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Brightwood Boys, The History of the Men from the North End of
Springfield, Massachusetts, During World War II
by Christopher P. Montagna

La Familia


My grandfather, Serafino Montagna Sr. was an immigrant born in Cigognola, Italy. His wife, Leonina was also born in Cigognola.  Serafino and Leonina were married in Cigognola on February 6, 1907.   Their first child Giuseppe (Joseph) was born on January 2, 1908.  In 1909, Leonina gave birth to a daughter Pasqualina.


In April of 1911, Serafino said goodbye to Leonina (who was five months pregnant with Edward) and his family to find a better life for them in the United States.  Serafino sailed aboard the SS Romanic, arriving in Boston on March 14, 1911. He settled in a home on Summer Street in Springfield, Massachusetts.  Serafino worked as a brick layers assistant to save the money for passage to bring his family to America.


While Serafino was working to establish himself in America and to raise the funds needed to bring his family to the States, Leonina gave birth to their second son, Edward on August 7, 1911.  The separation from his family would last another fourteen months.  Finally, on October 10, 1912, the family departed for America from Genoa, Italy aboard the Koring Albert.  Leonina’s sister Pasqualina (also known as “Ginny”) accompanied the family in order to keep Leonina company in her new home.  The family arrived at Ellis Island, New York on Oct. 25, 1912. They returned to Springfield where they settled at their first home on Union Street.


Montagna familyAfter immigrating to the United States, Leonina gave birth to five more sons.  They were: Frank in 1914, Nino in 1915, John in 1920, Serafino in 1924 and Adam in 1926.  To support the family, Serafino worked a variety of jobs, including as a fruit vendor and night watchman.  Serafino pushed his fruit cart through the streets of Springfield while Leonina cared for the children.


Tragedy struck several Springfield families in early 1919.   With the conclusion of the war to end all war, the world was besieged by another great scourge.  What initially seemed to be isolated cases of the common cold, soon erupted into a great influenza pandemic.  Within two years, the influenza virus killed an estimated 675,000 Americans.


The pandemic affected the Montagna family as well.  In March 1919, ten-year-old Pasqualina came home from school.  As she put her head in her arms, she told her aunt Ginny.  “I don’t feel too good Auntie.”   Two days later, the pandemic flu of 1918-19 left its deadly mark on the Montagna family.  Young Pasqualina Montagna died on March 5, 1919 from complications of the flu.