By James Beaty
Yvette and Dave Martin are well-known to many in the McAlester area — and come Saturday, they’ll have another title to add to their roster.
They’re the new re and regina for the 43rd Annual Italian Festival.
The couple is set to be crowned Italian Festival royalty on the outdoor stage by the main food tent during the festival’s opening ceremony. It’s set for 11 a.m. Saturday at the Southeast Expo Center, said Bob Lenardo, one of the Italian Festival Committee members.
This year’s festival is set to begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, May, 18, and continues until around dark that evening. It reopens at 10 a.m. Sunday, May 19, and is set to close around 4 p.m., according to organizers of the event.
Yvette Martin says all of the Italian blood is on her side of the family, while her husband has Choctaw and Chickasaw ancestry.
“I’m 100 percent Italian,” she said, adding that her Italian heritage comes from both sides of her family tree.
“I’m very humbled to stand up there and represent my Italian heritage and culture for my town,” she said.
Yvette Martin is the executive director of United Way of Southeastern Oklahoma.
Dave Martin, a coach and teacher at Haileyville Public Schools, is also a former Minor League pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.
Yvette Martin spoke with the News-Capital on Thursday while Dave was busy finishing up the week at Haileyville schools.
She said her maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Riccitelli, was born in Abruzzi, Italy. Elizabeth’s mother was named Celeste (Danielle) Riccitelli and her father was Dominic Riccitelli. He was also from Abruzzi and later emigrated to America. He got a job as an ironworker in Midland, Ohio, and sent for his family to join him.
“Elizabeth left with her mother for America when she was 5 years old, for them to join her dad, Dominic,” Yvette Martin said.
“My grandma, Elizabeth said it took 12 days on the ship from Italy to America,” where they landed on Ellis Island, she continued.
“My great-grandma, Celeste, said she only had $1 in her purse” when she left for America, Yvette Martin said.
Elizabeth grew up in America and married Alexander “Alec” Vallese. He had been born in Giulianova, Italy, and came to America with his brother, Joseph, when Alec was 14 and Joe was 12, Yvette Martin said.
“Alec got a job at Jones & Laughlin Steel Co., in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania,” she said. Alec and Elizabeth were later married and had 10 children “before and during the Depression.”
Yvette Martin also told of her Italian heritage on her father’s side of the family.
Her paternal grandfather was named Egidio “James” Faiella, born in 1907 in Introdacqua, Italy.
“In 1923 at the age of 16, he made his journey to America and landed on Ellis Island,” Yvette Martin said.
“My grandma, Mary Bove Faiella, is the daughter of Luigi Bove, and hails from the Campania region of Italy, “ she said. “She was born in the town of Cervino, outside the city of Naples, Italy.
“James and Mary both met in America and settled in the steel mill town of Aliquippa, Pennsylvania,” Yvette Martin said. “James worked at Jones & Laughlin Steel Co. They had three kids: Joseph (my dad), Eugene and Rose Marie.”
When Joseph grew up, he followed the family line of work.
“My dad worked in a steel mill and met my mom in Pennsylvania,” Yvette Martin said. “Instead of like the coal miners here, my family was steel mill workers.”
Martin said her father eventually moved to work in a steel mill in California, where she grew up.
Yvette Martin, then known by her maiden name of Yvette Faiella, met her future husband while they both were attending Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., where Dave Martin played on the college team.
She later attended California State Polytechnic University in Pomona while he pursued his baseball career.
One of the perks at Cal Poly — getting to help work on a float in the Rose Bowl Parade.
Meanwhile, Dave Martin’s family has roots in McAlester, which ultimately led to his and Yvette’s family moving to McAlester after they wed.
Dave Martin’s grandfather, James Ramsey, operated Ramsey’s Music Store. His mother, Patricia, moved from McAlester to California, where she met her future husband, Cliff Martin. They would become Dave Martin’s parents.
While living in California, Yvette and Dave would sometimes visit his Oklahoma relatives. They grew to like the McAlester area so much, they decided to move here.
“We felt like McAlester was a good place to raise our family,” Yvette Martin said.
The couple now has two children, Kelly Martin, 22, and Ryan Martin, 18.
“We liked the small-town atmosphere and people were friendlier. We liked the sense of community and that’s why were moved here.”
The strong Italian community in McAlester and Krebs and the surrounding area “was like icing on the cake,” Yvette Martin said.
“It definitely makes me feel more at home here,” she said.
As for she and her husband being named re and regina, she said “It’s definitely an honor and one that represents my Italian heritage.