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Dear America Wiki

Sofia as she appears in Home At Last

All of the characters that appear in Sofia's Diaries, Hope in My Heart, Home At Last, and An American Spring.

Main characters[]

Sofia Monari[]

Main article: Sofia Monari

Sofia Monari (born c. 1894)[1] was the second daughter of Roberto and Angelina Monari. In 1903, she travelled with her family on the steamship Florida to the United States. Upon arrival at Ellis Island, Sofia was wrongly detained and put into quarantine for allegedly having trachoma, which she did not have. There she became best friends with Maureen O'Malley and also befriended Mademoiselle Coco and Rafi. After being released, Sofia went to live with her family in Boston, where she enjoyed attending school and met the kind Dr. Balboni. In mid-1903, she caught infantile paralysis which caused one of her legs to become withered. Later on, when Maureen's mother passed away, she came to live with Sofia's family.

Supporting characters[]

Angelina and Roberto Monari[]

Angelina[2] ("Mama") and Roberto Monari[3] ("Papa") were the parents of Gabriella, Sofia, Luca, and Marco. They were from Cento, Italy. Following his parents' deaths, Roberto's oldest brother inherited the family farm. Roberto and his wife decided to immigrate to America with their children, arriving in February 1903. The family moved to the North End of Boston, where Roberto began working at Corrado Genovese's grocery store. Angelina's tortellini became popular among her friends and acquaintances, leading her to sell it at Corrado's store. They accepted Dr. Balboni's offer to rent a space from him for their own pasta shop. Later, they opened their home to Sofia's friend, Maureen O'Malley.

Mademoiselle Coco and Rafi[]

Mademoiselle Coco and Rafi were both detainees at Ellis Island. She was a seamstress for the Folies Bergère in Paris. After having her heart broken for "one last time," Mademoiselle Coco decided to come to the United States. She was detained at Ellis Island for wearing a wig. The doctors thought she was sick, though actually her scalp had been burned with hair dye. Rafi was a gypsy whom had travelled around Europe before stowing away on ship to America. At Ellis Island, he "disappeared" from the ward. Rafi and Mademoiselle befriended Maureen and Sofia, the latter of whom nicknamed Rafi "The Shadow." He later found a way to leave the island on his own, while Mademoiselle Coco was helped by Father Finnegan along with Sofia and Maureen.

Gabriella Monari[]

Gabriella Victoria Innocenza Monari[4] (born 1889)[1][5] was the oldest daughter of Roberto and Angelina Monari. In 1903, she came with her family to the United States. Gabriella initially struggled in school, being placed in the same grade as Sofia. She began to flourish after she was moved up to the seventh grade and began attending sewing classes. As she became more skilled at sewing, Gabriella obtained a job working for Mrs. Wedge and later a commission from Isabella Stewart Gardener. She developed pneumonia while working on Isabella's dress, requiring Sofia and Maureen to do the finish work. After recovering, Gabriella continued working for Isabella and was able to buy her own sewing machine.

Gerardo Balboni[]

Dr. Gerardo Balboni was a respected doctor who worked on Prince Street in Boston. Like the Monaris, he was from Cento, Italy. He became acquainted with the Monari family when Angelina brought Marco to be examined. After Angelina sent him tortellini as thanks, Gerardo became a good friend of the family. He later treated Sofia when she caught infantile paralysis. After he recovery, Gerardo gave Sofia a stern speech when she let her "withered" leg hold her back. He later encouraged Sofia's parents to start a pasta shop by offering to rent a space to them. Sofia convinced him to give them his stern speech, leading to her parents accepting his offer. The following Thanksgiving, he introduced the Monaris to his fiancée Lillian Dobie.

Luca Monari[]

Luca Monari (born c. 1896)[1] was the oldest son and third child of Robert and Angelina Monari. He came to the United States with his family in 1903. After coming to America with his family, Luca began attending Paul Revere School where he was placed in the second grade. He quickly became an enterprising young businessman, obtaining jobs shining shoes and delivering newspapers on Atlantic Avenue. Luca became familiar with all kinds of people through his work, including Gennaro Romagnoli whom he introduced to Sofia when she needed to send messages to Maureen. On Halloween, he introduced Sofia and Maureen to another friend, Captain Grandby.

