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The Bartolotta Family’s history

The story of Klein’s Kill Fruit Farms Corporation begins with the union between Antonio Bartolotta and Jesse Cooper. Hailing from contrastive upbringings, this couple shared the dreams of fresh mountain air, soil and sun. In the spring of 1921, the Bartolotta newlyweds merged this dream into reality upon purchasing their first farm. Nearly one century and three generations later, Klein’s Kill Fruit Farms still maintains the family business on a much larger scale shipping to customers in over 30 US states.

Jesse Cooper was born to Russell and Jessie Cooper in the Robert Fulton Janet Livingston House in 1895, in Teviotdale, New York.  At the time, Cooper was the latest generation of an old colonial American family who had been prominent farmers since the time of her grandfather, Christian Cooper who died during the year of her birth, aged 110.

Unbeknownst to Jesse, the love of her life, Antonio Bartolotta had left Italy and was passing through Ellis Island in 1904. Nearly 100 miles south of the canopied mountains of the Hudson Valley, Antonio found work in New York City on various railways and it was through this temporary yet necessary profession that he found his way upstate to the small town of Linlithgo.

Hours away from the congested islands and grey skies of an industrialized New York, Antonio found a less cluttered life on a farm owned by George Van Dyke in Columbia County, New York. Van Dyke, a neighbor of the Cooper's introduced Antonio to Jesse in 1913. Instant infatuation lead to their marriage the following year. Within one year of the wedding, Jesse gave birth to Benjamin Bartolotta who would be the first of 13 children, all of whom would be major contributors to the pristine acreage and overall success of Klein's Kill Fruit Farms.

In the seventh year of their marriage, Antonio and Jesse bought their first farm, changing its name from "Home Farm" to "Klein's Kill Fruit Corp." The farm was named for a nearby stream referred to as Klein's Kill. Like many regions in Upstate New York, Dutch colonists had given their surnames to the creeks and rivers which are referred to as "kills" in archaic Dutch.

Over the next 25 years, Antonio and Jesse grew the farm from 225 acres to over 600 acres until Antonio's death in 1956. Upon Antonio's passing, the farm was left to Jesse and her six sons. From this time onward Klein’s Kill became renowned for the beauty of its orchards and the quality of its fruit. While Antonio's death had been untimely, his beloved wife Jesse watched their early dream grow and continue to flourish until her death at age 98 in 1993. Jesse's death was followed by the passing of her two sons Anthony and Benjamin; however, another brother, Phil Bartolotta managed the farm until his retirement in 2007. Today, the remaining brothers, Russell, 85, Alfred, 81 and Robert, 76 along with Russell Jr., 50, run the daily operations of Klein’s Kill Fruit Farm Corporation, a business that continues to thrive, selling fruit from New York to California and many places in between.

Reverberations of the Bartolotta family's success are present today in awards and acknowledgments from several organizations, most recently from the Columbia County Sons & Daughters of Italy. Nearly 108 years after Antonio Bartolotta arrived at Ellis Island, the family was honored by this organization on January 9, 2011 at the Sons & Daughters of Italy Lodge, Greenport, NY. According to Philip Abelabile, Treasurer and Past President of the organization, the award which was first awarded in 1996 is meant to honor our own who have done so much for the area and country.  The Award read in part that the family are "role-models to all Italian Americans."