Andrea Doria Survivor Rings Recovered Brass Bell at Columbus Day Parade

At age 9, Italian-American author and filmmaker Pierette Simpson was aboard the Doria and lived to tell her story.

On October 14, during the Columbus Day Parade on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, Pierette Domenica Simpson, survivor of the fatal Andrea Doria shipwreck, was invited to honor Christopher Columbus as well as the casualties of the Andrea Doria while aboard lifeboat #1 stopped on the red carpet in front of the event reporters. The first ring was for Christopher Columbus; the second ring was in memory of the Andrea Doria’s 46 fellow passengers that perished from the shipwreck with the Stockholm in 1956.

The lifeboat “float”, pulled by its owner Mark Koch who collects items of rare history, was carrying the Andrea Doria brass bell and its owner, John Moyer, who recovered the bell with a team of divers. Also aboard were some of Simpson’s fellow survivors Ada DiFabio, Lucy Raimengia, Corrado Sigona, diver Ted Hess, and two witnesses of the greatest sea rescue who had watched the entire operation thru their porthole on the rescue ship, Ile de France. Mark Koch’s daughters, Estella and Evie (12 and 10 respectively), who will carry on the lifeboat legacy were also onboard the rare artifact owned and restored by their father. The lifeboat was presented in the parade by the Association of Italian American Educators (AIAE), founded by Cav. Josephine Buscaglia Maietta who also rode in the lifeboat “float.”

Lifeboat “float” passengers from left to right: Cav. Josephine Maietta in red (presenter), Adalgisa DiFabio (survivor), Joanne Pesaro (sister of 2 survivors), Karyl Stein (who witnessed the rescue from the Ile de France rescue ship with her sister, Andrea Stein), Corrado Sigona (survivor), Andrea Stein, Lucy Raimengia (survivor), and Ron (Karyl’s husband). Front row: lifeboat owner Mark Koch, Mark’s colleague-diver Ted Hess, diver and bell owner John Moyer of “Moyer Expeditions.”

“The ringing of the bell truly felt like a resounding gesture in memory of the 46 souls lost in the tragic collision, as well as in honor of history’s great explorer of the seas–Christopher Columbus. But I was also ringing for my grandparents and our fellow passengers who survived the catastrophic collision and the aftermath, and went on to contribute their talents as proud Americans. Columbus paved the way for us.” Simpson continues, “Having the precious Doria lifeboat and bell included in the parade symbolized the connection between Columbus the navigator and the Andrea Doria—both of which had their origins in Genoa, Italy. In fact, the Doria embarked 101 times from Genoa.”

Andrea Doria survivor Pierette Simpson waving red/white/green during the 75th annual Columbus Day Parade.

N.B. 9-year-old Pierette Simpson (then Burzio) was emigrating to America with her grandparents when the collision occurred between the Andrea Doria and the Swedish motorship Stockholm. She is the gatekeeper of survivors and their stories in her book, Alive on the Andrea Doria: The Greatest Sea Rescue in History, and her docufilmAndrea Doria: Are the Passengers Saved?screened at the Columbus Citizens Foundation in April 2019 with its director Luca Guardabascio among the speakers. The focus of both works is to correct a historical injustice against Italians regarding the most calamitous sea collision in history.

Related: Beautiful, Elegant and Doomed: The Sinking of the Andrea Doria

Organized by the Columbus Citizens Foundation in New York City, the annual Columbus Day parade, the largest celebration of Italian-American heritage and culture in the United States, took place on Monday, October 14, 2019, beginning at 11:30 a.m. As Grand Marshal, Mr. Ferragamo led dozens of marching bands and floats and over 100 marching groups up the Fifth Avenue parade route, from 44th Street to 72nd Street.

From left to right: John Moyer, Adalgisa DiFabio, Mark Koch, Josephine Maietta, Mark’s daughters Evie and Estella Koch during the 75th annual Columbus Day Parade.

The tradition of the Columbus Day Parade began when Generoso Pope led a group of Italian Americans from East Harlem to Columbus Circle in 1929. The parade was formalized as an official celebration of Columbus and Italian heritage in 1994, and this year’s event marks its 75th Anniversary.

Past Grand Marshals of New York’s Columbus Day Parade have included: Sophia Loren; Frank Sinatra; Luciano Pavarotti; Lidia Bastianich; Joe DiMaggio; Mario Andretti; Roberto Cavalli and Maria Bartiromo.

Pierette Simpson on Andrea Doria lifeboat “float”: happy to be alive and experiencing this historic event.
Group photo at the Columbus Statue Wreath Ceremony on October 13.
Pierette Simpson with Dr. Joseph Scelsa, president of the Little Italy Museum and the Consul General of NY, Francesco Genuardi.
Pierette Simpson with Grand Marshall of the parade, Massimo Ferragamo and wife, at the Columbus Day Wreath Ceremony.
Pierette Simpson with Monsignor Hilary Franco and her friend, Vincent Lionti, of the Metropolitan Opera.

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