Two-war veteran Mario Ortigara

Jun 25, 2019 353

Mario Ortigara was born in his parents’ home on the South Side of Chicago, where brother Benny welcomed him. A few years later, sister Mary joined the family. Anna Panozzo and Domenico Ortigara were from small towns in the Piedmont region of Italy, where they met and married. They lost their first-born son to illness before immigrating to Chicago, where they settled in the historic Pullman area. Domenico was employed at the Blue Island Brickyard, and Anna was a homemaker.

Their neighborhood was a mix of many different ethnicities: Polish, Irish, Lithuanian, Slovakian and Italian. Ortigara explains that each nationality had its own Catholic Church, and his family socialized mostly within the Italian community. He attended St. Anthony Grammar School and Mt. Carmel High School. The Ortigara brothers began taking accordion lessons in 1935, laying the foundation for their future. Ortigara remembers playing handball and baseball in the neighborhood streets with his buddies. “There was very little traffic in the 1930s,” he says.

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