Leonard Coniglio


(born Leonardo, named after his maternal grandfather Leonardo Alessi)

Born: 12 January 1916 ~ Robertsdale, Pennsylvania
Baptized: 24 April 1916~ Church of the Immaculate Conception, Dudley, Pennsylvania
Died 2 June 1974 ~ Chicago, Illinois


        Leonard was the first Coniglio to be born in the United States.  Our parents Gaetano and Rosa Alessi Coniglio and my eldest brother Gaetano (Guy), who was born in 1913, emigrated from Serradifalco, Sicily in 1913 and 1914.  Leonard was born in Wood (Woodvale) or Robertsdale Pennsylvania on 12 January 1916.  The date is from family memory, as it was recorded in Altoona, Pennsylvania, and the record subsequently burned in an office fire.
        Robertsdale did not have a Catholic church at the time, and it's believed that Leonard and his younger brothers Raymond and Phil were either baptized by a visiting priest, or taken to be baptized at Immaculate Conception Church in nearby Dudley, Pennsylvania.  Len's baptism record corroborates his birth date as 12 January 1916.



Dudley's Immaculate Conception church in 2018

Father Matt


        On 5 November 2018, almost one hundred and three years after Leonard was born in Robertsdale, Angie and I visited the Immaculate Conception Church in Dudley, Pennsylvania, and with Father Matt Baum's assistance, found the baptism records of Leonard, Ray and Felice. 

Robertsdale Post Office, Pennsylvania 16674

Dudley Station

to the church


        I sent  myself a postcard from the Robertsdale Post Office.  Serendipity that the card is imprinted with what looks like a 'family tree'!


        It's four miles from Robertsdale to Dudley.  The elevation goes from 1,785 feet above sea level in Robertsdale to 1,975 feet in Broad Top City, back down to 1,627 feet in Dudley.  It's very likely that the Coniglio's had to walk there and back when a child was to be baptized, which may explain why they delayed making the trek after a child was born, until weather permitted.


        One reason the records have been so hard to find is that the Immaculate Conception church had been burned down twice by the Ku Klux Klan because it served Sicilians and other Catholic immigrants.  Leonard's record was in this volume.  It is second from the bottom in the two pages shown below on the right.

1915 - 1922 Register

Years covered

Second record from the bottom, both pages


Baptism Record ~ Dudley Immaculate Conception Church - 1916

        Leonard's baptism record mis-spelled his surname as 'Cornelleo', and several other names were mis-spelled: 'Guitano Cornelleo' was Gaetano Coniglio; Rosina 'Alessa' was Rosina Alessi; 'Guitano Guimento' was Gaetano Giumento; and 'Salvatrica Petrix' was Salvatrice Petix.  Presumably, the priest, C. L. McKinney, spelled his own name correctly.



Jan 12
April 24
Gaetano Coniglio
Rosina Alessi
  Gaetano Giumento
Salvatrice Petix
CL McKinney  

Guy and Leonard
about 1924

Len, Rosa & Ray
about 1930



        Len ("Nardu" or "Narduzzu", as our mother called him) was the family's "rolling stone".  Maybe it was because he shared his birthday, 12 January, with the great American wanderer and author Jack London, who gathered ideas for his stories from his time as a hobo and a sailor, and who spent some time in jail, in Buffalo. 

          In 1930, at age 14, Leonard literally ran away to join the circus!  Family lore doesn't recall the details, but on June 23, 1930, the Ringling Brothers ~ Barnum and Bailey Circus visited Buffalo.   So it's not hard to imagine that, tired of school and not looking forward to another summer picking beans at Musacchio's farm in North Collins, young Leonard hopped into a circus boxcar and rolled the rails with the circus to Rochester, Albany, and points East.  
          It was the midst of America's Great Depression, and Leonard left seven siblings at home, six younger than he, the youngest being three-year-old Tony.  Len no doubt felt it would be easier for our parents to care for the others 'with one less mouth to feed'.  I don't know if my parents or my siblings ever thanked him for that, but I do, here and now.


        Leonard was back home in 1932, as indicated by his "2nd Working Papers", as a dishwasher at the Swan Restaurant.


