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Victor Belmonte letters to Emma Simila

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: RHC-107

Content Description

Collection contains 59 letters, cards, and envelopes addressed to Emma Simila, her mother Maria, and her sister Elma from a variety of correspondents, dated from July 1939 to February 1975. Correspondents include Victor Belmonte (see biography above) who is responsible for bulk of the items, 1941-1943.

Other identified writers are:

Ernest Eino Mytty (1912-1954) was born in Michigan to parents of Finnish heritage; he was a machine operator in a Muskegon factory and enlisted in the U.S. Army in March 1942.

Wilton J. Maynard (1922-2003) was born in Michigan and lived in Muskegon. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in November 1940 and was discharged in September 1945. After the war he moved to Grand Rapids and worked as an electrician for the Doehler-Jarris Co.

Bernard M. Kochmanski (1915-2001) was born in Michigan to Polish immigrant parents and lived in Muskegon Heights. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in March 1941 and was discharged in October 1945.

Edward F. Wierzchowski (1916-1971) was born in Detroit, Michigan; his father was a German immigrant. It is not known what connection he had with Emma Simila.

Olive Kay Robinson Simila Lappo (1928-2005) was born in Muskegon in January 1928; in December 1928 her mother, Marguerite Pearl Robinson (1911-1996) married Alfred Simila, Jr., Emma Simila's eldest brother. In 1951 Olive Kay married John S. Lappo in Muskegon; Lt. Col. Lappo became famous for piloting his B-47 bomber under the Mackinac Bridge in 1959.

Edna Robinson Settle (1908-1987) was the sister of Marguerite Pearl Robinson (see above). Their father was James Henry Robinson (1860-1931) who was born in Allendale, Michigan and later resided in Muskegon.

Doris H. Treacy Simila (1918-2002) was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and by 1930 was living in Muskegon with her aunt and uncle, Sims and Hattie Jaynes. In 1948 she married Willard J. Simila, Emma Simila's elder brother.

Viola Johnson was a resident of Muskegon and coworker of Emma Simila at Kaydon Engineering.

Sophie Mastee Yake (1923-2010) was a resident of Muskegon and coworker of Emma Simila at Kaydon Engineering.

The most important contents of the correspondence reside in the letters from Victor Belmonte. These primarily give background and details of life just prior to the U.S. entry into World War II, and his subsequent experiences in the U.S. Army Air Corps as he made his way through various training centers in Texas, California, and New Mexico. These included (in order): Sheppard Field, Texas; San Bernardino Air Depot, California; Boeing School of Aeronautics, Oakland, California; Camp Tanforan, San Bruno, California; and Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

Included is the first issue of S'BAD News, a weekly mimeographed newsletter issued by the Public Relations Department, San Bernardino Air Depot, postmarked 16 April 1942. A photo booth photograph of Victor Belmonte (left) and a friend is taped to the newsletter.

A newspaper clipping with a photograph of prizefighter Max Baer as an army private at Camp Tanforan is included that is autographed by Baer.

The remainder of the collection include get-well cards to Emma Simila from friends in the fall of 1971, Christmas cards to Maria Simila from friends and relatives, and a sympathy card and letter to Emma on the death of her mother Maria in 1975.


  • 1941 - 1975
  • Majority of material found within 1941 - 1943


Access to Materials

Collection is open for research use. Materials may be accessed by request at Special Collections and University Archives in Seidman House. Materials do not circulate.

Conditions Governing Use

In copyright.

Biographical Notes

Emma Susanna Simila was born on 11 February 1918 in Haukipudas, Finland. Her parents were Alfred Johannes Simila (Similaa) (1886-1966) and Maria Alexandra Sundvik (1887-1975); they both immigrated to the United States from Finland in 1905 and 1904 respectively, but returned to their native country a number of times. Emma Simila had two brothers and four sisters: Alfred Jr. (Oni Alfred John) (1908-1959) and Willard J. (Vilho Johannes) (1910-1975), both were born in Jersey City, N.J.; Eva Maria (1914-2000), Elsie Elleena (1922-2011), Elma (b. 1925), and Elaine Irene (1932-1934).

By 1922 the family was living in Calumet, Michigan and in 1930 they were living at 37 Delano Street, Muskegon, Michigan where Alfred Simila was employed as a laborer at a furniture factory. By 1940 they had moved to 708 Wilson Avenue, but by September 1941 they were residing at 882 Wilson Avenue where they remained.

Emma Simila graduated from high school and in 1938 was a treater at Anaconda Wire and Cable Co. located on Western Avenue in Muskegon. Sometime in the early 1940s she was employed by Kaydon Engineering Co. that had been founded in Muskegon in 1941 to supply the military with bearings for gun mounts, advancing through the company as machinist, inspector, instructor, and forewoman until her retirement. Unmarried, she continued to live with her parents until their deaths. She died on 7 November 1999.

Victor A. Belmonte, friend of and significant correspondent with Emma Simila; from the contents it appears that he was certainly was a former boyfriend and erstwhile fiancé, and may have met in school or during their similar factory occupations.

Victor was born in Castrolibros, Italy on 28 or 29 November 1919. His parents were Samuel Belmonte (1886-1957) and Ortenza Filipelli Belmonte (1891-1991). They immigrated to Michigan in 1920. Victor had two brothers and two sisters: Samuel Jr. (1909-1990), Carmella Gilda (1916-2002), Rose Ida (1921-2000), and William B. (1922-1978).

In 1940 the family lived at 663 Marquette Avenue, Muskegon, Michigan. Samuel Belmonte was employed as a railroad foreman. Having completed three years of high school, Victor was an assembly line worker for an electrical refrigerator manufacturer; by June 1941 he had left Muskegon and was living in Detroit where he was working in a machine shop.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps at Fort Custer, Michigan on 19 February 1942 and underwent training at various posts in Texas, California, and New Mexico. He was promoted from Private First Class to Sergeant by September 1942. In 1943 he was undertaking glider training. His subsequent military experience is not known, nor the date of his discharge from the service.

In September 1968 he opened the Belmonte Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge at 1245 Monroe Avenue NW, Grand Rapids, Michigan. At the time of his death on 22 or 23 September 2010 he was residing in Grand Ledge, Michigan, possibly living with a daughter.


0.42 Linear feet (1 box)

Language of Materials


Guide to the Victor Belmonte letters to Emma Simila
Robert Beasecker
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Grand Valley State University Special Collections and University Archives Repository

Seidman House
1 Campus Drive
Allendale MI 49401 United States