She died shortly after the dance. Susette Stalé Cardon was 86 years old, after all. She had been chatting about dress styles and dances with granddaughters and nieces near Tucson, Arizona. Her lively steps exemplified her and her family’s faith and fortitude.
She left her homeland at age 19. She learned the dance of the grapes as a young girl, perhaps at one of the dances on the hill above her hometown of Angrogna, Italy.
In the 17th century, Milton penned a sonnet in solemn memory of Susette’s people, the Waldensians. Centuries later, King Carlo Alberto, issued a constitution prior to Italy’s unification, signaling an end to a millennium of persecution for this community of Christians in Cottian Alps of Piemonte, Italy.
Two years later, apostle and missionary Lorenzo Snow experienced a vision of a flood of light when reading their history. In four years, less than 200 of them would accept the message of the Restoration. For years, dreams and visions prepared hearts. They may had been few, but they were mighty. A third of the 200 traveled to Zion, many walking beside the first handcarts.
Many of Susette’s family settled in Arizona. Today, the Pine Arizona Library is named after Susette’s granddaughter, Isabelle Cardon Hunt.
Noël Frame (Valley View, Citrus Heights Stake) Susette’s great-great-granddaughter, believes every experience we encounter has purpose. This year, she says, “My roots have given me wings.”
She had visited Italy several times but never visited the Waldensians’ homeland in the Alps. This past year, just before a scheduled trip to France, she met a friend who knew the Waldensian story. Noël says, “She asked if I had looked at a map. My visit to France could also take me right through the Mont Blanc tunnel into Northern Italy.”
She decided it was to time to fit it into the itinerary.
With the help of a local guide, Noël walked alpine trails of Angrogna amid chestnut trees, ringing cowbells and the sound of rushing rivers in the gorge below. She visited stone cabins, temples, schools and even dance halls. She felt it. When Noël visited a cave where the Waldensians worshipped and hid their families from oppressors, she explains distinctly, “It was a sacred, holy place.”
Her visit sparked a desire to learn more about her ancestors. This year, she’s going back for a few months—this time, sharing it with her youngest children, 16-year-old twins.
When asked about her plans she says with a smile and a twinkle in her eye, “Gelato and dark chocolate consumption will certainly be a large part of our immersion. Hey, someone has to take one for the team! We are learning Italian, planning to immerse in the vibrancy and culture.”
Maybe, like Susette, they might even learn to dance.