I have written in past articles in this blog about the unintentional victims of criminals - the families, friends and neighbors of people who commit heinous crimes. I wrote about Jack Franks, the brother of murdered Bobby Franks, and about the family of Nathan Leopold who even changed their last name to "Lebold" to try to escape the stigma of Nathan's crime. But not everyone related to a criminal is a victim - intentional or unintentional. This is best exemplified as we take a look at the life and times of Mafalda Capone Maritote, the sister of Al Capone. She spent her life trying to convince the public that their impressions of her brother were incorrect - that in fact, Al Capone was a kind, generous, loving man - devoted to his family and especially to his Mother. On May 23, 1929 when Mafalda was only eighteen years old, newspapers reported the following:
|7244 S. Prairie Avenue, Chicago|
|St. Mary's Church, Cicero, Illinois|
The first chorus of "ahs" went up at the arrival of a sedan with the six ushers, all in correct formal attire. The bridegroom and his best man arrived almost simultaneously - dapper young Italians, each with a gardenia in his buttonhole.
The pushing and the gaping became more pronounced when other sedans pulling up to the curb discharged a bevy of bridesmaids, fresh faced young Italian girls, in identical costumes of turquoise blue and shell pink. Their frocks were decollete sleeveless models of pink taffeta, long and full. They wore pink duvetyn hats, with turquoise satin bands, moire slippers in the turquoise shade, and each held a colonial bouquet of pink roses and sweet peas, with a paper frill, tied in pale blue tulle.
Mrs. Ralph Capone and Mrs. Al Capone were matrons of honor. The former, a slim, decided blonde, wore a pale pink chiffon gown with long, full sleeves, and full skirt touching the floor. The latter, a brunette, wore a beruffled sleeveless model of pink chiffon, with tiny shoulder straps of turquoise and capped sleeves of the ruffled chiffon, edged in silver.
Both wore pink duvetyn hats, similar to the bridesmaids', with turquoise slippers, and carried colonial bouquets of valley lilies, roses, and yellow button chrysanthemums.
Even those inside the church knew, with the chorus of exclamations outside that the bride had arrived. She stepped from her car with a long wrap of white ermine tossed about her shoulders, half concealing her bridal costume, but as she was giving it finishing touches in the vestibule, it was well displayed.
Nineteen years old, plump and olive skinned, Mafalda was a pretty bride. A full cap of tulle covered her black hair, and caught the filmy veil, which swept behind her for a full three yards as she moved toward the front of the church. Her gown was of ivory satin, sleeveless, draped at the bodice and fitted almost to the knees, where it trailed away, in a longish train. She wore long white gloves, and carried a modernistic bouquet of white gardenias and lilies of the valley.
There was further ado among the crowd outside when her flower girl and boy, small Theresa and Roger Maritote, relatives of the bridegroom, were ushered into the church. Roger was in a white satin suit and tall hat, and Theresa acted the part of a tiny bride in full regalia, including a billowy Kate Greenaway gown of white tulle and a bridal veil.
The marriage ceremony that followed was not interrupted by the arrests made by the Chief Investigator Roche and his men. The five men taken into custody were rebuked by Roche for the "social blunder" of appearing with guns on their hips. The prisoners are Tony Greco, Nick Dana, William Pfeifer, Fred Szudcgulwgeski, and Joseph Joblonski.
Maritote is a brother of Frank Diamond, listed with Frank and Al Capone as a public enemy. Like his bride, the gossip went, he was not consulted too much as to whether he wished to marry. The marriage was decided by Capone and Diamond, report had it, by way of strengthening their mutual interests and to avoid a feud between their factions.
Whatever the inception of the romance, Mafalda was smiling as she left the church on the arm of her new husband amid showers of rice and the blinding flash of the picture mechanics. And as a final and authentic touch, her mother, in a mink coat and small black hat, followed her down the red plush carpet with her handkerchief at her eyes.
The bridal couple will honeymoon in Cuba.
But without a doubt, the most fabulous part of the wedding was the wedding cake served at the reception:
Life goes on, even for the sister of Al Capone. But Mafalda soon found that like Prince Harry and Megan today, everything she did was news. Here is a blurb from the Murfreesboro, Tennessee Daily News-Journal on December 22, 1930:
If you think I am exaggerating, look at the editorial from the Peoria (IL) Star on December 19, 1930:
Finally the media furor died down and the newspapers were silent about Mafalda during 1931.
However, the notoriety came roaring back when the newspapers announced the blessed event that happened to Mr. and Mrs. John Maritote on April 11, 1932:
The unwritten law of gangland had always been that the families of mobsters were never to be hurt. Someone chose to ignore this when on January 25, 1933 they tried to assassinate Mafalda Capone Maritote:
When John Maritote registered for the draft in the 1940s the family was still living at 7244 S. Prairie Avenue in Chicago:
Maritote reported that he worked at the Midway Theater at 63rd and Cottage Grove in Chicago. He was a movie projector operator. Here is the only photo I could find of the Midway Theater (it's from the cinematreasures.com website):
Mafalda Maritote had been born in Brooklyn, New York, so she was of course, an American citizen. John on the other hand was an immigrant, so in 1945 he applied for, and was denied US Citizenship:
Al Capone was in prison from May, 1932 to November, 1939. During this time the press didn't write as much about Al Capone, nor his sister Mafalda. Upon Al's release from prison he took up residence at his villa in Miami, Florida where he lived until he died on January 25, 1947. Of course his death was headline news throughout the world:
Buried all the way down in the thirteenth paragraph was this:
Ermio Capone was, of course Al Capone's brother, not his father who had died in 1920.
