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Italian Americans Pg. 2

October is Italian American Heritage Month. This page is a continuation of the Italian Americans page. It summaries 7 more of 32 famous Italian Americans, one for each day of October, and one for good luck. When available we link to websites that follow the subject.

Joe Montana

Joe Montana was born on June 11, 1956, to Joseph Clifford Montana, Sr. and Theresa Marie Bavuso Montana in New Eagle, Pennsylvania, located in the western portion of the state. He grew up in the city of Monongahela, a coal mining town 25 miles south of Pittsburgh. His maternal grandparents, were both Italian immigrants.

 He was nicknamed Joe Cool, Golden Joe, and Comeback Joe, played quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs. He started his NFL career in 1979 with 49er’s, where he played 14 seasons, he spent his final 2 years with the Chiefs. Montana started in 4 Super Bowls and won all of them. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000 and the National Italian Sports Hall Of Fame in 1996-97

Website with full bio.

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Geno Auriemma

Luigi “Geno” Auriemma (born March 23, 1954) is an Italian-born American. Auriemma emigrated with his family from Montella in Southern Italy to Norristown, Pennsylvania when he was seven years old, and he spent the rest of his childhood there. He did not speak English when his family emigrated and he was tutored in 2nd grade at St. Francis of Assisi by a classmate named John.

He is a college basketball coach and the head coach of the University of Connecticut Huskies women’s basketball team. He has led UConn to eleven NCAA Division I national championships, the most in women’s college basketball history, and has won eight national Naismith College Coach of the Year awards.

He’s the guy everyone loves … that is, until he gives it to you straight, and then you hate him for it. But underneath the anger you know what he’s saying is true. Learn More

Geno Auriemma + Diana Taurasi = Love, Italian Style Read More

Basketball Hall of Fame
Woman’s Basketball Hall of Fame

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Jennifer Rizzotti

Jennifer Marie Rizzotti (born May 15, 1974) is a retired American collegiate and professional basketball player, and current Division I coach at George Washington University.

Rizzotti was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.

As a student-athlete at the University of Connecticut, Rizzotti first vaulted into the national spotlight as the starting point guard for the Huskies’ first national championship team in 1995 with an undefeated 35-0 record. During the run to the national title, Rizzotti was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

A former All-American and the NCAA Regional Most Outstanding Player after her junior and senior seasons, in 1996 Rizzotti virtually swept the postseason awards as Big East Player of the Year, Big East Scholar-Athlete of the Year, the Associated Press Player of the Year, the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year and the Wade Trophy winner.

Rizzotti graduated as UConn’s career leader in assists (637) and steals (349) and still ranks second all-time in those categories.

Rizzotti was inducted in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in June 2013. In her emotional acceptance speech she summarized, “I’m in the Hall of Fame because I played at the right school, (Uconn) at the right time with the right teammates, and I was taught to be a champion by the best coach who’s ever coached the game.” Gino Auriemma!

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Mary Lou Retton (Rotundia)

was born January 24, 1968 in Fairmont, West Virginia, of Italian heritage (her family’s original surname was “Rotunda”).Her father, Ronnie, operated a transportation equipment business. She attended Fairmont Senior High School, but did not graduate. She competed in the Olympic games during her sophomore year. Retton lived in Houston, Texas until 2009, when her family returned to West Virginia. She is married to former Houston real estate developer Shannon Kelley, Together they have four daughters: Shayla Rae , McKenna Lane , Skyla Brae,  and Emma Jean 

    Her approach ,performance, dynamic style – and winning smile –forever changed the image , popularity and face of women’s gymnastics. Often described as a “little powerhouse,” Retton’s energetic style brought a new dynamism to the sport. Retton’s solid and muscular body type produced explosive movements that redefined the traditionally delicate women’s gymnastics. Her style and ability positioned her perfectly to compete against the world’s best athletes. In 1983, she won the all-around American Cup competition. While she lost her bid for the World Championship due to a wrist injury that year, Retton did become the first American woman to win the Chunichi Cup.

Continuing her history-making tear, in 1984, She became the first American woman to win an individual Olympic medal. In fact, she took home four: a gold in all-around, silver in vault and bronzes in uneven bars and floor exercise. She also took home a silver team medal, giving her more medals than any other athlete at the Olympics that year. Adored as much for her radiant smile and enthusiasm as for her performances, Retton was named “Sportswoman of the Year” in 1984 by Sports Illustrated and “Amateur Athlete of the Year” by the Associated Press. She was elected to the Olympic Hall of Fame in 1985. The National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 1992. Her enduring legend earned Retton the title “Most Popular Athlete in America” in 1993, almost a decade after her Olympic triumph in Los Angeles. Retton also receives special recognition in the Hall of Fames’ Gallery of Champions.

