Like many McAlester residents, Doreen Oldham grew up with the Italian Festival.
Her father, Dominick Molet, joined with fellow musician Anthony Stizza to perform as roving musicians during the festival's early years in the 1970s, including the time when the event was still held at Chadick Park. Their rendition of Italian songs kept many members of the crowd entertained.
Doreen Oldham, and her husband, Jade Oldham, have continued the family tradition, serving as festival volunteers for many years.
During this year's Italian Festival, they'll perform their usual tasks — along with another major one.
They are set to be crowned Re and Regina for the 2019 festival at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday at the main stage near the Italian Food Tent.
The festival is set for Friday May 10, and Saturday, May 11, at the Pittsburg County Fairgrounds and Southeast Expo Center west of McAlester. It will not be open on Sunday this year, because organizers want to give festival volunteers a chance to spend Mother's Day with their families.
The Oldhams are looking forward to this year's event — especially since they've been crowned festival royalty.
"I think it's one of the greatest honors of the Italian Festival," Doreen Oldham said.
"Of course, it's an honor," Jade Oldham agreed
The Oldhams have been a part of the festival for decades, helping out wherever they're needed.
"We've worked the food line. I've made bread. I've made salad. I've cleaned tables," Doreen Oldham said. She said she often coordinates with longtime volunteer Sandra Wilkinson.
Jade Oldham says he has roots in Italy.
"Back in the family tree, part of the family was from northern Italy, then they moved to Germany," said Oldham, who is the son of McAlester resident Linda Mason.
He said his father-in-law, Dominick Molet, and his friends made him "an honorary Italian."
The family's main Italian lineage comes from Doreen. Her mother, Minnie Molet, isn't Italian, she said, but there's plenty of the Italian influence on her father's side.
"My Italian heritage is very important to me," she said. "I have tons and tons of relatives."
Doreen Molet Oldham's father, the accordionist Dominick Molet, was the son of Guy Molet and Angelina Randazzo Molet. Guy Molet was born in 1909, while Angelina was born in 1914.
Guy Molet's parents were Dominick Maletti, who was born in 1881 in Nocera Salerno, Campania Region of Italy, which includes Naples and Pompei, and Annie Marino, born in 1884 in Sciacca, Agrigento, which is on the southwestern coast of Sicily. The couple married in 1902 in Krebs, in Indian Territory. The name Maletti would later be changed to Molet, according to a family history
Dominick Maletti and 29 other miners died in the 1930 coal mine explosion of Wheatley No. 4 in McAlester. His name is commemorated on the Pioneer Coal Mine Memorial in Chadick Park.
The family can trace the Italian roots back even farther. Dominick Maletti's father and mother were Guiseppe Maletti and Maria Vavaia, both of Italy. His wife, Annie Marino's parents, were Gaetano Marino and Elizabeth Giarantano, both of whom emigrated to the United States around the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, in the late 1800s-to-early 1900s.
On the other side of the family, Angelina Randazzo, who was married to Guy Molet, was the daughter of Guiseppe "Joe" Randazzo, who was born in 1879 in Calascibetta, Enna, Sicily, and Carmella Salerno, born in 1884, also in Calascibetta, Enna, Sicily.
In 1897, Joe Randazzo emigrated to the United States, entering America through Ellis Island. He worked his way on railroads across the country, all the way to Krebs, Indian Territory, where he became a coal miner. He worked and saved enough money to make the journey back across the Atlantic to Sicily, where he and Carmella were married.
He brought his bride back to the America in 1909 and bought land in the Peaceable area southeast of McAlester, where he started farming and ranching. Joe Randazzo worked two jobs, working as a coal miner during the day and plowing the fields at night — which he could do while wearing his miner's headlamp to light the way. After Carmella died in 1917, he married Michelina (Maggie) Casale in 1920.
His parents were Filippo Randazzo, of Capri Leone, Messina, Sicily, and Francesca Buscemi, of Calascibetta, of Enna, Sicily. Carmella Randazzo was the daughter of Francisco Salerno and Elena Librizzi, also of Sicily.
With that kind of Italian background, the Oldhams are glad to see their son, Aaron Oldham, who is in Denver, Colorado, with his fiancé, Lexi Mitsuhashi, honor his heritage.
Citing a favorite festival memory, Doreen Oldham recalled how a busload of Italian soldiers once stopped by one of the early festivals when she was a child. She thinks they were doing something at the McAlester Ammunition Plant, then known as the Naval Ammunition Depot, when they were bused to the festival site.
The soldiers were excited to be able to speak their native Italian with some of the local residents, she recalled.
Now, Jade and Doreen Oldham are excited to serve as Re and Regina of the 49th Annual Italian Festival.
"Jade and I are very happy to be chosen," Doreen Oldham said. "I can't remember a time when I haven't attended the festival. It's been a major part of our lives."
Contact James Beaty at firstname.lastname@example.org