MONONGAHELA – A small town in Northern Italy has a cemetery that appears nearly identical to the Italian section of graves nestled in Monongahela Cemetery.
“It’s like you’re in the same place. All the names are the same,” said former Monongahela resident Rick Wright, whose maternal grandfather immigrated to the small city from Ono San Pietro, Italy.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Wright, who has visited the Italian cemetery and town where relatives connected to his mother, the former Penny Tosi, began their journey to the United States about a century ago.
He was among a large crowd gathered Friday in Monongahela’s Chess Park to welcome 57 residents of Ono San Pietro, including its mayor, to town in an informal sister cities visit that was 30 years in the making.
Monongahela became home to many residents whose ancestors from Ono San Pietro immigrated to the area, beginning in the 1880s, when Italian water-powered industries offered few opportunities as compared to those in Mon Valley coal mines.
The relationship between the two municipalities was forged decades ago between former Monongahela Mayor John Moreschi, and Giuseppe Domenighini, while he was visiting his wife’s uncle, “Big” Louis Troncatti, who came to Monongahela in 1921.
“I love this city,” said Domenighini, before Monongahela Mayor Bob Kepics and Ono San Pietro Mayor Elena Broggi exchanged ceremonial keys to their cities in the gazebo at Chess Park on West Main Street.
“They are overwhelmed,” Kepics said, when asked what the visitors were saying in recent days about the Pittsburgh region.
They arrived Tuesday, toured Pittsburgh and have been visiting relatives before starting a three-day schedule of events that began Friday in Chess Park. A banquet is on the agenda, as well as tours of Monongahela Cemetery and the local historical society before the visitors embark for New York Monday.
Broggi said visiting Monongahela was viewed as something important by the council in her hometown, where 40 percent of its residents once immigrated to Monongahela.
“I am proud. The result is good,” she said through a translator.
She then extended an invitation for Kepics and residents of Monongahela to travel one day to Ono San Pietro for a similar ceremony.