Maureen O'Malley[]

Maureen O'Malley (born c. 1894)[6] was the eleventh child of Mr. and Mrs. O'Malley. She had thirteen siblings; several were married, while two were priests and another a nun. In 1903, she left Killcarrick, County Clare in Ireland to immigrate to America with her parents and three of her siblings. Maureen was detained at Ellis Island for the same reason as Sofia, whom became her best friend. Her family went on to settle in Brooklyn. Maureen's father was unable to find work and her mother became sick and eventually passed away. When her father decided to return to Ireland, the Monaris invited Maureen to come live with them. Maureen adjusted to living with them and was treated like a member of the family.

Minor characters[]

  • Antonia, a girl who Gabriella Monari met at North Bennet Street School.
  • Arturo, a friend of Luca Monari who helped him get a job delivering newspapers.
  • Miss Bradshaw was Angelina Monari's teacher at the North Bennet Street School. After Angelina gifted her some tortellini, she offered to pay for another batch.
  • Bridgid, Declan, and Malachy O'Malley were three of Maureen O'Malley's siblings. They came from Ireland to America with their parents in 1903. Following the death of their mother, they returned to Ireland with their father.
  • Miss Burnet was Sofia Monari's third and fifth grade teacher at Paul Revere School. She was a kind and dedicated teacher, being determined to find a suitable situation for Gabriella. Miss Burnet quickly became Sofia's favorite teacher and she was delighted to have her again for the fifth grade. She graduated from Radcliffe College and her father was a professor at Harvard.
  • Caesar, a pigeon owned by Gennaro Romagnoli whom carried Sofia's messages to Maureen.
  • Chiarina was a friend and classmate of Sofia. She introduced Sofia to the Lilies of the Arno club at Paul Revere School.
  • Doctors Cochrane and Gilbert were psychiatrists working at Ellis Island. They examined Sofia and Maureen after Nurse Barron accused them of threatening to kill a baby.
  • Miss Coggins was Sofia's fourth grade teacher. Due to her strictness, Sofia was not really fond of her.
  • Mrs. Cohen was Mirka's mother. She paid Sofia and Chiarina ten cents each to light fires and other small tasks on the Sabbath.
  • Corrado[2] Genovese was the husband of Thomasina and father of Mirella. He operated a grocery store and hired Roberto Monari to work there. Corrado was a kind man but was controlled by his unkind wife.
  • Mrs. Del Orio, a mother who lead many of the projects for the Lilies of the Arno.
  • Miss Drew was Gabriella's seventh grade teacher at Paul Revere School.
  • Father Finnegan was a Catholic priest from Ireland whom decided to stay at Ellis Island after witnessing the rampant corruption there. He helped Sofia, Maureen, and Mademoiselle leave quarantine. Later on, Father Finnegan helped Maureen and Sofia reunite when Maureen's father decided to return to Ireland.
  • Franco was a sailor on the Florida whom was in charge of the fog bell. He was befriended by Roberto and allowed Sofia to sit below the bell for a better view of the Statue of Liberty.
  • Fredo was a friend and classmate of Luca who lived in the same building.
  • Gennaro Romagnoli was a man whom kept carrier pigeons. Luca introduced Sofia to him so she could send messages to her friend Maureen. Gennaro was later very happy to meet Maureen in person.
  • Gian Carlo was Sofia's uncle. He was a supervisor at a pasta factory near Bologna, Italy.
  • Miss Gillespie, the secretary at the North Bennet Street School. She wanted to buy a batch of Angelina's tortellini.
  • Giuliana Forte, a classmate of Sofia at Paul Revere School. She was noted for being smart, having worked out the last riddle in Miss Burnet's treasure hunt.
  • Giuseppe (born c. 1889)[7] was a boy Sofia and Gabriella met aboard the steamship the Florida. He had a crush on Gabriella and Sofia later saw them holding hands.
  • Captain Grandby, the captain of the Sea Hound whom Luca became friendly with.
  • Isabella Stewart Gardner, a Boston socialite whom hired Gabriella to sew her a ball gown. Gabriella brought Sofia and Maureen along on her visits to Isabella's home for fittings and such. After Gabriella became ill, Isabella invited Sofia and Maureen to do the finish work on the dress at her home. Once Gabriella had recovered, she hired her to create her spring wardrobe.
  • Joe (died February 26, 1903)[8] was a detainee at Ellis Island. He was described by Sofia as having a "simple mind," which lead to Nurse Barron to treat him cruelly. Sofia and Maureen often tried to protect him from her abuse. After having a heart attack, his health quickly deteriorated and he passed away within a few days.
