She knew him when he was
a barber and she was there when he became a world famous crooner.
Celebrating their 65th
wedding anniversary yesterday, Roselle and Perry Como remain every bit as
close as when they grew up together in Canonsburg.
"He was and still is
the most gentle and humble man I ever met," said Roselle in a recent
phone interview from their home in Jupiter, Florida.
Perry, or Pierino as he
was known, had lots in common with the girl he knew as Roselle Belline.
Both were children of immigrant parents who settled in the small
industrial town in Washington County. Perry's family was from Italy and
Both grew up in
households where the homeland language was spoken constantly. Perry first
learned English when he began attending public school. Both came from
large families who were devoted to the Roman Catholic faith.
When Perry and Roselle
began dating, Perry was running a barbershop, an occupation he had held
since age 14. He loved music and sang to his customers in the shop. He
played guitar and piano, led his own barbershop quartet and played valve
trombone in a brass marching band. By 1931, he was performing on stages
When Perry traveled to
Meadeville to join the Freddie Carlone Orchestra, Roselle went with him.
They were married there July 31, 1933. Roselle was 19 and Perry 21. For
the next seven years, they lived in apartments as he traveled with his
"We had some tough
times," she recalled. "Money was tight but we were frugal and we
lived on what he made."
Perry was working in
Chicago with the Ted Weems Orchestra in 1940 when their son Ronnie was
born. Despite threats that he would be fired, Perry left the stage in
mid-performance to join Roselle at the hospital.
"We always put
family first," said Roselle.
The couple adopted two
more children, daughter Terry and son David. As their family grew, life on
the road became increasingly difficult.
Perry's big break came in
1942, when Weems' band broke up and he was discovered by agent Tom
Rockwell of O'Keefe and Rockwell and later GAC, one of the largest booking
agencies in the country. Rockwell placed Perry in several New York
nightclubs, including the Copacabana, and landed him a CBS afternoon radio
But Perry hated the big
city and was ready to give up. He talked of heading back to Canonsburg.
Roselle wouldn't hear of it.
staying," she told him. They bought their first home on Long Island
and for the first time enjoyed a traditional family life.
Perry was thrust into the
celebrity spotlight with a weekly television show, which aired under
various names on NBC and CBS from 1948 to 1963. Throughout a career that
also included TV specials, 22 albums and 147 singles, Perry and Roselle
strived to keep their family life from public view. The couple now has
twelve grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
They occasionally slip
into south-western Pennsylvania to visit family members. Both still have
siblings living in the region. On May 15, they plan to attend the
dedication of a statue of Perry in their hometown, as he approaches his
In 1993, Perry
successfully underwent treatment for bladder cancer and has recovered
"He's still as
handsome as ever," his wife said.
She said there is no
secret to the marriage that is one of the longest in Hollywood. "It's
simply a gift from God," she said. "When you make your wedding
vows as a commitment to each other and to God, you will keep them."
Fitch is a free-lance writer
Mrs. Como passed away suddenly of a heart attack in early August,
1998, just two weeks following the Como's 65th Wedding Anniversary and the
publication of this article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.