Rose Garden PhotographsLeonita, “Nita” (Gilardi) Savoini, daughter of Eliseo and Margherita (Mariani) Gilardi, was born in Bre, Lugano, Switzerland, on October 30, 1905. Both parents were of Italian descent.

Nita’s father prospected in the Arizona Territory as a young man and then returned to Switzerland, where he met Nita’s mother.  After Eliseo and Margherita married, Eliseo left his wife and baby Leonita to return to Arizona. He worked at the Senator Mine and saved money for the passage of Margherita and two-year-old Nita. They came by ship to New York, then to Phoenix and on to Prescott, Yavapai County, Arizona Territory, by train, where Eliseo met them at the Santa Fe depot in 1907.

When the Senator Mine closed, Eliseo moved his family, which by then included daughter Florida, into a boarding house at Granite and Gurley streets in Prescott.  There their third daughter, Elvezia, was born.

Eliseo went to work as a bricklayer on the new Arizona Pioneers’ Home, and then took his wife and daughters to Trinidad, Colorado, where he worked in the coal mines. About 1916, the Gilardis moved back to Prescott, and Eliseo worked briefly for the Santa Fe Railroad as a bricklayer in the roundhouse.

In 1922, the Gilardis moved to the Verde Valley, where they went into business with Nita's uncle in the Clarkdale Dairy. At this time, Nita’s mother concluded that her husband did not have a business head, and she took over the family and business finances. Everyone pitched in and helped in the dairy, including Nita and her sisters.

In the Verde Valley, six partners, including Constantino “Connie” Savoini and Battista Fornara, ran the Jerome Dairy. The dairy people crossed paths frequently, and Constantino and Battista discovered Nita and her sister Florida. Romance flourished, and the two couples had a double-ring wedding on October 25, 1924.

Nita's father died in 1929; Margherita and her sons-in-law bought the Verde District Dairy in 1932, and a communal living arrangement began. This was shared by Margherita, her three daughters, their husbands and their children.

In 1938, Connie and Nita moved to Prescott and lived in a home on Dameron Street to manage a dairy there. The rest of the family moved back to Prescott and operated the Sanders Dairy on Ruth Street, which was on leased land. Unable to purchase that land, they bought forty-seven acres on Hassayampa Trail, today it is White Spar Road, and began construction of a house and barn. When it was completed on July 4, 1941, Nita and Connie moved in with her sisters and her mother.

It was at this location on Hassayampa Trail that the Savoinis and Fornaras operated the Hassayampa Dairy, and later a market, and raised their families. Nita and Connie had three sons: Joseph Lawrence, James Guido and Arthur Caesar.

Nita was primarily a housewife who did huge piles of laundry, as well as cleaning and cooking for her communal family. She worked double duty by going to the market and stocking shelves at night. But she was also civic minded and found time to devote to the Monday Club, the Elks Ladies, the Republican Women's Club and the Sacred Heart Church.

Nita died on October 29, 1988, in Prescott. She was buried in Mountain View Cemetery. Her husband died March 13, 1994 and is also buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Prescott, Arizona.

Nita's mother, Margherita Gilardi, and her sisters, Florida Fornara and Elvezia Fornara, are also commemorated in the Territorial Women's Memorial Rose Garden.

Donor: Anna Mary Fornara Olsen, niece, June 2006
Photo Located: RGC MS-39, Box S, F-Savoini, Leonita
Updated: 08/21/2015, Nita Freer