Click on each photo to be introduced to each officer
Americo (Rico) Allegrino grew up in upstate New York. His father came from Chieti in the Abruzzo region of Italy and his maternal great grandparents came from Sicily and Naples. He earned a Master’s degree in Meteorology from the University of Maryland. He current works as a government contractor for NOAA’s satellite division providing programming support to the next generation of weather satellites. Rico has worked for NOAA for 21 years. Previously, he worked at Goddard Space Flight Center studying sea ice and snow cover using various remote sensors. He has volunteered as a special events coordinator for an organization of single Catholics called the Catholic Alumni Club. There, he organized picnics, happy hours and dinners. He was also membership chair for several years for this group. Currently, he leads a group of volunteers from his local parish to provide a monthly dinner for homeless men in Prince Georges County. He also volunteers his gardening services to his local parish. He is an avid gardener. He has been an AMHS member for 4 years.
Ray LaVerghetta is a second-generation Italian-American born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. His paternal grandparents were born and grew up in Vasto, in the province of Chieti, in Abruzzo. His maternal grandfather was also born and raised in Vasto, Abruzzo, while his maternal grandmother called home Pizzone, a small mountain town originally part of Abruzzo but incorporated into Molise, province of Isernia, in 1861.
Ray graduated from Loyola University in Maryland and went on to earn a Ph.D. in Linguistics at Georgetown University. He divided his career between academia and government (DoD). In the academic world, he taught at Georgetown University, Loyola University, the U.S. Naval Academy, the National Cryptologic School, the Community Colleges of Baltimore County, and Howard Community College. In government, he worked as a linguist, writer, and analyst, focusing on European issues of interest to a broad swath of U.S. Government policymakers. He retired in 2013 and is now working part-time as a government consultant and adjunct professor at Howard Community College. In his spare time, he is working on a language documentation project targeting one of the latin-derived languages that was spoken in Italy (and still is by some older residents) prior to the dominance of Italian.
Ray is married to Michele and they have two daughters, Gabriella and Maria. He is Chair of the AMHS Scholarship Committee.
Peter Bell is a lifelong resident of the Washington, DC area, growing up in Silver Spring, Maryland. He is , on his mother’s side and has lived on Capitol Hill since 1974. He is retired from the Federal government with over 35 years experience as an auditor and financial manager with three different Federal agencies. Currently he heads his own consulting and training practice, providing support for the needs of the affordable housing industry. Peter is a member of the AMHS Scholarship Committee.
Nancy DeSanti was born in Massachusetts and while growing up, lived in Athens, Greece for 4 years, and in Manila, the Philippines, for 3 years. She was a legal specialist with Reed Smith LLP, a top-15 global law firm and prior to that, she was an editor at The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., a legal publishing company.
As the daughter of immigrants, Nancy appreciates and loves her heritage and is interested in Italian genealogy, history, culture, and language. She is a member of the National Italian American Foundation and enjoys traveling to Italy each year. She resides in Alexandria, Virginia.
Maria D’Andrea-Yothers is proud to be a 2nd-generation Italian-American: her mother was born in Pacentro, Abruzzo and her father in Roccamandolfi, Molise. She has been an active member of the Society since it was founded by her father in 2000. She served five (5) years as President; prior to that, she was a member of the Board, the 1st Vice President-Programs, and the 2nd Vice-President-Membership. In addition to her responsibilities as Immediate Past President, she is the publication’s manager for the AMHS Notiziario. Maria was recently appointed to the Board of the National Christopher Columbus Association, She is also a member of the National Organization of Italian American Women (NOIAW) and the Lucchesi nel Mondo-Tuscany Club – a testament to building and nurturing relationships in the Italian-American community in DC.
In her professional life, Maria is the Director of the Office of Textiles and Apparel in the International Trade Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC). She is responsible for executing and implementing U.S. textile and apparel trade policy. She has traveled the world as a member of the U.S. Textile Trade delegation to negotiate Free Trade Agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Prior to joining the DOC, Maria worked on textile and clothing trade issues as a member of the Secretariat of the Word Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.
Maria dedicates her time and enthusiastic support to the Italian-American community in the Washington, DC area, and enjoys travel (e.g., hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu), and spending time with her friends and her very tight-knit family (her parents, four sisters, one brother, their spouses, and 8 nieces and nephews). Maria married Sam Yothers in February 2016 on the summit of Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii! She and Sam reside in Alexandria, VA. Maria is blessed to have two amazing stepdaughters, Lauren and Mara.
