Donna Cunio

Location of Interview
Collection Name

The Working Waterfront Festival Community Documentation Project


The Working Waterfront Festival Community  Documentation Project is an ongoing oral history project documenting the history and culture of the commercial fishing industry and other port trades. The project was begun in 2004 in conjunction with the Working Waterfront Festival, an annual, education celebration of commercial fishing culture which takes place in New Bedford, MA. Interviewees have included a wide range of individuals connected to the commercial fishing industry and/or other aspects of the port through work or familial ties. While the majority of interviewees are from the port of New Bedford, the project has also documented numerous individuals  from other ports around the country. Folklorist and    Festival Director Laura Orleans and Community Scholar/Associate Director Kirsten Bendiksen are Project Leaders. The original recordings reside at the National Council for the Traditional Arts in Maryland with listening copies housed at the Festival's New Bedford office.

Date of Interview
Biographical Sketch

Donna Cunio is a 51-year-old woman from Norwell, Massachusetts. She is the wife of a retired merchant marine captain who now serves as the manager of the New Bedford State Pier. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Donna has a deep appreciation for the maritime industry, particularly the hard work of longshoremen and fishermen. Despite not being raised near the water, Donna has a strong connection to the sea through her husband's career. She occasionally joined him on his trips, experiencing first-hand the hard work and dedication of the crew. During her husband's time at sea, Donna maintained a career of her own and managed the home front, often having to make difficult decisions about what information to relay to her husband due to limited communication Donna's family background includes an uncle who owned a fleet of fishing boats out of Boston, which instilled in her a deep respect for the industry. She is known for her strong character, adaptability, and her ability to keep a detailed account of daily events to share with her husband during their brief phone calls.

Scope and Content Note
In this interview, Donna Cunio, the wife of a retired merchant marine captain, discusses various aspects of her husband's career and the challenges she faced as a merchant marine wife. She talks about communication difficulties, loneliness, and the struggles of having a difficult pregnancy while her husband was away. She also mentions the support she received from other merchant marine wives and the role of faith in their lives. Additionally, she discusses the dangers of being at sea during storms and concerns about her husband carrying volatile cargo. Finally, she expresses her appreciation for the merchant marine and the importance of the fishing industry.

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