Rose and Raymond were born in Sicilian towns near Palermo, Italy. Rose, age 75, is from San Giuseppe Jato, a village that sits in the hilly region of Palermo’s hinterland. Raymond, 79, is from Campofelice di Fitalia, a village about 20 miles southeast of Palermo.
While the towns are just an hour drive from each other, Rose and Raymond’s paths never crossed until immigrating to the United States. The couple was introduced in Kansas City by Rose’s uncle. And the rest is “storia” – that is, history.
In October, the Terranellas will be married 45 years. Raymond explains the key to a happy marriage. “Don’t fight,” Raymond laughs. “But if we do get mad at each other, we speak Italian.”
There’s a constant twinkle in Rose and Raymond’s eyes. This good-natured, down-to-earth couple have a fitting last name — terra means “earth” in Italian.
The Terranellas put down roots, worked hard, and made a life together. Raymond built the brick home in Carriage Hills Estates – an Italian-centric neighborhood in the KC Northland – where the couple lives to this day.
Raymond spent two years working in a metal factory and then 40 years in the produce industry. Rose worked for 12 years in a dress factory. And later, once the children were grown, she worked at Walmart for 17 years. The couple raised a son and daughter and put them through college.
The Terranellas are retired, and their life still revolves around family. The couple’s daughter lives nearby. So does their son, his wife, and their two boys. Rose and Raymond see their grandsons every Sunday for dinner and often during the week.
“They’re playing baseball and we go see their teams, one game every other day,” says Raymond, beaming with pride.
From the ballpark to Sunday pasta dinners, family comes first.
Raymond’s secret garden
There’s a garden in the Terranella’s backyard that’s just beginning to sprout to life. This is Raymond’s happy place. His earth.
Raymond spends hours every day doing the tasks that all vegetable gardeners do. This includes weeding, pruning, watering, planting, and then harvesting the fruits – and vegetables – of his labor. “When I grow it, it tastes better,” he shares.
Everything has its place. The garden is meticulously planted with rows of heirloom tomatoes, green beans, and cucuzza squash — a favorite squash of Sicilians. This incredibly long squash can grow from 3 to 6 feet long with sprawling vines.
The garden is also home to a bountiful fruit orchard. Raymond grows cherry, persimmon, fig, plum, peach, and apple trees. He even uses the centuries-old technique of grafting to propagate stronger, more resilient trees and to create new varieties.
Enjoying nature’s bounty
As in year’s past, Raymond’s garden will yield many gifts this growing season.
Bushels of vine-ripened tomatoes will be chopped and canned for future soups and stews. Others will be boiled down into Raymond’s signature red sauce which he’ll preserve in empty San Pellegrino bottles.
Fresh cucuzza will make its way into summer minestrone soup and pasta dishes.
And oh how the figs will sparkle come holiday time! Once they’re ripened and dried, Rose will use them to bake her famous cookies – a Christmas tradition in Sicily and the Terranella’s home.
“Our beautiful fig trees make cucidati,” Rose says. “It’s a lot of work,” Rose adds. First, she’ll make the dough, then the fig-nut filling, then she’ll glaze and decorate. It’s a labor of love.
There’s a word to describe Rose’s cucidati: Spettacolare! (Spectacular!)
Eating healthy comes naturally
The Terranellas choose to eat healthy. Their diet consists of a lot of vegetables and lean meats like chicken. Rose especially loves seafood. When they can, they prepare fish on Fridays.
The couple rarely dines out, instead preferring to eat at home. “I open the refrigerator and whatever we got, we cook it,” shares Raymond.
In the past, Rose has dealt with heart issues, so eating healthy is important. Over three decades ago, she underwent heart valve surgery. Now she has a pacemaker. “She’s bionic,” her husband chuckles.
From all indications, the couple’s Mediterranean diet has served them well. Rose and Raymond are animated, energetic, and full of life. They’re surrounded by loving family and friends. A flourishing vegetable garden and fruit orchard. And, of course, each other.
Forty years ago, a seed of love was planted. And ever since, the Terranellas have watched it grow and grow and grow.