Lynn Sorbara has been a member of AMHS for a number of years. She served briefly on the Board of Directors in 2008, but was forced to resign for family reasons. In 2002, she made a presentation at an AMHS general Society meeting on “Finding and Fighting Diseases in the New World of Bio-Terrorism” and, in 2017, she gave a presentation on advances in cancer research.
Lynn earned her doctorate in Molecular Pharmacology from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Since 1991, she has worked at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, MD. Currently, she is Program Director in the Division of Cancer Prevention. Lynn is the Past-President of the DC Chapter of the Catholic Alumni Club and was a board member of the Washington Chapter of the Archaeological Institute of America.
Lucio D’Andrea is a native of Roccamandolfi in the region of Molise. He immigrated to the United States in 1948 along with his brother Joseph and mother Candida to join his father, who lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Upon completion of his secondary school education, he enrolled at the Univeristy of Pittsburgh, graduating in 1957 with a bachelor of Science degree in Petroleum Engineering and a commission as Second Lieutenant in the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Following his military service, he moved to Wyoming to work for an oil company. He later accepted a position with the Federal Power Commission in Washington, DC. He served in a number of government agencies and in 1986 he accepted an appointment by the Secretary-General of the United Nations to serve as Senior Economic Officer with the Economic Commission of Europe (ECE) in Geneva, Switzerland, becoming deputy director of its Energy Division. He retired from the ECE in 1983 and entered private practice as an energy consultant.
During his long professional and military career, Lucio received numerous awards and recognitions. One which he is particularly proud of is the “Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy,” which he received in 1972 for his involvement with the Italian Cultural Society in promoting Italian culture in the Washington, DC area. He has maintained a steadfast commitment to the promotion and development of Italian culture, traditions and values. His pride in his heritage was demonstrated when he took the initiative to establish the Abruzzo and Molise Heritage Society of the Washington DC area. He remains active in the Italian-American community by also being a member of the Order of the Sons of Italy and the National Italian American Foundation. Continuing his commitment to the promotion of Italian culture, Lucio established the Italian Heritage Society of St. Mary of Sorrows in Fairfax, Virginia, and the Italian Heritage and Cultural Society at the Church of the Nativity in Burke, VA.
Lucio is married to Edvige (Pitassi) D’Andrea, a native of Pacentro, in Abruzzo. They have six children and eight grandchildren. Lucio and Edvige reside at The Westminster at Lake Ridge, where they enjoy an volunteer in the local community, teach Italian language to the residents, and overall enjoy an active social life. Lucio is a member of the AMHS Scholarship Committee.
Joseph “Sonny” Scafetta Jr. is the son of Giuseppe Scafetta (1896-1975) who emigrated from the city of Vasto in Abruzzo to Washington in April 1915. Sonny earned a B.S. from Penn State U. in aerospace engineering in 1969, a law degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1972, a masters in patent law from Georgetown U. in 1973, and an M.B.A. in the administration of science and technology from George Washington University in 1983. Before entering the private practice of law in 1975, he served as a law clerk for two years for a federal trial judge in Columbia, South Carolina. He is admitted to practice before the state courts in Pennsylvania (1972), the District of Columbia (1978), and Virginia (1979). He is also admitted to practice before the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (1973), the U.S. District Courts in D.C. (1998) and the Eastern District of Virginia (1982), the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (1982), and the U.S. Supreme Court (1980). He has worked for several law firms in the District and Northern Virginia. Over the years, he has published ten articles in various legal journals and won the prestigious Robert C Watson Award from the American Intellectual Property Law Association in 1976. He is now semi-retired, but still works part time four days a week as Senior Counsel for Ditthavong & Steiner in Old Town Alexandria. He has been employed there since 2011.
He has been a member of the Abruzzo-Molise Heritage Society since 2008. He is also a member of the National Christopher Columbus Association and the Italian Heritage Lodge which is a branch of the Order Sons & Daughters of Italy in America which he joined in 1979. He served as the president of the Avanti Italiani Lodge (1981-83) and was the state president of the Grand Lodge of Virginia (1993-95). He served on the Grand Lodge Council for 24 continuous years from 1984 to 2007.
