Lucia "Lucy" Ventimiglia Gruwell was born February 10, 1915, in Martinez, CA, and arrived in Monterey at the age of three with her parents, Orazio and Maria Ventimiglia, and 9 brothers and sisters. Her parents came to the United States from Isola delle Femmine, Sicily.
Lucia graduated with honors from Monterey High School at the age of 16 and began working at Cal-Pack and Hovden Canneries with her sisters. In a February 5, 2006, Monterey Peninsula Herald article titled “Sicilian Women Helped Define Monterey”, Lucia described her early experiences in Monterey, illustrating several important features about the nature of the Sicilian community: “’We were poor. Working classes, I guess you would call it. God, yes it was important for us to work.
I started working on the wharf at the abalone factory. We trimmed the abalone. I was 17 years old. All the women worked. We did washing, cleaning, housework, and whatever we needed to do. The men fished. But what the husbands brought in wasn't enough, never has been. We had to work. Somebody had to do the packing, the cleaning, the cutting and the men didn't do it--the women did. As soon as we heard that the fish were in, we used to get up early. The sardines couldn't go soft; they had to be nice and firm to get into the cans. Of course, women took care of the household, too-- decided how much money to spend for this or that. A woman's job was taking care of her husband and children; she took care of everything. It was a given thing.’” --From a quote given by Lucia on September 19, 2001.
When she was 18, years old, Lucia met Clinton James Gruwell, who was of Spanish and Portuguese descent, at a park near her home on Abrego Street. They were married on March 17, 1935, in Oakland, California, when she was 19. Lucia and Clinton purchased a house on Granite Street in Pacific Grove, where they raised their children—Richard, James, Clinton, Charles and Bernice--and resided until Clinton's death in 1981.
After the children were grown and gone, Lucia went back to work--this time as a salesperson at Montgomery Ward--steadily gaining increased responsibilities, such as bookkeeping and ordering inventory . She worked there for 20 years, until the store closed in 1970. Later in life she traveled, visiting the Vatican, Paris, London and Sicily.
A wife, mother and grandmother, known to many as "Nana," Lucia was an incredible cook. She took great pleasure in gardening and loved reading a good book. Above all, she prized her family, which grew to include numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews and godchildren. Each one was the joy of her life. She was a sensitive, loving and strong-willed matriarch. Her positive attitude and close relationship with God carried her through more than a century of life. Lucia passed away peacefully in her home on September 25, 2017 at the age of 102, having lived a rich and happy life and gaining a place in the fishing heritage of the Monterey Peninsula.