The Italian Heritage Collection at Hood Local History Center, Citizens Library, has collected oral histories from the descendants of Italian immigrants who settled in Washington, Pennsylvania.
Collection of oral histories told by descendants of Italian immigrants
Oral Historian Virginia (Ginny) Veltri Adamsky
Virginia (Ginny) Veltri Adamsky (pictured here in 2017) grew up in a large family in the Tylerdale section of Washington, PA. She and her siblings contributed to the success of the family businesses, including Veltri Cleaners, founded in the early 1950s.
Salvatore and Saveria Matragano Veltri and children, 1930s
Oral Historians Sally and Mary Aloia
Sally and Mary Aloia (pictured here in 2017) are the daughters of Italian immigrants from the province of Salerno near Naples. Their parents and six siblings maintained a large farm on the hillside above East Maiden Street and sold produce all over city of Washington.
Virginia Aloia, the oldest sister of Sally and Mary Aloia, cared for younger siblings while their parents worked on the family farm.
Oral Historian Frank Insana
Frank Insana (pictured here with wife Jean in 2017). Frank grew up on South Street in Washington, PA, a veritable Italian village where families were known for helping one another.
Gabriel and Concetta Catanese Insana, who emigrated from Sicily to Washington, PA, in the early 20th century.
Oral Historian Joe Mancuso
Joe Mancuso (pictured here in 2017) and his siblings supported their Italian mother after their father died suddenly in 1932. His brother Gus became a renowned boxer. Joe served at D-Day in World War II.
Joe Mancuso donated his collection of Italian American memorabilia to the Washington County Historical Society.
2017 video interview with Joe Mancuso, age 95, conducted by Tom Olszewski, Joe Kanotz and Bill Belleno (shared by permission)
Oral Historian Frank “Fuzzy” Mancuso
Frank “Fuzzy” Mancuso (pictured here in 2017) is the oldest son of Italian immigrants from Calabria. His father John Mancuso regularly worked two jobs to support the family. Frank performed in rodeos the West End of Washington PA beginning in his teens. As an "Entertainment Specialist" in the U.S. Army, he performed in Germany during World War II.
Frank Mancuso sang and played guitar on the radio as “Frankie Daniels."
Oral Historian Joe Molinaro
Joe Molinaro (pictured here in 2018 with wife Claudia) is the youngest of 12 children born to Salvatore and Vincenzia Molinaro, immigrants from Calabria, who changed the family surname to “Miller." Salvatore supported the family with a grocery store, a construction business and a moving company. He was also known for wine-making and for founding the popular Poundstown football club.
The name of the Poundstown football club, founded by Salvatore (Molinaro) Miller in the 1930s, was later changed to “Washington Generals."
Oral Historian Florence Marchione Nicolella
Florence Marchione Nicolella is the daughter of Italian immigrants from the province of Salerno, near Naples. Florence, who still lives in the house she grew up in and later shared with her husband Carl Nicolella, was one of the first Italian American women to work for the Bell Telephone Company. Her oral history reflects on the lives of Italian American women.
Nicolella family 1950s. Front row: Florence, Lucido, Angelina. Back row: Vera, Louise, Millie
Oral Historian Sam Oliverio
Sam Oliverio (pictured here in 2017 with niece Beth Oliverio Meeks) is the youngest son of Italian immigrants who operated a grocery store in the West End.
Sam’s brother John Oliverio Sr. (Beth’s father) wrote a history of Washington’s Italian American military service in World War II.
Oral Historian Silvio Passalacqua
Oral historian Silvio Passalacqua is the youngest son of Giocomina Cirelingione Passalacqua and Angelo Passalacqua of Sicily, who founded Washington’s first Italian Restaurant in 1939.
West Chestnut Spaghetti Inn, founded by Angelo Passalacqua, was renamed “Angelo’s Restaurant” after the founder’s passing in 1952.
Oral Historian W. Bryan Pizzi II, Esq.
W. Bryan Pizzi, Esq.(pictured here in 2017), is the son of Bryan Wilson Pizzi, one of the first Italian American medical doctors in Washington, Pennsylvania, and the grandson of Fiorendo Pizzi, a master tailor.
Fiorendo Pizzi in his tailor shop, Connellsville, Pennsylvania.
Oral Historians Theresa (Betty) Sonson Powers and Frank Leo Sonson Jr.
Sister and brother Theresa (Betty) Sonson Powers and Frank Leo Sonson Jr. (pictured here in 2017) grew up in a large, extended Italian immigrant family Washington, PA. The Sonson surname was so ubiquitous in Washington, PA, during the early-to-late 20th century that every class at Immaculate Conception School had a least one Sonson – and often as many of three, said Betty.
Frank Sonson Sr. was one of the first Italian Americans to run for public office in Washington, PA.
Oral Historian Louis "Sonny" Spossey
Sonny Spossey (pictured here in 2019), the grandson of Italian immigrants, was the first Italian American to serve as mayor of Washington, PA. In addition to four terms as mayor, he has served as city treasurer and as a leader of many community boards.
The son of a barber, Sonny followed him into the profession and retired in 2019 after 64 years of service.
Louis Spossey (original name "Esposito") opened a barber shop on West Chestnut street in the 1940s.
Oral Historian Aimono (Amon) Trapuzzano
Aimono (Amon) Trapuzzano (pictured here in 2017) is the son of Annibale Trapuzzano, a tailor from Calabria. Annibale and his brother Theodore opened a shop on Main Street in Washington, PA, around 1910. More than a century later, the Trapuzzano name remains synonymous with tailoring. The shop continues at its West Chestnut Street location under the ownership of Annibale’s great-grandson Joseph Trapuzzano and his business partner Bob Johns.
Oral Historians Dr. Charles Tripoli and Rita Gabrielli Tripoli
Dr. Charles Tripoli and his wife Rita Gabrielli Tripoli are descendants of Italian immigrants who settled in Westmoreland County. Charles began his career as a physician in Washington, PA, in 1959. He was one of the city’s first Italian American doctors.
Charles Tripoli’s father, James Tripoli, was a barber in Derry, Westmoreland County.
Oral Historians The West Family
(John Linda, Shirley Sorge Blue, West and Bill)
John West, Linda West Dickson, Shirley Sorge Blue, Norma West and Bill West (pictured here in 2017) are descendants of two brothers who emigrated from Calabria the late 1800s. James and Santo Alfano settled in Washington, PA, when the railroad company they worked for ran out of money here. The brothers found work opportunities in Washington and decided to stay.
l. to r. Siblings Louis West, James West and Mary West, and James' wife Anna Earliwine.