He wrote an article about the Jacuzzi brothers for the Italian-American Review in 1994 and articles about engraving artists Anthony DeFrancisci (1999) and Frank Gasparro (2002) in The Numismatist. He also had biographies about five Italian Americans published in the American National Biography series in 1999. In the Fall 2005 issue of the Italian America Magazine, he had published a lead article entitled “Columbus & the Indians: Friend of Foe?” His last publication was a book entitled “The True & Complete Story of Christopher Columbus” which was released by the Columbia Press Co. in 2007 and sold out.
Sonny has visited Italy four times and spent 11 weeks there. He is fluent in Italian. He studied French for two years in high school and is now studying Spanish. He has also visited his Italian cousins living in Canada, Australia and Argentina. Currently, he resides in Falls Church with his wife of 33 years, Teresa Talierco, whose paternal grandparents emigrated from the island of Ischia in the Bay of Naples. They have one son, Joseph Scafetta III, who is a junior majoring in math and computer science at Marymount University in Arlington.
John Dunkle is of German and Irish heritage. However, 56 years ago he married a beautiful Italian lady whose name was Alice Riccadonna. Therefore, he became an “IBM” – Italian By Marriage. Excellent Italian food and wine and a welcoming family made their marriage quite special.
John received a degree in Physics from Syracuse University and a Masters’ Degree in Engineering Physics from the Air Force Institute of Technology. Alice completed a PhD in Biology from Cornell. They were in the Air Force for twenty years and then John worked in industry for 18 more years.
When John and Alice moved to Great Falls, Virginia, they helped build the church that is now St. Catherine of Siena. There he served as a lector and as a Eucharistic minister. Alice wanted to be involved with the Italian community so, after a call to Father Cesare at Holy Rosary, John and Alice joined the parish. Over the years they have participated in parish activities and more recently, John became a member of the Holy Name Society and the Abruzzo and Molise Heritage Society (AMHS). John looks forward to contributing to the AMHS mission and to support the parishioners of Holy Rosary Church.
Joe Novello was born in Montazzoli, Provincia di Chieti, in Abruzzo on August 23,1941, the youngest of six children . With his parents and the younger of his two sisters, he emigrated to the U.S. ( Scotch Plains, N.J.) in May, 1955 to reunite with his paternal grandmother, four uncles, many cousins and many paesani . By 1966 his three brothers and his older sister and their families reunited in the US. Most of the family still resides in and around Scotch Plains, N.J. where they often reunite for social events. When Joe arrived in the U.S., he was enrolled in the sixth grade of the local Catholic school, but quickly advanced in his studies and graduated from high school in 1960 and from Rutgers University in 1964 with a BS degree in Electrical Engineering. He received a MS in E.E. in June 1966 from N.J. Institute of Technology. In June 1965, he accepted a job with NASA at the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Greenbelt, MD, and continued his graduate education at Catholic University of America in Space Science and Applied Physics (1966 to 1969). At GSFC, Joe started working as a computer programmer. Two years later he joined a group of electronic engineers developing a small, lightweight low power general purpose central computer for satellites that became the NASA standard central computer (NSCC-1) baseline on many NASA LANDSAT missions and a few DOD missions. He worked as a digital design engineer responsible for many special electronics, data processors and as a commands and telemetry systems engineer on many missions. Joe served as section head, acting branch head, and project coordinator for instruments development, retiring in January, 2006 after 40 ½ years service inorder to pursue personal interests. In 1976, Joe married Joann Bagliere Novello. They have four children: Katherine, Stephanie, Laura, and Peter and six grandchildren (three boys and three girls). His hobbies include financial investments , real estate, gardening, photography, and travel.
Joann Bagliere was born in Jersey City, NJ, to a mother from Molise and a Sicilian-American father. Her first trip to Italy was as a child in 1959, to visit with her maternal grandparents and extended family in Montemitro, Campobasso, Molise. This trip included a whirlwind tour of “the boot.” She returned for a summer study in Rome while in college, sealing her love for all things Italian. Joann graduated from the College of New Rochelle with a Bachelor of Arts in English literature, and received a Master of Arts in English from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. While teaching at Georgian Court College (now Georgian Court University) in Lakewood, NJ, Joann continued graduate studies at Fordham University and, after marrying Joseph Novello and relocating to Maryland, at the University of Maryland. She left her studies to raise her family of four. Joann returned to work as director of a pre-school, and is for several years as a teacher at the school. Now in retirement, her greatest joy is being Nonna to her six grandchildren, ranging in age from 21/2 to 8 years of age. Her hobbies include cooking and baking, reading, and traveling, particularly two visits to Italy in the last year.
