Tears flow as Peterborough’s Rosemarie (74) meets brothers for the first time

For 74 years Rosemarie Doe knew nothing of her father or his family – but now she has been able to welcome four new brothers and a sister into her family, and they travelled thousands of miles to meet her in Peterborough.

Friday, 31st January 2020, 6:00 am
Canadian Sacco family reunion at the Marriott Hotel Mario Sacco, Rosemarie Whitwell-Doe, Gerry Sacco, Mike Sacco, John Sacco and David Doe. EMN-200124-190834009

Rosemarie’s dad, Frank Sacco, arrived in Sawtry as a prisoner of war after fighting in the Italian armed forces in Africa during World War Two.

During his time working on a farm near Peterborough, Frank met Beatrice, and in January 1946 Rosemarie was born – but just a few months later, Frank was deported back to Italy, before he emigrated to Canada six years later.

Rosemarie, who has lived in Peterborough all her life, was unable to find anything out about her father from her mum, other than being told his name.

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Canadian Sacco family reunion at the Marriott Hotel Rosemarie Whitwell-Doe and Mike Sacco, EMN-200124-190845009

But tears and Champagne flowed as she met four Canadian half brothers on Friday – which would have been Frank’s 100th birthday.

The four brothers, Mario, Michele, John and Gennarino, bought flights from Toronto to the UK on Monday, the day after speaking to Rosemarie on the phone for the first time, and set up the meeting at the Marriott Hotel in Peterborough.

The connection was made after Rosemarie’s son, David, was given a DNA kit for his 50th birthday, after he pledged to find his mum’s father for her.

Despite not knowing each other existed just two weeks ago, the new family got on like a house on fire, with return trips to Canada planned for the future.

Canadian Sacco family reunion at the Marriott Hotel David Doe with Rosemarie Whitwell-Doe and Mike Sacco, EMN-200124-190444009

Rosemarie, who lives in Paston, said: “It is like a dream. I keep having to pinch myself. It has all happened so quickly.

“When I was young, I was only told dad’s name was Frank Sacco, and I didn’t even know whether to believe that.

“On December 30 David said ‘I think I have found your dad.’

“Now I have four brothers, a sister and 27 new cousins. And the DNA test said I was 35 per cent Italian.

Frank with other prisoners of war in Sawtry EMN-200124-190505009

Champagne flowed as the group swapped stories and got to know each other. While Frank died in 2003, he was there in spirit for the family.

Rosemarie said: “I had butterflies this morning, but when I saw them all, I was OK.

“Everyone has been so welcoming and caring. I already feel loved by them.

“I can be a big sister now as well.”

Mario (72) said the day had been bitter sweet. He said: “It is such a positive story, but we are very sad that Rosemarie never got to have a father her whole life.

“We know dad will be looking down and proud of us all that we are meeting up.”

Gennarino (66) added: “There have been lots of tears this week. Dad never said he had another daughter. He would have loved this. I’m doing this (travelling to meet Rosemarie) for my father.”

John (68) added: “It has been a real rollercoaster – when I first heard I was shocked and thrilled.

“I still feel like I am in a dream.”

The Sacco brothers brought a number of things for Rosemarie, including pictures of their dad, and even shirts worn by him.

Michele said: “As soon as I saw pictures of Rosemarie, I cried. I’m a doctor, and normally hold everything in – but for the first time in 25 years, my emotions came out, knowing I have a sister who never knew her father.

“He used to carry a wallet with pictures of himself in Sawtry, and of his family, so we have brought that to show her.

“My father used to talk of his time in England a lot, about how nice the people were.”

The brothers stayed in Peterborough for a week, visiting Sawtry and the address where Frank used to live.

While they have never been to England before, they had no plans to do any more traditional tourist activities on the trip, but used the time to get to know their new family.

Rosemarie’s son, David, who lives in Cowbit, added: “It is amazing to see mum so happy. I always said I wanted to find mum’s dad, and to be able to do it is incredible.

“It is also great to get new uncles and an aunt, and find out about my granddad.

“They love mum to bits – it’s such a great story.”