Holy Cross Cemetery today. I counted 10 sites from your father's resting place. Interesting enough it appears that there are three grave sites , count #8, 9 and 10, leading up to Lydia C. Bird's grave (1888-1945) that do not have headstones. I checked with Ed Patrone and his records. His records indicate that all of the above grave sites have names assigned, although one of the graves sites is only identified as being occupied by "Manual". Do you think "Manual" could be "Carabiniere". Hmmmm???? Ivano

Anonymous said...


Buon Giorno!

I know that there are three headstones that do not have headstones up from my father's grave, you probably are right #8, #9 and #10). When I go to the cemetery to visit I always place flowers in that vacant spot where I count up 10 and place the flowers with a prayer.

I'm sure that Ed Patrone has not been working at the cemetery all that long. I remember back in 1944 and 1945, to make arrangements for a plot from Holy Cross you had to go to Holy Cross Church proper. There were no offices at the cemetery. Also, at that time the church was very adament about those who wanted to have a funeral mass were not permitted to be buried in a mausoleum. Actually my mother wanted to bury my father at the mausoleum. At that time there was no mausoleum at the Holy Cross Cemetery. I think by the time Carabiniere was buried there only twenty five were people buried in the whole cemetery.

It is very possible that "Manuel" is buried with "Carabiniere." I think if I were to go to Holy Cross I would want to see the actual 1944 and 1945 records. They do make mistakes. I guess you read my blurb about Rena's plot.

Take care, Ivano. It is a mystery. I do think that the attorneys did not follow through in placing a headstone at this grave. When I retire I will have to pursue this issue.


Maxine McNamara said...

Hi Ivano, Interestingly, I did a lot of research on the Old Holy Cross Cemetery,
trying to find where everyone is buried. Ed's (Patrone) records are incomplete partly
because of vandalism before he became manager. He drew up some maps of
cemetery plots and I updated them. If you're interested, I can send you a
copy of our publication. It's on CD-rom. There is no mention of Bragazzi in
the records but that doesn't mean he isn't there. There are lots of
unidentified graves including a big, mass grave for all of the people who
were transferred from Holy Cross Church. It's interesting because that spot
is always green even in the middle of summer when the cemetery doesn't get
watered. Phil Reader knows a lot of stories about the people in the
cemetery. Don't know if you've been in contact with him.