DILLONVALE - Where were you in the early 1970s? Were you graduating from a local high school? Were you announcing your engagement, or a member of a bridal party? Angelo Marsili of Dillonvale may have something for you.
While dropping off some debris at a landfill in 1990, Marsili and his cousin stumbled upon stacks and stacks of packaged photographs and negatives. It was obvious that someone had been clearing out obsolete orders from a studio - items that were never picked up or proofs not chosen as finals.
"We were able to take 200 to 300 packets with us, and I planned to go back for more," explained Marsili. "I got delayed, and a big thunderstorm went through, so I knew what was in the rest of the boxes was ruined."
Angelo Marsili with some of the photo packets he salvaged at a landfill 25 years ago. There are photos of families, weddings and high school seniors most from 1974.
The packets are mostly from 1974, but there are a few from 1973 and 1975. All but a few are marked with the subject's name, address and phone number at that time. There are graduation photos, engagement photos and wedding photos from clients throughout the area: Martins Ferry, Wheeling, Bellaire, Shadyside, Bridgeport and smaller towns like Mt. Pleasant, Adena and Rayland.
Marsili made a list of the names and started tracking some of the people down. He asked friends and coworkers if some of the names sounded familiar. He even found out he worked with one of the people on his list at the coal mine. Over the last 25 years, he's managed to reunite around 50 people with their old photos. He and wife Carol have decided to downsize some of the things they've accumulated over the years, so the boxes of photo packets have to go.
"I hate to see anything like that thrown away. I'm a sentimental guy," he says.
He met one couple whose wedding photos were in one of the packets.
"I was looking at this couple who were in their 20s in the photos. When they came to the restaurant to pick them up, it was the same two people but with white hair," Marsili recounts. "They've been married almost 40 years. There were around 100 negatives and 50 developed photos in the package. Right away they began pointing out people they knew. She said, 'There's my grandmother' and started crying."
An elderly woman called when she recognized a name on the list: her granddaughter. She tearfully explained that her son, her only child, passed away when her granddaughter was a little girl. Her daughter-in-law remarried and moved out of the area, taking the child with her, and didn't stay in touch. The woman asked if she could have her granddaughter's unclaimed photos.
Stories like these encourage Marsili to continue his project. He now has the help of social media thanks to his daughter, Stacy Cavicchia. She suggested that they use the Marsili Family Restaurant Facebook page to get the word - and names - out. Five matches during the first week came in from Columbus, West Virginia, Louisiana and Utah. More people from local communities have called and are coming to get their packets after seeing the posting.
He's hoping to find most of the families listed in the next month or so. After that, the photos may be going back to the landfill.
Marsili isn't charging for the photos as such, but has spent a lot of time organizing and tracking people down. He asks that people purchase a pizza at the restaurant when they pick up the packets.
The full list of names and places is posted on Facebook. Marsili's Family Restaurant is located at 94 Main St. in Dillonvale, 740-769-7900 or 740-769-7800.