|composite photo by pat migliaccio|
Being a franchised gas station operator back in 1970’s Milwaukee, I decided to start up a side business making and selling ice wholesale, installing freezers at various businesses and selling the owners ice to retail to the public. Thank God, it wasn't a vending business, as I had no idea at that time, it was tightly controlled by Frank P. Balistrieri, who happened to be the leader of the Milwaukee Mob! In 1978, the FBI sent in an undercover agent by the name of Gail T. Cobb to set up a fake vending business, was being tailed and very nearly killed by a couple of Balistrieri's thugs. He was a ruthless and disgusting man and I have no sympathy for mobsters in the least. But we all have family, and if some of your family is connected, it can’t help but affect you in many negative ways, whether you participated, tried to ignore, or were just aware of.
After getting Gavin Schmitt’s new book a few weeks ago “Milwaukee Mafia (Images of America)”, I sat down to read it. I had been eagerly awaiting the release of the book for months and had pre-ordered it. The book contains about 125 pages of fascinating photos from back in the mob days that really bring out the rich history of Milwaukee. I highly recommend it.As I was reading through and looking at the photos, I came across a familiar name that caught my eye. That name was “Dr. Joseph E. Vaccaro” as I looked at a caption of a photo from the early 50’s. Looking more closely at the picture, I couldn't believe my eyes. The man looked so familiar and I realized I was looking at a photo of our old pediatrician from back in Milwaukee! I was born in 1952 and this was the doctor who made house calls to our home when my younger brother and I were sick! I thought “this guy was a doctor and what the heck is he doing in a book about the Milwaukee Mafia?”.
Dr. Vaccaro was the pediatrician for all of my brothers and sisters and my parents used him all the through the 50’s and into the 70’s! Of course after the first few years, it became impractical for a Doctor to make house calls and my parents would take the kids to his office. What follows is what I have been able to piece together from more research the last few weeks:
After getting his medical degree in 1940, Joseph started his practice as a pediatrician. In 1947, it was announced in the Milwaukee Journal that he was engaged to a Carmen Migliaccio. Carmen just happened to be the daughter of a high ranking Milwaukee mob member by the name of Pasquale Migliaccio. Migliaccio and Joseph Vallone were immigrants from the same small village of Prizzi, Sicily.
|milwaukee mafia 'images of america"|
- Together, they formed a business, Migliaccio & Vallone Wholesale Grocers on N. Broadway in Milwaukee. Migliaccio (back row, far left in the picture) was Dr. Vaccaro’s father-in-law.
- Migliaccio's business partner, Vallone, ran the Milwaukee mob from 1927 to 1949.
- Notorious mobster Nick Fucarino, who had a lengthy arrest record, was employed by Migliaccio & Vallone.
- Salvatore Ferrara (front row, far left in the picture) was the Milwaukee mafia boss from 1949 to 1952. The Chicago “Outfit” forced him to step down in ‘52 and John Alioto then replaced him as the Milwaukee "Godfather".
- Dr. Vito Guardalabene (back row, far right in the picture) was the grandson of Vito Guardalabene, who was the mob boss in Milwaukee from 1918 to 1921.
- “Chico’s Bar-B-Q" (the restaurant they are at) was owned by Frank La Galbo, well known by police and the FBI as an active mobster, once having beaten a murder rap, the reason being "lack of evidence".
- The dinner was in celebration of Rocky Graziano’s boxing victory (that is Graziano sitting front row, third from left in the picture)!
- Dr. Joseph E. Vaccaro (back row, second from left in the picture) our family's pediatrician, standing next to Pasquale Migliaccio, his father-in-law!
Seems to me that Dr. Vaccaro married a troubled woman and they were separated at least three times before going through a very nasty and public divorce in 1956. Dr. Vaccaro claimed that his wife was bad tempered, abusive and was always accusing him of affairs. In a complex situation, there were three lawsuits going on at the same time. Vaccaro counter-sued his wife, mobster father-in-law and his nurse for $100,000 claiming that they were trying to extort money from him. Eventually, Carmen was granted a divorce, getting the house, a car and alimony from Vaccaro.
During the trial a woman was accused of trying to tamper with the jury. One witness claimed that she had been seen at Como’s, a restaurant that Migliaccio owned at the time! The judge demanded that she step up to the bench for questioning and she fled the courtroom, getting away.
Also, during a break in the settlement hearing, Dr. Vaccaro walked up to Migliaccio in the hallway, extending his hand to shake. Pasquale yelled something to him and punched him in the face. Vaccaro declined to press charges. (Don’t think I would either!)
There are court records from the mid 70’s indicating that Dr. Vaccaro and Carmen were still fighting over the divorce settlement.Born in 1916, Dr. Joseph E. Vaccaro died in 2001 at the age of 85 at his home in Fountain Hills, Az. (presumably of natural causes!)
More interesting bits and facts:
- Migliaccio kept a low profile and I can find no record of any arrest, but he was certainly connected to the mob. The FBI believed he was a high ranking member.
- In 1944, Migliaccio & Vallone Wholesale Grocers were sued by the Office of Price Administration for overcharging on sugar and processed foods.
- Frank La Galbo, owner of Chico's Bar-B-Q, lived in constant fear for his life. He would never enter his restaurant from the street, always going in and out through a back door. He had a cottage in Peshitgo, Wi that was described as a fortress, with dogs patrolling the property, surrounded by an electrified fence. La Galbo died in 1976 at the age of 68 of a gunshot to the head, "as he was getting into his car in the driveway!". The DA ruled it a suicide.
- Dr.Vito Guardalabene's (seen in the picture) father and grandfather both ruled the Milwaukee mob at different times.
- Pasquale Migliaccio died in 1961 at the age of 74.
- At some point after the divorce, Carmen remarried and took the last name of Sehulster.
Credit and thanks to:
Gavin Schmitt, his new book, Milwaukee Mafia "Images of America", available at Barnes & Noble.
The Framing Business - Rise of the Milwaukee Mafia, 1892-1961
Archives of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
You can read more of my mob related posts by clicking the links below:
The Beef That Didn't Moo - Wisconsin Ties to the Mob
Tales of the Milwaukee Mob and Two Cigarette Men!
Married to the Daughter of a Milwaukee Mob Boss-Our Pediatrician!
The Milwaukee Queen Bee of Organized Crime
Tale of a Failed Milwaukee Mob Hit!
Lieutenant Uhura (of the Starship "Enterprise") - close encounters with the Chicago and Milwaukee Mob!
Part Two: The Milwaukee Mob and Lieutenant Uhura (Star Trek)