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Visiting Italians welcomed to sister city of Monongahela

| Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Chess Park in Monongahela has been the site of countless weddings over the decades.

On Friday, more than 200 Italians and Italian Americans celebrated the marriage of two sister cities – Monongahela and Ono San Pietro – at the picturesque park.

The event was 30 years in the making - the result of a true romance, fitting for an event where love of community and heritage was abundant.

“Today, this dream comes true with the first sister city celebration of Monongahela and Ono San Pietro,” said organizer Connie Russell.

“These two mayors made this dream come true.”

Monongahela Mayor Bob Kepics and Ono San Pietro Mayor Elena Broggi presided over the festivities Friday, but Russell noted that the concept was the dream of former Monongahela Mayor John Moreschi.

In the early 1980s, Russell's cousin, Anna Maria Troncatti Domenighini, married Giuseppe Domenighini.

They honeymooned in the United States, staying with Moreschi and his sister, Lucy Vairra Partazana.

Moreschi was a distant relative of Russell's.

Returning often to the U.S. to visit, Domenighini did research for a genealogy book and came upon the idea of Ono San Pietro and Monongahela becoming sister cities.

The connection became apparent as his research uncovered that many of the names in Italy corresponded with so many of the names in Monongahela.

Jubilant arrival

More than 200 city residents gathered around the Chess Park gazebo in as a delegation of about three dozen residents of Ono San Pietro arrived in a procession behind a banner of their community.

Kepics and Broggi presented each other with ceremonial keys to their respective communities.

State Sen. Tim Solobay, D-Canonsburg, presented copies of a Senate citation recognizing the sister city union to both mayors.

State Rep. Peter Daley, D-California, presented Kepics and Broggi with a state House citation honoring both communities.

“God bless you and have fun in the United States,” Daley said. “Congratulations to both mayors for this wonderful event.”

Washington County Commissioners Diana Irey Vaughan and Harlan Shober presented both mayors with a county proclamation on a plaque.

Broggi then spoke with Domenighini Giuseppe, one of the visitors, translating.

Before carrying out Broggi's message, Giuseppe jokingly warned, “I don't speak English, I speak broken American.”

Broggi said she was “realizing the dream” of Giuseppe Domenighini.

She vowed to repeat the ceremonies in Italy ultimately.

“We appreciate your mayor,” she told the Mon City residents on hand. “He is a nice man and a beautiful friend.”

Broggi said the experience was important for her, especially seeing the Italian-American families there to greet her and the contingency from Ono San Pietro.

“I'm surprised by the love that the Monongahela people have shown to us in this moment,” Broggi said.

She introduced the council of Ono San Pietro.

“This is a great, great moment,” Broggi said. “The mayor is a great friend now and great to be with.”

The festivities then moved from the gazebo to the corner of the park at Seventh and West Main streets, where Kepics unveiled a large plaque which read: “Ono San Pietro, Provincia di Brescia” on top with “Sister City of Monongahela, August 22, 2014” beneath.

A group of red and green balloons and red, white and blue balloons fastened together were released. Those gathered sang first the Italian National Anthem “Il Canto degli Italiani” (The Chant of the Italians) – in Italian with many Monongahela residents joining in – followed by “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Visiting mayor pleased

As those gathered mingled and shared family lines, Broggi spoke with The Valley Independent about her experiences.

“Very, very nice,” Broggi said in English before her daughter began to interpret.

“The hospitality was very good and everyone found new, good friends.”

Broggi said the day was very emotional for her.

This is her first trip to the United States, having arrived Tuesday after a flight from Paris.

Her group will stay in the area until Monday, when they leave for New York. The flight back to Italy will leave Friday.

Broggi said the best part of the day was watching residents of the two communities learn about their shared heritage, tracing family names from Italy to Monongahela.

She also loved to hear Monongahela residents speaking and singing in Italian.

“I want to thank the Mayor (Kepics) and the hospitality of all of the Monongahela residents,” she said.