The Poggioreale in America
"Our mission is to build bridges between the Sicilian village of Poggioreale and the thousands of descendants living in the United States. By sharing stories, cultures and connections between Poggioreale and those who now live elsewhere, we can create and celebrate the contributions and accomplishments of both the current Poggiorealesi community and the Americans who continue to live with Poggioreale in their hearts."
Pictured are Ross Todaro, our PIA President, with Sindaco Mimmo Cangelosi, Mayor of Poggioreale, Sicily, and Cav. Pietro Maniscalco of Sydney, Australia who left Poggioreale as a boy and is now a noted good will ambassador for Poggioreale. This historic meeting of Poggiorealesi from there continents took place at the first Poggioreale in America Reunion in Bryan, TX on June 22, 2019. All three men spoke to a group of over 300 enthusiastic attendees.
The Officers of Poggioreale in America
A lifelong businessman in the Bryan and Houston general areas, Ross has always devoted time to the practice and preservation of the traditions that his maternal and paternal Poggiorealesi grandparents brought with them when they bravely came to America for a better life. From the time he was a little boy, his love of family and their vibrant and emotional stories about their Sicilian roots and experiences when the came to America to begin life anew, it instilled in him a passion for knowledge of his ancestral home.
Although Ross participated and loved the Sicilian traditions, foods, and values all of his life, it wasn’t until visiting Poggioreale just a few years ago that his passion was set ablaze. He began researching family roots in earnest, looked for “new” family members, and quickly realized that he wanted to meet and connect with people well beyond the boundaries of his immediate family in Texas.
In 2018, he met and joined hands with a “new” cousin Tina Tondola Anderson from Chicago, and they began to turn mutual goals into reality using social media, expanding research, and attracting a large following spanning continents. His brainchild for the FB page has attracted nearly 1000; this website is ever growing and developing. And this is just the beginning, he is quick to tell you!
A former educator and business co-owner, Tina now devotes her time to family studies and to the Poggioreale in America Association she co-founded. She says it expresses her passion for her Italian and Sicilian family and cultural studies.
Although her maternal Poggiorealesi grandparents were gone before she was born, she became acquainted with them in the stories, writings, and traditions that her mother lovingly taught her starting when she was a small child. As a result, the love of family was indelibly imprinted and it set the stage for her future endeavors.
Her activities over the last several years have led her to find family in Texas, other states, and in other countries. After meeting her “new” cousin Ross Todaro in Houston, they became fast friends who quickly defined their similar dreams to create modern repositories for Poggioreale research using social media and websites.
Whether the research she collects is from others who studied and recorded it long before her, or others who have newly created it, the goal is simply to make this knowledge available to both current and future generations. After all, she is happy to point out, it is through learning about our mutual Poggiorealesi history and relatives that we can see how it has impacted our own individual development.
Sarah Campise Hallier is a California native with a love of family that stems from her Sicilian roots. She has a passion for genealogy, writing, and learning as much as she can about her ancestral towns of Poggioreale and Bivona, Sicily. Getting to know her cousins, extended family, and new network of friends through
Poggioreale in America has been a dream come true. We are lucky to have her lend her talents to our association's endeavors.
Sarah, her mother and son travelled to Bryan, Texas for the June 2019 reunion, and it was an exciting moment to visit St. Anthony's Church, meet the Mayor of Poggioreale, and learn more about her family's journey to America from Sicily in the 1880s. Little did she know that this would lead to her creative leadership in the PIA organization!
As part of the crew in PIA’s first Sicilian tour in September 2019, Sarah experienced first hand the importance of fostering the connections to our ancestral town and keeping the communication open and flowing. Her goal is to help keep the memories of the old town alive, while learning as much as she can about why the new town, and the wonderful people who live there, are so special. When she’s not working on expanding her family tree or visiting with her very large family, she enjoys traveling with her husband and four children. Next stop – Sicily!!!