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Bonnie Tiburzi

Bonnie Tiburzi (born August 31, 1948), is an American aviator. In March of 1973, at age 24, she became the first female pilot for a major American Commercial airline. At the same time, she also became the first woman in the world to earn a Flight Engineer rating on a turbo-jet aircraft.

Bonnie Tiburzi is an Italian American and was born on August 31, 1948, in Connecticut. Her father was a pilot during WWII with the Air Transport Command and TWA. He later started his own regional airline called Tiburzi Airways, which was located in Danbury, CT. By the time she was 12, Bonnie had already learned how to work the instruments of several different planes and her father had started to give her proper flying lessons. She quickly realized that she wanted to pursue being a pilot for her career.

By 1972, Bonnie had earned her private, commercial, instructors, instrument flying and multi-engine pilot’s licenses. She was flying for a small commuter airline in Florida as well as a copilot for a private charter company in Europe, and the following year when she applied to be a pilot for American Airlines where over 15,000 applicants were competing for 214 positions. Frontier, at that time a regional airliner, had just hired its first female pilot and Bonnie was hopeful that this was a sign of shifting attitudes towards female pilots. She was right – American Airlines hired her as the first female pilot of a major airline and the first female flight engineer of any airline in the U.S. During her tenure as a pilot, and despite her training and status, many customers doubted her abilities. She was regularly asked if she could land the plane or if she was just waiting for her boyfriend. Baseball great Ted Williams “demanded to see her license and during the flight kept asking if she really could fly” (Flying Above the Glass Ceiling).

Six years after being hired by American Airlines Bonnie was promoted to co-pilot. In 1988, she was promoted to captain and flew Boeing 757s and 767s to international destinations in Europe and South America. After 26 years of flying, Bonnie retired her wings. She’s received many awards and recognition for her time flying including the Amita Award for Outstanding Italian American of the Year in 1974, the Amelia Earhart Award in 1980, and most recently the National Women’s History Museum gave her a “Women Making History” award in 2015

Website Links – Woman that Soar
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
Sons & Daughters of Italy Blog Italian Americans

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Susan Sarandon

Sarandon was born in New York City. She is the eldest of nine children of Lenora Marie  and Phillip Leslie Tomalin. She has four brothers, and four sisters. Her father was of English, Irish, and Welsh ancestry. On her mother’s side, she is of Italian descent, with ancestors from the regions of Tuscany and Sicily. Sarandon was raised Roman Catholic and attended Roman Catholic schools. She grew up in Edison, New Jersey, where she graduated from Edison High School in 1964. She then attended The Catholic University of America, from 1964 to 1968, and earned a BA in drama and worked with noted drama coach and master teacher, Father Gilbert V. Hartke. During and slightly after college, she supported herself by cutting hair, cleaning houses and working as a switchboard operator.
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Rocky Marciano

Marciano was born as Rocco Francis Marchegianon on September 1, 1923, in Brockton, Massachusetts, to Italian immigrants Pierino Marchegiano and Pasqualina Picciuto. Marciano and his three sisters and two brothers lived across the street from the James Edgar Playground, where Marciano spent countless hours playing baseball. At a young age, he worked out on homemade weights and did chin-ups until he “was totally fatigued.

Professional Career

Marciano began fighting as a professional boxer on July 12, 1948, winning a fight against Harry Bilizarian. He then went on to win his first 16 fights by knockout, all before the fifth round, and nine of them before the end of the first round. During this time, a ring announcer in Rhode Island could not pronounce “Marchegiano,” so Weill suggested that they create a pseudonym. “Marciano” was chosen.

On September 23, 1952, Marciano fought against Walcott for the world heavyweight championship. He was knocked down in the first round, and was behind for the first seven, but won in the 13th round, knocking out Walcott with an accurate right punch. The punch was later referred to as his “Susie Q.” Marciano went on to defend his title six times, winning five by knockout. His last title fight was against Archie Moore, on September 21, 1955, where he knocked out Moore in the ninth round. Marciano announced his retirement on April 27, 1956. During his career, he won an unrivaled 49 straight fights, 43 of which were by knockout. 49 wins and 0 losses.

Websites About Rocky Marciano – Who Was Rocky Marciano
The Official Website of Rocky Marciano
Rocky Marciano retires as world heavyweight champion

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