Maria Galdieri Murtagh thought the letter was a scam.
“To Whom It May Concern: We are looking for any descendants of (Augusto) Galdieri, who apparently owned a Pharmacy in San Francisco in the early 1900’s or any of his three children.”
But then Murtagh noticed her own face staring back at her among the envelope’s contents.
“I was shocked to turn the page over and see my high school graduation picture,” she said.
Murtagh’s 1964 portrait was among dozens of family photos preserved in a vintage photo album Los Altos Hills City Clerk Deborah Padovan uncovered weeks ago in a town hall closet. Based on notations throughout the album, Padovan and History Committee member Jitze Couperus, her accomplice in genealogical sleuthing, deduced the collection was owned and compiled by the late Augusto Leonida Galdieri, a San Francisco pharmacist from Italy – but they had no idea how it came to Los Altos Hills, where no known Galdieris lived.
Whitepages.com revealed last known addresses associated with Peter Galdieri, Augusto’s son, in San Francisco and Daly City. Padovan mailed letters and one made its way to Murtagh, Peter’s daughter, living in Daly City. Peter passed away in 1990 but his widow, Luisa, still lives in San Francisco.
Murtagh shared news of the unexpected discovery with her mother.
“She was a little surprised,” Murtagh said. “She’s 99 years old, so I think at that age, nothing really surprises you.”
Padovan and Couperus presented Murtagh with her grandfather’s album in a low-key June 21 gathering characterized by a good deal of reminiscing and speculation about the album’s journey down the Peninsula.
In addition to Peter, Galdieri and his first wife, Carmela, had three daughters: Amelia (“Mamie”), Cristina and Theresa, Murtagh told Padovan and Couperus. As Carmela died of heart disease in 1937, Galdieri’s second wife, Teresa, was the only grandmother Murtagh and her sisters and brother knew growing up. She recalls her grandparents throwing lavish parties (they once played host for the Duchess Lavia Galdieri Tixon of Rome, according to a 1948 article in the now-defunct San Mateo Times newspaper) and welcoming family for dinner at their San Mateo home.
“We would go there on weekends for the most delicious, many-course meals, a small glass of wine, served in the formal dining room, with linens, china, crystal candelabras,” Murtagh wrote in a reflection emailed to the Town Crier. “In between courses, the children would go outside and run around the spacious gardens to make more room for the next course! The ‘grown-ups’ would sit and talk at the table for hours.”
Murtagh remembers “Grandpa” as a gentle, kind man who possessed a knack for entertaining picky eaters at mealtimes.
“He used to pretend he was swallowing a knife to get us to eat our vegetables,” she said.
Teresa, the widow of Arturo Micheletti Sr., brought two children to her marriage to Galdieri, Arturo Jr. and Manlio “Mel” Micheletti, and it’s the Micheletti connection that seems most likely to explain how the album ended up in Los Altos Hills: Arturo Jr. and Mel once resided in town, and it’s possible Teresa – and the album— lived with one of her sons between Galdieri’s death in 1969 and her own in 1980. But both Arturo Jr. and Mel have passed, too, and Micheletti family members reached by the Town Crier were unaware of the album’s existence.
“There’s still no correlation on how it ended up here,” Padovan said as her meeting with Murtagh concluded.
“I’d love to hear that story if you ever find out,” Murtagh said.
Photos from the album are available on Couperus’ website at couperus.org/Mystery.