February 21, 2000
Bothell High School principal Al Haynes presents an honorary diploma to Emma Vitulli at the celebration of her ninetieth birthday.
by Deborah Stone, features writer
Emma Vitulli came to Woodinville from Oregon with her family in 1925. She was sixteen years old at that time and remembers the handful of gravel roads that led in and out of the area and the novelty of the automobile.
Recently, Emma celebrated her ninetieth birthday with her family of two sons, eight grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. The occasion, a momentous one of its own, was made even more special by the honorary high school diploma that Emma received from Bothell High School's principal, Al Haynes.
"My mother never graduated from high school," explains Dick Vitulli, one of Emma's sons. "She quit when she was a junior because there wasn't much support for her to continue. Her father didn't think women needed an education at that time. However, she remained an avid reader throughout her life, and always talked about how she had wished she had finished high school."
Emma's family spoke with Principal Haynes about the situation and arrangements were made for him to present her with an honorary diploma at her birthday party in January.
"It was such a surprise to me," says Emma. "I never expected to receive a diploma at ninety years old! I'm just so happy. I always liked school and had wanted to continue my education, but other things got in the way and I just didn't get the encouragement to finish up. It was also a hard change for me when I came here from Oregon. I went from a one-room schoolhouse to a much bigger school and I didn't know anyone."
Emma married Tony Vitulli, and they lived on the Zanassi & Company Farm from 1930-1969. She spent her years helping on the farm, tending her gardens, and raising her two sons, Dick and Frank. After Tony retired, the couple built a house on 171st Street in Woodinville, and enjoyed their time engaged in various hobbies and traveling to various interesting destinations.
"One of my favorite trips was to Italy, where both our families were from," says Emma. "We went to Bari and Calabria in southern Italy, and it was quite a thrill for us. Another time, we went to Hawaii, and then to Nashville, because I like southern music and wanted to see where it came from."
For Emma, every year has been a good one, except when her husband died in 1985. Her fondest memories, as she looks back over her life, are of raising her children and getting to experience being a grandmother and great-grandmother.
"Family is important to my mother," explains Dick Vitulli. "She likes to see her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and it has been a pleasure for her to see the family grow over the years. She's also a very caring woman who has been there for others, helping and giving of herself."