       I was not sure exactly when or where, but on one of his 'runaways', I knew Leonard served in the Civilian Conservation Corps (the 'CCC'), which was a government program that put poor unemployed youths to work, on public projects like dams, roads and environmental repair.   Just below are general images from various CCC sites.



        Joe Lombardo Sr. was our 4th cousin, a descendant of Andrea and Bartola Alessi.  He lived on Michigan Avenue in 1920 and no doubt was a friend of the family, born two years after Leonard. He was also in the CCC and below is a typical photo of the groups of young men at camps, this one in Alpine Wyoming.  Thanks to Joe Lombardo Jr. for the photo, his father is circled in the second photo from the top.  Click on the photo to enlarge it.

I contacted the National Archives, and found that records of Leonard's CCC service could be obtained.  Through the kind efforts of NARA Archivist David R. Hardin, I received the documents shown below. Click on the images to enlarge them.
Len's 'Application Memorandum' was filed under "US DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, EMERGENCY CONSERVATION WORK" at the Industrial Aid Bureau, 352 Ellicott Street, Buffalo, stating that Leonard Coniglio was born on 12 January 1916 in Robertsdale, Pennsylvania, had one year of high school, and allotted part of his work allowance, $22 per month, to his mother Rosa Coniglio at 309 Myrtle Avenue, Buffalo.
Leonard's initial RECORD OF PHYSICAL EXAMINATION shows he was 66 inches tall, weighed 133 pounds, he had 20-50 vision in both eyes, 20-20 hearing in both ears when he enlisted.  At his discharge, his vision changed to 20/30 and 20/40 and he had bilateral acute blepharitis, not aggravated by his service.  His weight had dropped to 131 pounds.  He had acne of the back, warts on his left wrist and left knee, a scar on his right knee and a scar on his left thigh.  No doubt the scars were remnants of his little disagreements with brothers Ray and Phil.
Leonard's RECORD OF SERVICE shows he was 5 feet 7 inches, weighed 135 pounds, brown eyes, black hair, previous occupation baker's helper.  From 20 April 1934 through 25 March 1935, he was stationed under the War Department at Tennessee Valley Authority Camp 19, New Tazewell, Tennessee.  He did satisfactory work in Erosion Control, was last paid on 28 February, and was awaiting discharge at Camp Dix, New Jersey.  He owed the Camp Exchange of Company 19 six dollars and fifteen cents.

The second page of the physical examination (not shown) states that Leonard was 68-1/2 inches tall and weighed 142 pounds at his discharge on 27 March 1935, so he was still growing.
This photo is by Lewis Hine, famed photographer of Ellis Island immigrants, exploited child workers, and government projects.  It's a view of Civil Conservation Corps Camp TVA #19, located between the Clinch and Powell Rivers, near New Tazewell, Tennessee.  New Tazewell is in Northeast Tennessee, North of Knoxville , near the Kentucky border.

        Leonard left the CCC on 27 March 1935, but he wasn't home for long.   Long enough to stand up for our bother Guy's wedding on 29 June, then he enlisted in the US Naval Militia on 11 November 1935.  He served until 1939, then joined the regular Navy in 1941.

          On 16 December 1940, Leonard signed up for the US Navy, and was officially sworn in on 24 January 1941.  On 10 July 1941 he completed training at the Naval Training Station at Great Lakes, Illinois and was transferred to New York City, to the Naval Receiving Ship.  On 22 July 1941, he was assigned as a Fireman Second Class (F2c) to the former USAT Republic, when the ship was reassigned to the Navy and commissioned as the troopship USS Republic (AP-33), under Commander G. Clark.  Her armament consisted of one 5" and four 3" mounts.  After a crossing from New York to Iceland, Republic sailed for San Francisco and in November left for the Southwest Pacific.  Transporting the eventual legendary "Lost Battalion", the 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery, 36th Division (Texas National Guard), she reached Pearl Harbor on November 28, refueling and leaving port a day later. On December 6, she crossed the equator.

Leonard's "Crossing the Equator" Certificate.
 The ship was the troop carrier USS Republic.

Note the date, December 6, 1941 ~ one day before "Pearl Harbor".

       The next morning the Republic's crew and passengers learned of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  The ship sailed to Brisbane Australia, via the Fiji Islands. After debarking the troops, she sailed on to Sydney. Between March and November 1942 the Republic served on the San Francisco-Honolulu run, completing a total of seven voyages. In February 1942, Leonard was promoted to Fireman First Class (F1c), and by September 1942 he was reassigned as a Baker Second Class.  On 22 January 1943, he was transferred to the US Naval Hospital at Treasure Island, California.