Helina Zewdu Nega is a native of Addis Abeba, Ethiopia. She left Ethiopia at the age of six to live in Rome, Italy until she was 15 years old. Although Helina was enrolled in an international school (St. Francis and Claire International School) with the academic programs tailored to that of the American system, she also grew up speaking Italian and her native tongue of Amharic.
Helina has been living in the United States for 17 years and for past 12 years has called the Washington, DC area home. She has earned a Bachelors’ Degree in Communications as well as a Masters’ Degree in Public Administration. She is passionate about the non-profit sector, particularly when it comes to organizations that assist abused and neglected women and children as well as organizations that seek solutions to end poverty. As a result, she currently works for the One Campaign, an international, nonpartisan, non-profit, advocacy and campaigning organization that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa.
Although Helina has spent the majority of her life in the United States, her love for her Ethiopian culture as well as that of the Italian culture has greatly influenced her life and has shaped her worldview.
Fun Fact: her favorite soccer team is AS. Roma and her favorite player (now retired) is Francesco Totti.
Christopher John Renneker is a recent graduate (2017) from the George Washington University Law School. He also holds an MBA from the Sungkyunkwan University Global School of Business (2017) and a B.S. from the Florida State University (2011) with majors in Political Science and History, focused on European Union integration and Renaissance Italy respectively, and minors in Classical Civilization, focused on Etruscan studies, and Philosophy.
He is admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia (2017). He currently works at the United States Patent and Trademark Office as an Examining Attorney. He previously worked as an Attorney Advisor in the Small Business Administration Office of Disaster Assistance. Between undergrad and law school Chris taught overseas, including one year of English in Shanghai, China and one year of English, Social Studies, and Math in Mexico City, Mexico.
Chris studied abroad for a semester in Italy while at Florida State. He has since visited Italy twice, including six weeks earlier this year. He has family from Abruzzo and Foggia. He has been a member of the Abruzzo and Molise Heritage Society of Washington, DC since 2017 and a member of the National Italian American Foundation since 2016.
Carmine James Spellane was born and raised in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, just outside Philadelphia, to which his maternal grandparents emigrated from Molise. He has lived in
Washington, D.C. since 1969, first as a student at American University, then as a 40-year communications professional, mostly for the trade union movement. Carmine was the Media Director of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers for 21 years before his
retirement in 2015. He has served on the governing boards of several organizations devoted to communications and education. Since his retirement, Carmine taught for a semester at John Hopkins University’s D.C. campus, taken classes in playwriting and acting, and continued his two-decade love of horseback riding, an interest he shares with his wife, Susan Noon and their daughter, Nora Spellane. He has had a lifelong interest in the culture, history and music of Italy and the Celtic and Nordic nations where he has roots on his father’s side.
Andrea Balzano’s grandmother was born in Bonefro in Molise. In the United States, she met and married Andrea’s grandfather, who was from Missanello in Basilicata. During her first AMHS meeting in 2015, Andrea met a new member who was born in Bonefro and has subsequently confirmed through Ancestry.com DNA testing that they are cousins!
Andrea works as a prospect development professional at World Wildlife Fund in DC, and previously worked for higher education, community development, and cause-related nonprofits, including Pomona College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Bennington College, Cornell University, Enterprise Community Partners, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, and Just Detention International. She also volunteers as a development and communications consultant and grant writer, helping small nonprofits to develop the skills and systems needed to build and sustain major giving programs. She has written articles for professional publications and attended Goddard College in Vermont and The Claremont University in California.
Alfred Del Grosso is a native Washingtonian who grew up in the Fort Washington area of Prince Georges County and currently resides in Kensington, Montgomery County. Following graduation from the University of Maryland, College Park he began work at the Food and Drug Administration. He graduated from the American University with a Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry in 1991. He will be retiring from the government at the end of this year after over 42 years of service. He has been married to Diana Marks Del Grosso for 29 years, they have two children Adriana, 21, currently residing in Boulder, CO and Anthony, 19, currently a student at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA.
Al has been interested in Italian language and heritage for most of his adult life. He has taken Italian classes at Casa Italiana and the Italian Cultural Society as well as studying independently. His Italian roots are in Roccamandolfi, Molise, from where his grandfather immigrated in 1911 and in the province of Avellino in Campania from where his paternal great-grandparents immigrated in the 1890s.
Al has been active in several professional, fraternal, cultural and religious organizations. He has been an AMHS member for several years and would be happy to serve the Society as a member of the Board.