  • John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald was a retired congressman and Rose's father.
  • John Singer Sargent, a famous painter whom had painted a portrait of Isabella Stewart Gardner.
  • Lillian Barron,[9] referred to as "Mean Nurse," was a nurse who worked on the quarantine ward at Ellis Island in 1903. She was abusive towards her patients and particularly aimed her ire at Joe, and later at Sofia and Maureen. Nurse Barron was later exposed for being involved in the thieves' market on the island.
  • Lillian Dobie was the fiancée of Doctor Balboni. She was the oldest of eight children and was from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Lillian came to Boston as there were few choices in Halifax, except to get married. She took a course and began working as a nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital.
  • Marco Monari (born 1902)[1] was the youngest son of Robert and Angelina Monari. Being a toddler, Marco often unintentionally got into trouble, such as when he swallowed Mirella's doll's eye.
  • Mirella Genovese was the daughter of Corrado and Thomasina. She was shown to be somewhat spoiled by the luxuries given to her by her parents. Having a similar personality to her mother, Mirella often acted stuck-up towards Sofia and others.
  • Mirella, referred to as "Great Auntie" was the great aunt of the four Monari children. She was a nun at the convent of Santa Giustina dei Monti.
  • Mirka Cohen was a friend of Sofia and Chiarina. Her family owned Cohen Dry Goods on Salem Street. Mirka was Jewish and was part of the Wiltsie Club at Paul Revere School.
  • Molly, an Irish girl whom took sewing lessons to become a maid like her older sister. She became good friends with her classmate Gabriella, even bringing her to her church.
  • Mr. and Mrs. O'Malley were the parents of fourteen children, including Maureen. They came to the United States with four of their children since the others were all grown up. Mr. O'Malley had a hard time finding a job. After his wife died, he decided to return to Ireland but allowed Maureen to go live with the Monaris.
  • Nancy Burns[10] was a nurse working at Ellis Island. Sofia and Maureen referred to her as "Nice Nurse" until they learned her name. The girls became distrustful of Nancy over time, though she always kept their best interests at heart.
  • Nellie Melba, a famous opera star whom sang at Isabella Stewart Gardner's New Year's ball.
  • Nina, a friend of Gabriella and Molly. She helped them play a trick on Sofia on Halloween.
  • Pauli, the older brother of Chiarina. He played Christopher Columbus for the Columbus Day assembly.
  • Pietro was a friend of Luca in Italy. He and Luca chased a pig on Saint Anthony's Day, causing the pig to fall into a lake and drown.
  • Rose Fitzgerald was the daughter of the retired congressman, John Fitzgerald. Gabriella described her as beautiful and she was well liked by her peers. On Halloween, Rose told Sofia and Maureen about the ghost of Cotton Mather on Copps Hill.
  • "Signora Salami" was a woman travelling aboard the Florida in 1903 with her family, including her nephew Giuseppe. Sofia called her "Signora Salami" due to her smelling of soppressata, which she loved so much that she carried it all the way from Italy.
  • Sister Lucia, a kind nun who sometimes helped out at meetings of the Lilies of the Arno. When Mrs. Genovese was rude about Maureen being in the club, the Sister stood up to her and refused her donations.
  • Miss Romano was one of the supervisors of the club, Lilies of the Arno.
  • Thomasina[2] Genovese was the wife of Corrado and the mother of Mirella. She acted very rudely towards those that she saw as less than herself, despite belonging to ladies' club meant to help the disadvantaged. Due to her rudeness, Sofia called her Tomi while writing about her in diary.
  • Miss Walker was Gabriella's sewing teacher at North Bennet Street School. She helped Gabriella obtain work by introducing her to Mrs. Wedge.
  • Mrs. Wedge, a seamstress with bad arthritis. She hired Gabriella to help her with fittings and later allowed her to use one of her sewing machines when she obtained another job.
  • Dr. William[11] Burnet was the father of Miss Burnet and an astronomy professor at Harvard. While visiting Cambridge, Miss Burnet introduced her father to her student Sofia. He later invited her back to watch the Perseid showers.
  • William Williams was the commissioner general of Ellis Island whom Father Finnegan got in touch with in order to help Sofia, Maureen, and Mademoiselle Coco.


See also[]