Big reunion coming up for a big Italian immigrant family

Big reunion coming up for a big Italian immigrant family

The Westerly Sun

WESTERLY — When members of Westerly’s extended Urso family gather next month for their first large-scale family reunion in four decades, they’ll pay tribute to the two people who made it all possible — their ancestors Natale Urso and Mariantonia Algiere.

Natale, a farmer, was born in Acri, Italy, in December 1864. He was the youngest of Santo Urso and Santa Abbruzzese Urso’s 11 children.

Mariantonia, who was born in Acri in May 1870, was the oldest of Tommaso Algiere and Aurelia Caravetta Algiere’s 11 children.

The Ursos, who were married in Acri in 1891, had nine children: Angelo, Santo Pasquale — who died in Acri in 1900 at age 6 — Louis, Maria Annunziata, Michele, Giuseppe, Santo, Vincenzo, and Rosa.

In 1913, with their children in tow, the Ursos journeyed to America and settled in Westerly, joining Natale’s older brother, Franco Urso, who had emigrated six years earlier, and his sister, Mary.

Mary Urso Toscano and her husband, Luigi Toscano, lived at 75 Pleasant St. in Westerly’s North End. They made a point of welcoming friends and families arriving in America from Italy, according to Dennis Urso, of Baltimore, a Westerly native and grandson of Natale and Mariantonia.

Urso, one of the prime organizers of next week’s reunion, has researched the Urso family history along with Mary Levcowich, Connie Urso, Paul Gencarella, Sylvia Morrone Gulla and other members of an extended family that now numbers in the hundreds.

In a booklet full of family lore that they put together with relatives, Urso included a photo, believed to be more than 100 years old, that was published in the Westerly Sun on March 15, 1972, and features more than a dozen people at a Sunday gathering.

“It was the custom of the people in the Italian colony to celebrate Sunday like a holiday,” Urso wrote in the pamphlet. “They dressed in their Sunday best, attended Mass, ate a big dinner, and then congregated for music and song and sometimes a party. That is what this group was doing as they gathered at the Toscano residence at 75 Pleasant Street.”

“The Toscano family had several musicians, including Joseph and Frank,” he added. “The families loved to gather around the cast iron wood burning stove to sing songs. They would keep the doors open and invite passersby to come in and visit.”

Mary Toscano was well known as a woman who took care of people and supplied home, food and other needs to many families and friends, Urso added. She may very well have been the reason “generations of folks from Italy came across the big pond to live in Westerly,” he wrote.

Mary Toscano’s granddaughter, Mary Toscano Levcowich of Westerly, continues to maintain the Urso-Toscano traditions of family, hospitality and helping others. Levcowich started working as the town clerk in 1947 and held the post for decades. Now 90, she helps out her children at Pleasant Acres Nursery, the Franklin Street garden center started in 1954 by her late husband, Mickey Levcowich, and continues to compile information she receives from far-flung descendants of Natale Urso and Mariantonia Algiere.

“We have cousins in California and New Jersey,” said Levcowich Friday afternoon. “And now we have a whole new generations interested.”

Recently, said Levcowich, she shared the Urso-Toscano genealogy with Westerly native Kevin Christina, a medical writer who lives in Boston. Christina, the son of Steve and Nancy Toscano Christina of Westerly, a 2003 Westerly High School graduate, said researching his family’s history has had a number of benefits, especially when he traveled through Europe. Not only did he discover missing members of the Toscano family when he was in Tusa, Sicily, but he was able to apply for and receive Italian citizenship.

“It was through my mom’s side, the Toscanos, that I have dual citizenship,” Christina said. He is unable to make the Urso family reunion, but Levcowich knows exactly where she’ll be on Oct. 7 — at the Westerly armory. “Definitely,” she said. “Dennis started working on this a long time ago,” she added, and she wouldn’t miss it for the world.


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