Census records, military records and local directories show that Joseph Ned LaRocca (Diana/Paige’s grandfather) was born in 1894 in Peoria, Illinois and grew up there.
Known as “Ned,” and “Ned Argo” he was a harpist in a family of several brothers, oldest brother Roxy show above. The brothers were all musicians and many of them toured with the major vaudeville circuits like Orpheum and Pantages.
Ned began touring in vaudeville about age 14.
The LaRocca brothers supported their widowed mother back in Peoria, after their professional musician-harpist father, Salvatore LaRocca, died at around age 40.
Salvatore LaRocca, was from Italy and settled in Chicago before raising a family in Peoria with Rose Ann, born Dunufrio. The couple had moved to Peoria from Chicago when Salvatore became leader of a local Italian band.
The oldest brother Roxy, became a “famous-at-the-time” vaudeville harpist, known affectionately as the “Wizard of the Harp.”
The ad at lower left advertises the bill Roxy is on at the Colonial Theatre. It’s the Keith Vaudeville circuit.
I read literally of dozens of articles from the era about Roxy’s talent on the harp.
Joseph Ned LaRocca, Diana Cotterell’s grandfather and younger brother of Roxy, often used the professional name Ned Argo or just plain Argo, for his harp act. The ad below from 1925, performing for broadcast radio; the 1920s were the heyday of radio and at this point vaudeville was beginning to slide as a mass-media entertainment form. Moving pictures added to the lessening popularity of vaudeville.
Ned’s wife, Virginia Young was born in 1898, was from Utah and also a vaudeville performer. Her grandfather was Brigham Young and grandmother one of his many wives: Emily Partridge Young. If you google Emily Partridge Young, you will see she holds an interesting place in Mormon history as one of the first of Joseph Smith’s “plural wives.” Virginia, seen at right, met Ned LaRocca on a Pantages tour where Virginia and her sister Josephine were performing in “The Wrong Bird,” a very successful Utah production that was touring North America. I have saved dozens of articles on Virginia Young and her sister Josephine. They toured together on vaudeville and eventually had their own act with Virginia’s husband Ned Argo LaRocca. I hope to post some of these soon. These folks had a minor kind of fame in vaudeville.
Salt Lake Tribune March 28, 1915.
The married couple form a vaudeville act and tour the US in the late teens and most, if not all, of the 1920s. Ned continues to use the name “Ned Argo” or “Argo.”
Sometimes Virginia’s sister and fellow vaudeville performer Josephine, is part of the act. The girls went by the name “The Virginia Sisters.” as seen in the ad from The Daily Oklahoman Oct. 25 1919.
(When this was published, Josephine had already been married one month to San Francisco businessman George Truman Harker)
Josephine married George Truman Harker a year after her sister married Joseph Ned LaRocca. The marriage ceremony of Josephine and George took place backstage at LA’s Pantages theatre.
1920 approx. Josephine quit touring with her sister and brother-in-law and moved to San Francisco with her husband George Truman Harker. The couple had a son in 1921, and a daughter, Mary Jane, in 1923 .
Mary Jane Harker was a first cousin to Donna LaRocca, Diana’s mother.
In the 1940s, she was known as “Jane Harker” a short-lived Warner Brothers starlet. Harker had small parts in movies with stars such as Joan Crawford and Ann Sheridan, to mention only two.
I will be working on a video about Mary Jane Harker soon. She is misidentified on the internet.
The Harker family moved, in the mid 1920s, to South Pasadena, an affluent area then as now.
Ned and Virginia continued to tour vaudeville throughout the 1920s.
After Vaudeville died out in the early 1930s, the Great Depression was already in full swing.
Roxy LaRocca retired about this time to the LaRocca family hometown of Peoria, Illinois, where he started a magazine stand.
Frank and Rose, Joseph Ned and Virginia, moved to LA during the Depression early/mid 1930s. Please see my next chapter Family History #2 for the family’s history in Los Angeles in the 1930s and 1940s.