Elena Aspromonte

Obituary of Elena Fiorenta Aspromonte

Elena Fiorenta Aspromonte passed away with family by her side on January 30th at the age of 86. Elena was born to Giovanni Battista Zuech and Fiorella Menghini in Brez, in the Trentino Province of northeastern Italy. Brez is in the Non Valley, a picturesque mountainous area renowned for its apples. Elena grew up speaking the unique dialect of Nones used by fewer and fewer in Italy. As a child she experienced the devastation and brutality of WWII. 

            Many in Brez, including her father, immigrated to the US and Mexico to work in the mines. In 1950, at the age of 17, she immigrated with her family to the small mining town of Silverton, Colorado, and then to Durango. Elena and her mother worked as housekeepers in a small motel. She mastered enough English to get a high school diploma. In 1954 she married Joe Aspromonte and had her first two sons, Dan(ny) and Bill, while waitressing at the Silver Spur. She served many a Hollywood celebrity, who made the motel and restaurant their home while filming Westerns in the Durango area. John Wayne was a regular. 

            In 1960 Joe and Elena packed up their bags and headed to California to seek a better life. They chose Santa Cruz to be close to Elena’s relatives, the Prevedellis, who have farmed apples for several decades in Watsonville. They were juggling three jobs. Joe worked at a wire factory on the Westside, Elena waited tables at Spiveys, and they were resident motel managers. With these three incomes they were able to buy the small Sea Beach Motel across from the Boardwalk. They added rooms to the property and sold it. They then built, operated and sold the Capri, followed by the Fireside Inn, both by the Boardwalk. After son Mark was born in 1967, they built and operated the Islander on Ocean Street. It was not easy raising a family while living in a small motel apartment, waking up at all hours to attend to customers. In 1969 the couple built a house in the Rolling Woods neighborhood, featuring a redwood grove and a giant oak tree. Shortly afterwards Joe passed away from a terminal illness; he was only 40. In 1976, as a young widow with 3 boys, Elena built a second hotel on Ocean Street, the Continental Inn. She was determined to continue the dream she and Joe had started when they arrived in Santa Cruz. She had to navigate a business world dominated by men and proved herself time and time again.

            Elena then found the second love of her life, Dennis Wall, who was the manager at the Continental Inn. Both had lost their spouses and had a passion for the hotel industry.  They were two peas in a pod, the perfect match. With the support of Dennis, she continued to build and operate hotels – 18 in all across Northern and Central California – plus a variety of other properties. Elena loved to attend hotel trade and design shows and embraced innovation and bold décor. She believed in using local contractors and artisans whenever possible. The family currently operates two award-winning hotels in Capitola, the Marriott Fairfield and the Best Western, along with Best Westerns in Watsonville and Angels Camp. 

            Elena and Dennis had one other passion in their lives – family.  Elena would often invite family members over for dinner at the last minute and Dennis would happily put together a feast. She is survived by sons Dan, Bill with wife Rebecca, Mark with wife Papaya, plus grandchildren Daniel, Amira, Liliana, Ilaria, Josephine, Matteo and Alexander. She is also survived by younger brother Rino Zueck and sister-in-law Gemma Angeli Zueck and preceded in death by older brother Mario. 

            A celebration of life will be held at Benito & Azzaro Pacific Gardens Chapel at 1050 Cayuga Street, Santa Cruz on Sunday at 1:00pm, followed by a reception at the Marriott Fairfield Inn & Suites at 1255 41st Avenue, Capitola.  There will be viewing at Benito & Azzaro Saturday from 4:00-6:00 pm. Interment will be private at Holy Cross Cemetery.  Parish bells were rung in her honor at San Floriano Church in Brez, Italy where her family has been baptized, married and buried over the centuries. 

            The family extends its utmost gratitude to the staff of Florence Kuo Home Care for their kindness and gentle loving presence.  In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to the Alzheimer’s Association 550 Water St., Santa Cruz, CA 95060 or by visiting, http://act.alz.org/goto/aspromonte.