view of Salandra, Matera, Basilicata, Italy by Antonio DiPersia

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Leonardo "John" Ambruso

Leonadro "John" Ambruso
Leonardo Ambruso was born in Salandra in September 1876.  He was the youngest surviving child of Francesco and Giovanna.  He came to America with his mother, his brother Michele, and sister Felicia around 1885.  He was about 9 years old when he made the journey.  His birth name was Leonardo, but for some unknown reason, in America he was called “John” by almost everyone.  In census records and city directories he is listed by either name. 
In May 1899, in Philadelphia, he married Maria Isabella Gentile a woman from Accettura, Basilicata, a small mountaintop village only a few miles west of Salandra.  Leonardo and Isabella never had any children of their own, but they “took in” two orphaned Gallo girls, Elizabeth and Marie, and raised them as if they were their own.  They all lived at first on South Mildred Street, and then moved half a block up the street to the corner at 814 Bainbridge.  His brother Michael and his family lived on the opposite corner. 
Leonardo started working as a common unskilled laborer, then a rag collector.  Starting about 1913, the City Directory lists his occupation as cigar seller.  In 1925 he is listed as an interpreter.  By 1930 he was a ward leader and fully involved in the Republican Party of Philadelphia.  By all indications (including the photo above) Leonardo “John” was a very successful person.  He died in 1948.  Watch for more on Leonardo in the next few posted articles.

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