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Child of Ybor fish merchant dies at 93

The Ybor of Frances Agliano LaBruzzo's youth was a horse and buggy town of Spanish and Italian immigrants.

© St. Petersburg Times
published March 1, 2002


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YBOR CITY -- In the 1900s, Sebastian Agliano rode a horse and buggy to Ybor City restaurants, delivering fresh seafood on ice to establishments such as the Columbia Restaurant. He'd return home with an empty cart, leaving his children to groom and feed the tired horse, Charlie.

It's a memory Frances Agliano LaBruzzo held for most of her 93 years, until Alzheimer's disease seemed to steal even that.

When she died Feb. 20 -- the last of Sebastian and Rose Agliano's seven children to pass away -- Mrs. LaBruzzo left behind stories of Ybor's past.

"She was the last to go," said nephew Buster Agliano, 67, who still runs the market, S. Agliano and Sons Fish Co., started by her father in 1915.

Mrs. LaBruzzo lived and died in Tampa, rarely if ever venturing away.

Like many Ybor old timers, she spoke three languages: Italian, Spanish and English. They were necessary skills in a community of Spanish and Italian immigrants.

And she worked hard.

"She was a lovely lady, a hard worker from sun up to sun down," said her only child, Phyllis LaBruzzo, 71.

"She never finished fifth grade. She had to work to help support her family."

Six of the seven Agliano siblings grew up to work in Tampa's seafood business. The other one was a boxer known as Joe Peach.

A young Mrs. LaBruzzo was working at a cigar factory when her father lent her and husband, Tony LaBruzzo, money to open a business. For more than 40 years, the couple owned Tony LaBruzzo Fish Market north of Ybor at 21st Street and Columbus Drive. They lived in an apartment above the shop.

"She never turned down a customer," said Buster Agliano, who recalls his aunt taking time from cooking Sunday dinner to sell fish or chicken downstairs.

Her brothers, Joe, Frank and Angelo Agliano, had markets of their own, as did her three sisters and their husbands.

She sold her shop after her husband's death in the early 1970s.

Granddaughter Jackie Tenhagen, 40, recalls her Nana getting up at 4 a.m. to cook dinner before beginning a day's work.

"She just loved to live. She was full of life," Tenhagen said. "She brought joy to so many people."

Among her extended family, LaBruzzo was especially known for dinners of crab legs cooked whole in sauce.

"She'd put newspaper on the table and you'd just go for it," Tenhagen said.

Tenhagen is one of four grandchildren. LaBruzzo also leaves 10 great-grandchildren.

- City Times chronicles the lives of the famous and not-so-famous. To suggest an obituary, e-mail or call 226-3382.

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