Columns and stories of life from the Fredericksburg area.
Man flying from Italy to reunite with 1962 James Monroe High classmates
By JENNIFER MILLER STROBEL
The Free Lance-Star
Orazio Muzzolini is taking a a trip across the Atlantic and back in time this week.
They have Facebook to thank.
For years, Muzzolini and his host family in Fredericksburg had lost contact.
“On both sides of the ocean, nobody knew what happened to the other,” said Vicki Ventura Lewis, the classmate who put the search into motion. “That was sort of my job, finding all the people we had not been able to find,” Lewis said of her reunion preparation role.
As an exchange student in Fredericksburg, Muzzolini had spent the school year living in the College Heights home of Dr. and Mrs. Edwin Harvie Jones. Their son, Edwin Jr.—nicknamed Ned—was also a James Monroe High School senior. Their daughter, Anne Beverley Jones, was a freshman.
“Our family had gone to Europe the summer a year prior, and when we came back and started school again, we found out that the American Field Service was looking for someone to host an exchange student the next year. My brother and I immediately said, ‘Let’s do it,’” Anne Beverley Jones Kerr recalled in a recent telephone interview from her home in Clarke County.
The Jones family enjoyed their year as a family of five, but in the years after Muzzolini returned to Italy, they lost touch.
“Life intervened,” Kerr said.
Both sides wondered what had happened to the other, but didn’t have the means to search in those pre-Internet years.
Time passed, high school reunions came and went. Vicki Lewis—Muzzolini’s classmate–was having quite a bit of success finding other “missing” classmates.
She thought she’d give Google a try, figuring that with the unusual spelling of his name, she might have some luck. Google referred her to Facebook, and in due course, she had struck up an email correspondence with Muzzolini and he was making plans to celebrate the 50th reunion with his classmates from long ago.
His daughter, son and grandson—Giulia, Marco and Oliviero—will accompany him to Fredericksburg. He and his American “sister” plan to meet as well.
The Free Lance–Star introduced Muzzolini to his new community in an article dated June 16, 1961.
The article noted that he was born in 1943 while his father was a war prisoner of the Germans in Poland; that he was stirred to learn English by his love of American songs; that he had a dream of “painting good pictures.”
At age 17, he wrote in his exchange program application: “Everything new strikes me and helps me form my personal point of view of life. I have many friends and am often with them.
“However, I sometimes like to be by myself when I have something to think deeply.”
The article even included details of the young man’s height and weight: “Five feet, eight inches tall, 154 pounds.”
A year later, the James Monroe High School yearbook’s listing of seniors’ “Last Will and Testaments” quoted him bequeathing his “ten pounds gained while in America to next year’s exchange student to James Monroe.”
In 1962, he was living in Treppo Grande, a village where his father worked in the local bank. He now lives in Udine, a city in northeastern Italy that has about 100,000 residents.
In a recent email to the Free Lance–Star Flashback column, he summarized his past 50 years.
Upon his return to Italy, he studied architecture in Venice and Florence, graduating in 1970. He taught in a school for surveyors for almost 30 years and continues to work as an architect.
Of Fredericksburg and his upcoming visit, he wrote: “I remember well many flashes of my life there. So, now I would like to link those flashes with the reality of today places and people.”
As to his height and weight?
In his email, he wrote that those statistics haven’t changed much over time, adding, “It is true that with old age one shortens but I am not there yet!!”
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