First Muster Roll, 1941

USS Republic

31 January 1943 Muster


           On 6 May 1943, Leonard was assigned to the submarine tender USS Bushnell (AS - 15).  On 27 June, she departed for Pearl Harbor, arriving on 3 July. While at the Submarine Base, Submarine Squadron 14 (SubRon 14) was assembled with Bushnell serving as tender and staff headquarters for the Squadron and Division Staff. Bushnell remained at Pearl Harbor until September 1943, when she sailed for Midway Island to deliver provisions and structural materials. Upon returning to Pearl Harbor in December, she resumed her task of refitting submarines until April 1944.

30 May 1943 Muster Roll

USS Bushnell


          On 3 December 1944, Leonard was on the commissioning crew of the light cruiser USS Atlanta (CL - 104), as a Watertender First Class (WT1c). 

         From 2227 May, the Atlanta served with the Fast Carrier Task Force operating south of Japan near Okinawa while the carriers' aircraft struck targets in the Ryukyu Islands and on Kyūshū to support forces fighting for Okinawa. Her task group broke up on 13 June, and Atlanta entered San Pedro Bay, Leyte, Philippines, on 14 June. Following two weeks of upkeep, she sailed on 1 July with Task Group 38.1 and once again protected the fast carriers launching strikes against targets in the Japanese home islands. During these operations, the cruiser took part in several shore bombardment missions against Honshū and Hokkaidō.

         Atlanta was operating off the coast of Honshū when the Japanese surrendered on 15 August 1945. On 16 September, she entered Tokyo Bay and remained there through 29 September.  Leonard was honorably discharged from the ship and the US Navy at Tokyo Bay on 19 September 1945.

         So Leonard was in his nation's service, one day out of Pearl Harbor when World War II started, and in Japanese waters when the war ended.

Commissioning Muster Roll

USS Atlanta (CL - 104)

1945 Muster Roll


         Leonard, like other sailors, had what was probably a souvenir coin engraved on the back with his Navy Service Number, while he was in the South Pacific just prior to and during World War II.   I have been carrying this coin on my keychain, and recently was told by a friend that it was an Australian coin. 
         I looked on-line, and my guess is that the coin is a 1935 Australian silver shilling, shown here below the actual coin.  The likeness is that of "George V, through the grace of God King of all Britain and Emperor of the Indies".

         Len with friends Joe Merendino, left, and Joe Calcaterra, right.  Looks like they were in North Collins, probably just after Len returned home from the Navy: they'd probably been celebrating his return at Speedy's Grille, a favorite night spot on Main Street (US Highway 62) in North Collins.

         Leonard originally joined the Navy before WWII.   After serving in the war, he returned home for a while.  A bachelor, he later re-enlisted and served in the Pacific once more, in and around the U.S. territory of the Island of Guam

        Leonard's arrival in San Francisco after his tour of duty in Guam is recorded in this passenger manifest of the troop ship USS General William [Billy] Mitchell, at Line 19.


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Leonard in Guam Leonard's School 6 Certificate Leonard, Dennis and Rosa Leonard at ease Leonard at Musacchio's farm, North Collins, about 1940 LenCombo.jpg (68808 bytes)

and Rosa with
Dennis Denisco


Leonard and Ray Guy LenRay180w.jpg (15794 bytes)
Len and Raymond Guy
~ 1942 ~

Leonard in Guam ~ 1946


        Home in Buffalo again, Len  had our mother's "green thumb" and love for gardening, and planted many flowers, shrubs and fruit trees around our house at 56 Ritt Street.  Periodically, the wanderlust would strike, and he'd take a job in New York City, or Chicago, or parts unknown. 
had his appendix out in Chicago in 1965, and Ray visited him.  Later, Len wrote the prosaic but poignant letter below to our mother.


       Leonard Coniglio died of a massive heart attack in Chicago in 1973.  Blessedly, our mother had passed away a year earlier, sparing her the grief of her son's passing.

Leonard in about 1952




1 (Siblings)

2 3 4 5

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Gaetano & Rosina










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