Mafalda next appeared in the newspaper when her mother died in 1952:
As the memory of Al Capone faded, so did mentions of him in the press. Like her infamous brother, Mafalda Capone Maritote was now considered "yesterday's news," and therefore did not show up in the newspapers on a regular basis anymore. The remaining information I have about John and Mafalda Maritote came from various "Capone-related" websites. Although we know that "if it's on the internet it must be true", I apologize in advance for any errors or omissions. As a historian I strive for accuracy above all, so if anything I report is incorrect, or if I have omitted anything you consider important, please feel free to contact me.
It was reported that Mafalda Maritote (now called Mae or May) and her husband John (now called Jack) opened a bakery and catering service at 10232 S. Western Avenue in Chicago's Beverly neighborhood. (A bank parking lot occupies that spot today.) After the old Italian neighborhood around Taylor Street was decimated by (the first) Mayor Daley to build the Circle Campus of the University of Illinois, many Italian-Americans moved to the far south side of Chicago, so some good Italian cooking and baking was welcomed by the neighborhood.
It was time for some good news for the Capone/Maritotes and that came about in 1954 when Dolores Maritote married Lt. George J. Irvin (1930-2013):
The article is silent as to the size or shape of the wedding cake.
Nowhere in the article is the name "Capone" mentioned. This must have been bittersweet for Mafalda. On the one hand I'm sure she did not miss all the negative press but on the other hand she never tried to hide her connection as a Capone as evidenced by this article from the Chicago Tribune on June 26, 1957 when Mafalda charged a policeman with hitting her in front of her "sandwich shop":
The most interesting part of the article was what it didn't say: A Chicago police captain did not know who May Capone Maritote was until she told him. And then, after someone checked, the article did say "A Mafalda Capone was married to John Maritote in 1930."
Sometime after 1957, May and Jack opened a much larger restaurant at 9956 S. Western Avenue Chicago. It is still a restaurant today, Fox's Beverly Pizza Pub. The Fox family purchased the restaurant from Mafalda in 1965:
|9956 S. Western Avenue, Chicago|
Although May and Jack were running their successful restaurant business, Jack Maritote kept his membership in the Motion Picture Projectionists' Union active - a move which ended up getting him some negative press in 1959 as part of the so called Movie Union Bribery scandal:
As the article mentioned, John and Mafalda were now living at 10924 Artesian Avenue in Chicago:
|10924 S. Artesian Avenue, Chicago,|
In December of 1959 the Capone name was back in the headlines when Mafalda, as Executrix of the Estate of Alphonse Capone, sued Desilu Studios because of the Desilu production of a movie and television show called "The Untouchables." Mafalda alleged that "The Untouchables" brought distress to Al's widow Mae Capone and Al's son Albert Francis "Sonny" Capone by using Al Capone's image and name numerous times and alleging that he committed hundreds of crimes including murder - none of which he had been arrested or tried for. You will remember that Al Capone only went to jail because of Income Tax issues. The family contended that Al Capone had been a "wheeler-dealer" but not a killer.
Ironically years before, Desi Arnaz had gone to school with Al's son Sonny Capone. The story was that Sonny contacted Desi and asked him not to proceed with "The Untouchables" but Arnaz refused.
The case dragged on for years until finally on April 30, 1965 the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled against the Capones. The court held (as has been alleged numerous times by the Find a Grave website) that the dead do not have a right to privacy. Further, neither Al's wife Mae nor his son Sonny could show any direct damages they suffered as a result of "The Untouchables" beyond "anguish" which the court rejected because it was unable to determine the nature of any damages recoverable.
In 1965 May and Jack sold their restaurant and retired to Lakewood Shores, Oscoda Township, Michigan to be near Dolores and her husband. Major George Irvin was still in the military and was stationed at Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Iosco County, Michigan. May was 54 years old and Jack was 57.
Sometime in the 1980s May's health had deteriorated to the point where Jack could not care for her anymore by himself. So he had her admitted to a nursing home in Harrisville, Michigan.
Back in 1930 when their upcoming marriage was announced, many people, including members of the press, intimated that Mafalda's and John's was an "arranged" marriage. People said John was hand-picked by Al Capone to marry his sister to quell dissent in the ranks of his vast empire. Anyone who believed the malicious murmurings should have been around in the 1980s when John visited his devoted wife in the nursing home every single day. Neighbors, friends and staff members all commented how moved they were at the devotion of John to Mafalda. He would sit with her by the hour just to be at her side.
When the news came through that Major Irvin had been transferred yet again - this time to Sacramento, California, John decided that he and Mafalda would stay in Michigan, believing that the upheaval of a cross-country move this late in her life might kill May.
Mafalda Capone died March 25, 1988, in Oscoda, Michigan. She was 76 years old. Her body was brought back to Illinois and she was laid to rest in the Capone family plot in Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Hillside:
There was no obituary, death notice or announcement of any kind that Al Capone's baby sister had passed from this world. After all these years why stir everything up again?
In 1994 John Maritote sold the house in Oscoda, Michigan and moved to be with his daughter in Sacramento, California. He was 86 years old.
John (no middle name) Maritote died June 10, 1997 in Sacramento, California. He was 88 years old. Unlike his wife, John had a death notice in the Chicago Tribune on Friday the 13th of June, 1997:
The purpose of this article is not to make any sort of judgement about the activities, real or imagined, of the Capone family. In the years I have been writing for this blog I have tried very hard to not judge the people I am writing about - just to report the stories as they happened.
All of us have different sides to our personalities - different "faces" if you will. The purpose of this article is to tell you about a sister's devotion to her much-maligned brother, and in the end the devotion of a husband to his wife. When Mafalda Capone said that her brother Al was dear, kind and gentle, I'm sure he was to her. So, I hope that you never forget the story of Al Capone's sister and you can rest assured that I will never forget that amazing wedding cake!
may she rest in peace.