Once upon a time…an average fairy tale.


Once upon a time, there was a young woman named Albertina Alfonse. Albertina came from a village called Povacao on the island of St. Michael in the Azores.  Born in 1924, she grew up in a very “tight” family network on Rockdale Avenue in New Bedford.

Albertina as a young woman met Ernest Barboza whose family owned a farm in Bliss Corner.  Ernest’s family came from the village on the other side of the mountain from Albertina’s Povacao, called Nordeste.  Albertina and Ernest had a love story that was probably like any other love story.  But, it lasted 69 years.

Albertina is my grandmother and Ernest, my grandfather.

Albertina was my hero, she meant the world to me.  She raised me like her own and she was like a mother to me.  I don’t know quite what it was about Albertina, or “Tina” as she was known.  But, she had spunk.  She was different.  She was funny. She always had a smile. And, she was very, very feisty.

My grandfather worked a ton.  He managed Tanza Liquors in Dartmouth and before that he worked in our family business, Perry Liquor Store on Rockdale Avenue in Dartmouth. He served in World War II as part of the Ski Brigade headed to Italy, except he never made it to Italy.  He got altitude sickness at Camp Hale in Colorado and was discharged sent to finish out his duty at Quonset Point in Rhode Island.

After being let go from the service, he traveled by train back to New Bedford where one late night, he knocked on the window to be let in.  He was home.  And, Albertina was very, very happy.

69 years.  They couldn’t be apart. They fought like cats and dogs, but they adored each other just the same. I remember her saying at the age of 80+, “Ernest, you are NOT the same man I married.”  And, I had to giggle silently to myself.

After my grandmother passed away in 2011, my grandfather couldn’t bear to live a day without her.  Just mere mention of her name brought tears to his eyes.  He passed away at the almost age of 96 on January 7.

I married my husband on their wedding anniversary July 24 in the hopes that I too would live a long, life with my new husband.  But, that was not to be.  I will never forget her stern words to me after my husband died. She said, “Robin, let me tell you this one thing. Dennis is gone and he is never coming back.”  Well, that sobered me up and made me move on in life.

Life is different these days without Albertina.  It is just not the same.  I wonder how I have I been able to make it this far without my rock of a grandmother.  She had a spirit I can only hope but emulate and a love for a man that I envy.

Sometimes these stories just need to be told.  They need to be captured for the moments they were.  Precious.  Delicate.  Enduring.

Stories of average people, living average lives, but yet still heroes in their own sense.  Some people just have spirit. A spirit that moves others through love. Albertina was that spirit.  And, I am proud to be her granddaughter.

November 13, 1924 – March 11, 2011

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Albertina and Ernest at my wedding on July 24, 2004.  

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