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Mary Celeste Vieira

Mary Celeste (August 24, 1930 – April 27, 2024)
Mary’s Grandfather, Father, Brother, Husband, and Son were all fishermen. Her parents emigrated from Portugal when she was 3½ years old. As a child, she accompanied her father to sell fish at New York’s Fulton Fish Market, acting as translator for her Portuguese speaking father. Now in her 90’s, Celeste shares memories going back to the 1930s.

“My parents, they really embodied being American citizens that would give back to this country, everything that they received. They became American citizens and I became a naturalized citizen through them. It was very difficult in the sense that they depended on me to do translations. To do any kind of shopping, I’d take my mother, we’d go down to the village, and between a few words that I knew at the age of five, and the pointing to various articles of food that my mother wanted to buy, she and I would do a little shopping.”

“I was born in Aveiro Portugal in a little fishing village, São Jacinto. It’s such a small village, that every male is a fisherman. My father from the very young age of about eight or so fished with his father. Men never went to school, but always had goals of success in his life, he strove to try to come to this country, our wonderful America.”

“My father and mother groomed me in bookkeeping and the work of accounting. So it fell on me at a very young age to write checks and to write letters for supplies for the fishing boats. The experience of having had some banking experience and some bookkeeping and business experience has been very fruitful. For my whole life, I’ve been able to take care of the books for my father, my brother and my husband.”

“I didn’t mend nets, but I did fill the needles. The needles that I filled would be to help my father as he was mending the nets, and building them. That’s something that I only appreciated many years later, when I discovered that each net has to be made to suit the type of fish that they’re catching. It didn’t dawn on me, but the intelligence of that man to be able to fashion nets in the way that would catch that particular species. And so he really had an amazing ability to make a net of any kind.”

“Oh, my courtship was unique. I don’t expect anyone to believe that this could happen, that you could find someone to love without any intimacy. We were not allowed to be in the same room alone. And so we devised a method. Frank and I would sit on the couch, while my father and mother sat in other chairs. We would hold hands like this, underneath our hands, thinking that my parents would never figure that out. But of course they did. However, they would let that slide.”

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