Pittsburgh Minadeo students talk to counterparts in Italy

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John Minadeo was a 15-year-old patrol captain at Gladstone Junior High School in Hazelwood when he lost his life in October 1954 after pushing several classmates out of the path of a runaway car.

But his spirit was alive Thursday at Pittsburgh Minadeo PreK-5, the Squirrel Hill school that bears his name, as fifth-grade students from the school met via Skype with students at the John Minadeo School in Montagano, Italy. John was born in Montagano and moved to Pittsburgh with his family four years before his death.

While his heroism has long been honored by Pittsburgh students, the students in Montagano only recently learned the story of their namesake.

Both groups listened Thursday as Susanne Pearson Evans, a survivor of the crash that killed John, described her classmate.

"John was very proud to be a safety patrol, so proud he even performed patrol duties when he worked at the fruit market," Mrs. Evans said. She said John worked at a fruit market after school and if he noticed students trying to cross the street, he would leave the market to escort them and often treated them with "a plum or some grapes."

She said John "had wonderful manners and most parents appreciated that." He was quick to volunteer to carry heavy packages and always said "please and thank you."

Mrs. Evans, who now lives in Maryland, was hit by the car that had lost its brakes but said she doesn't remember anything about the accident.

"One minute I was walking down the street and the next thing I knew I was in the hospital," she said.

On the Italian side of the conference, Lucio Zampino, a Montagano resident who helped to bring the two schools together, led the conversation. In Pittsburgh, school board member Theresa Colaizzi and her husband, Franco, who both speak fluent Italian, translated.

The conference was organized in recent months when the Italian Minadeo school was rebuilt and dedicated following its destruction in an earthquake. Students in Montagano questioned who John Minadeo was and why their school was named after him. Mr. Zampino found a Sept. 18, 2011, article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that recounted John's story. The article included an image of the Oct. 8, 1954, Post-Gazette front-page story about the accident, which also took the life of student Ella Cornelious.

Mr. Zampino had been helping a Connecticut man research his family history in Italy, so, in turn, he asked the man for help in contacting the Pittsburgh Minadeo school.

During a question-and-answer session, the students found out the Italian Minadeo school has just 60 students, while the Pittsburgh school has about 500. The Italian students were fluent in English and able to address their counterparts without an interpreter.

Pittsburgh superintendent Linda Lane challenged students here to improve their Italian before their next Skype conference. They have been studying Italian with students from the advanced Italian classes at Brashear High School.

Principal Melissa Wagner told the students that the most important thing to remember about the day is, "Minadeo is not just a building or a school. John Minadeo is a person that we all need to honor." She encouraged students to keep his memory alive by performing acts of kindness.

'Minadeo is not just a building or a school. John Minadeo is a person that we all need to honor.'

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Mary Niederberger: mniederberger@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1590. First Published February 15, 2013 5:00 AM


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