The DiIorio family originated from Ricca, Italy, approximately 100 miles east of Rome. DiIorio in Italian means “of the river” and the family lived beside the river as well. In 1900, the family decided to move to the United States. Nick DiIorio was 9 years old when he first set foot in the United States and the family settled in Bolivar, Pennsylvania.
In the year 1911, Nick DiIorio moved to Waller County and settled in Hempstead, Texas. They purchased land at $.50 an acre and made their home and engaged in farming and ranching. The family sold fruits and vegetables to the local stores and had a small market in town selling their home grown produce.
In 1914, he met and married his wife Clara Mezzano. They had 8 children, 5 boys and 3 girls. Their youngest child and son was named Joseph “Billy” DiIorio, who was born February 12, 1933. He learned the life of the farming and ranching early on from his parents, he helped with growing fruits and vegetables and taking care of the ranch.
At the age of 21, Billy married the love of his life, Angelina Virginia Riemer on April 21, 1954. Billy DiIorio was a farmer raising watermelons, vegetables, peanuts, corn, wheat and cattle.
In the year 1956, Nick DiIorio and his son Billy DiIorio opened DiIorio Farms & Roadside Market only during the summer, which was their main growing season. Billy and Angelina had 4 children together, two girls named Suzanne DiIorio and Cheryl DiIorio and two boys named Michael DiIorio and David DiIorio. They all worked together on the farm as well as in the market. The word soon got out about DiIorio’s delicious home grown produce and people began coming to taste it themselves. Billy DiIorio’s two sisters, Mary DiIorio King and Annie DiIorio Lecamu also helped and worked at the DiIorio’s Market.
They decided in 1968 to open DiIorio’s Market all year round. Each season had a special meaning. Hempstead has been known for their sweet and juicy watermelons. At one time it was considered the watermelon capital of the world.
In 1982, DiIorio’s built the market which is now our present location. In 1983, Angelina DiIorio’s dream and passion for flowers came true when they added DiIorio’s All Occasion Flower Shop. Angelina’s favorite occasion is weddings; she enjoys seeing the bride’s beautiful smiles when they see their flowers. She enjoys making their wedding day even more special.
As time passed the market grew through the years, making it known throughout Texas as the place with sweet watermelons, corn, tomatoes and fresh peas. As the market grew the family still worked together, Billy and his two sons Michael and David DiIorio carried on working the farm and harvesting the fruits and vegetables. Also Billy worked DiIorio’s market too with his wife Angelina and daughter Cheryl DiIorio Cooke along with her husband Lloyd Cooke. Their family success happened through lots of hard work and their ability to work together. They had their hard times but they knew they needed to work through them to be successful.
In 1998, Billy and Angelina DiIorio were honored at the Hempstead Annual Watermelon Festival for all of their years of work and dedication to the festival as Grand Marshall. Billy DiIorio that year raised the Grand Champion watermelon weighing 128 lbs. selling for $5,000 and this record has never been broken.
The following winter in 1999, Billy DiIorio passed away and went to be with God in his new home. He was a wonderful man that taught his family many things, to always work together and to work hard to be successful. Angelina DiIorio, her children, and grandchildren still work together at DiIorio Farms & Roadside Market. Watermelons are still today the largest crop produced on the farm, ranging over 600 acres. Angelina DiIorio still works in DiIorio’s Flower Shop as well because flowers make people happy and she enjoys giving happiness to others. When asked when she will retire she just smiles and responds, “I won’t retire…I’m just tired”.