Remembering Lillian Domasky
NEWS-LEDGER — NOV 16, 2011 —
By Daryl Fisher
Note: Lifelong West Sacramento resident Lillian Domasky passed away last week and she and her late husband, Bob, were like second-parents to me back when I was a teenager and their son, John, was my best friend. She was kind and caring and full of compliments and she always made it fun to hang out at John’s house. She also had a great sense of humor, smiled easily, and knew how to enjoy this life. She will be greatly missed by all of us who knew and loved her and below, in her memory, is an article I wrote many years ago about the life she and her beloved husband, Bob, made for themselves and their family in West Sacramento.
Bob Domasky’s grandfather on his mother’s side of the family was the proud owner of a horse and buggy taxi fleet in 19th century Russia.
“For some reason,” explained Bob, “he decided to move the whole family to China and set up business there. When that didn’t work out, he moved to Kobe, Japan, and then later answered an advertisement for sugar cane workers in Hawaii.”
By the early 1900s, the family had saved up enough money from working in the sugar cane fields to afford steamer passage to San Francisco.
“There was a huge Russian community in San Francisco around the turn of the century,” explained Bob, “and that is where my mother met and married my father. Then, in 1911, the whole family moved to Bryte and bought a little three-room house on Solano Street. For a half-dozen years or so, my grandfather made a living hunting and selling rabbits, which were still everywhere in this area when I was young. Then, around 1917, my father went up to Seattle for awhile and worked in the shipyards, and that is where his boss decided Domavskisky was too hard to pronounce and changed it to Domasky.”
Bob remembers growing up in Bryte as some of the very best years of his life.
“It was during The Great Depression and jobs and money were hard to come by, but the people in our neighborhood were really wonderful. There were warm and friendly Russian families all around us – four on our street, six on Yolo Street, and three more on Water Street. They all got together and built the Russian Peoples Community Building, and every weekend they would have dances there, and sometimes they would put on Russian plays, too. Those were some really great times!”
While Bob Domasky was growing up in Bryte, Lillian Perini was doing the same thing just down the road in Broderick, and the only difference was that she was surrounded by wonderful Italian families.
“There were the Novelli’s, the Perucci’s, the Guastali’s, the Brunelli’s, the Olivastri’s, the Fava’s, the Bonetti’s, The Delaini’s, the Luigi’s, and many, many more,” said Lillian. “And we had our dances, too – over at the old Washington Firehouse. In fact, I met Bob at one of those dances. So I guess if there’s one thing you can say about most of the people who grew up in Bryte and Broderick, it’s that we were pretty good dancers, because we had lots of practice.”
Before Bob married Lillian, he joined the Marines shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and soon found himself island-hopping in the Pacific Ocean. On February 18, 1943, about four hours into the hard-fought invasion of Eniwetok in the Marshall Islands, Bob was shot in the head. He was evacuated to a nearby hospital ship, where he was stabilized, and then sent to Hawaii, and finally back to the mainland for surgery.
“They put a metal plate in my head,” said Bob, “and it took me awhile to learn how to walk and talk again, but I was pretty lucky. I still get headaches sometimes when the plate gets too hot or cold, but a lot of really good young men never got off that island.”
After the war, Bob came back to Bryte and went to work for PG&E.
“But most of the people I knew in Bryte and Broderick worked for the railroad back then,” recalled Bob, “and I can still remember how everyone set their time by the old SP railroad shop’s whistle, which blew every day at seven in the morning and three in the afternoon. You could hear it real clear from where we lived.”
Bob and Lillian have been married for more than 50 years and have three children, John, Tommy and Paulette, all of whom attended and graduated from local schools.
“We got engaged on my mother’s birthday,” said Lillian, “and it’s worked out pretty well. I guess the only thing he ever did which really bothered me was that he’d take off and go hunting almost every weekend.”
“And I did a lot of fishing, too!” added Bob with a smile.
When Lillian thinks back to her days of growing up in Broderick, she recalls how everyone spoke mostly her parents’ native language at home.
“I can still remember how everyone who came to visit my mother always spoke Italian,” said Lillian, “and I used to love to just sit and listen to them talk. It was a different time back then. We didn’t have hardly anything to speak of – no cars, no fancy clothes, nothing like that. And for entertainment there was only the radio and the dances, so mostly we entertained ourselves.”
“You could spend a whole day fishing in some of the nearby canals,” said Bob, “which I really loved to do, and if you wanted some spending money, or wanted to buy something nice to wear, you could always go pick hops. But what I guess I remember most about those days were the Sundays, especially in the summertime. All the different families would take turns having their friends over to their house to visit, play cards, and of course eat. And you wouldn’t believe some of the food they used to serve. Boy, there were some really great cooks back then.”
“I think we both feel very fortunate to have grown up in Bryte and Broderick,” said Lillian. “I can still remember saving up ten cents and then walking across the I Street Bridge with my girlfriends to go see a Saturday matinee movie at the old Fox theater in downtown Sacramento. We didn’t have much, but we had each other, and it really was like being part of one big, happy family. Everybody knew everybody else, and it sure was a great time and place to be young.”
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