On Saturday, September 2, 2017, formerly of South Side and the Little Sisters of the Poor. Wife of the late Joseph Salvagna; mother of Phyllis (Anthony) Kerzmann and Father Michael Salvagna, Passionist Priest of St. Paul the Cross Monastery; grandmother of Anthony (Lindsay) Kerzmann; great-grandmother of Holden and Juliet Kerzmann; Friends received on Tuesday from 1-3 p.m. at the Little Sisters of the Poor, Brighton-Heights and from 4-8 p.m. at the John J. Gmiter Funeral Home, Ltd., 119 South 15th St. South Side. Funeral Prayer on Wednesday at 9 a.m. Mass of Christian Burial at St. Paul of the Cross Monastery at 10 a.m. If desired, family suggests contributions to St. Paul of the Cross Monastery.
Joseph and Raffaela Tarone Salvagna
Joseph Salvagna and Raffaela Tarone came from the same town in Southern Italy, Monteleone di Puglia. Born on September 1, 1905, Joseph came to the United States with his older sister, Maria Antoinette, in 1921. Raffaela Tarone was born on June 17, 1917. Joseph visited his family in Italy in 1936 and fell in love with Raffaela. Though he was an American citizen at the time, Mussolini was drafting all men in the country of Italian heritage. Joseph and Raffaela quickly got married civilly. Then Joseph fled to the United States and proceeded to file the necessary papers for his wife to join him. Raffaela came to the United States in 1938. They settled in Brooklyn, NY among other Italian immigrants including Raffaela’s sister, Josephine.
Their first child, Phyllis, was born on October 24, 1939. Their second child, Michael, was born on November 18, 1940. In 1942 the family moved to the Bronx to be near both Joseph’s sister, Antoinette, and Raffaela’s sister, Josephine. Their church was Our Lady of Mount Carmel on 187th Street, a large Italian parish. Joseph worked as a fur dyer and dresser. In the off season he worked in as shoemaker. Raffaela did some factory work when the children were in school full time.
Phyllis graduated from Franklin Roosevelt High School and worked in a local hospital. She married Anthony Kerzmann in 1963 and they presently live in Elizabeth, PA. They have one grown child, Anthony, Jr., who married Lindsay Ponsonby. Their two children are Holden Lee (6) and Juliet Louise (3), and they presently live in Franklin Park. Michael graduated from Cardinal Hayes High School and went to Manhattan College for two years before going to the seminary with the Passionist Congregation. He was ordained in 1969 and currently lives at St. Paul of the Cross Monastery in Pittsburgh, PA.
Joseph died on July 15, 1989. After two years, Raffaela moved to Pittsburgh to be near her son, Michael, and the following year Phyllis and her family moved to Pittsburgh as well. Raffaela took part in parish activities and volunteered at the Senior Citizens complex at the Market House in South Side. She made retreats at St. Paul and volunteered to help with bulk mailings. She was happy to be around the Passionists and to get to know the members of the community. For over 75 years she would knit baby blankets, hats and scarves, and crochet doilies and table cloths for family and friends. In June, 2015 Raffaela moved to the nursing home operated by the Little Sisters of the Poor in Brighton Heights, Pittsburgh. She was very happy there and was well cared for. On September 2, 2017 the Lord called her home. May she rest in the loving arms of Jesus and Mary.
My sister, Phyllis, and I have happy family memories of growing up in the Bronx, NY near our relatives. Mom loved to sing Italian songs and listen to the Italian programs on the radio. At holiday times mom would make Italian pastries and cookies and we all enjoyed eating them. Each August we used to jar tomato sauce to use on our pasta dishes during the year. Mom continued to do that until she was 90 years old. She enjoyed taking day trips with the senior citizens group in the Bronx and at the Market House when she moved to Pittsburgh. Bingo was her game of choice but she joined in all the activities they offered. Parakeets were the family pet and she enjoyed having her little friend, Butchie Boy, at the nursing home. We pray God’s blessing upon the Sisters and their staff for the wonderful way they cared for mom.
All of her life, mom was a spiritual person. She attended Mass and novena devotions faithfully, and had a strong devotion to the Blessed Mother and to St. Anthony of Padua. Mom prayed several rosaries a day and listened exclusively to Mother Angelica on EWTN. In 1978 she came on pilgrimage with me to the Holy Land and Rome. On my 25th Anniversary of Ordination in 1994 we went to Monteleone di Puglia to visit family. At that time her brother, Michael, lived in the home town with his wife, Maria. Mom had two religious sisters that visited us, Sr. Maria del Carmelo, and Sr. Lucia Pelligrino. It was a happy reunion after many years of separation. There is an Italian saying “Cent’anni” which means “may you live to be 100!” Well, our family rejoiced that Raffaela Tarone Salvagna achieved that milestone before the Lord called her home. We will miss her loving smile, warm embrace, sweet singing voice, and spirit of generosity. Phyllis and I thank all of you for your prayers and loving kindness to us. God bless you.