Women Pioneers of Buffalo
In the fall of 1942, two little Sicilian American girls first
met, as fellow kindergartners at Buffalo’s brand-new Public
School Number 18, on West Avenue and Hampshire. They were my
future wife Angela Yvonne Bongiovanni, daughter of Sicilians
from Montalbano di Elicona and Mussomeli; and JoAnn Giambelluca,
the child of parents descended from the towns of Serradifalco
and Vallelunga Pratameno.
Angie and JoAnn grew to be fast friends through their nine years
at School 18, where their future successes were foreshadowed by
their youthful accomplishments, Angie as an essayist and
Vice-President of the 1951 graduating class, and JoAnn as its
Valedictorian and Jesse Ketchum Medal winner.
Their friendship was interrupted when the Giambelluca’s moved to
Cheektowaga, where JoAnn’s father Ludi (Loreto), a pharmacist,
opened Larry’s Pharmacy on Dick Road, while Angie enrolled at
Lafayette High School, from which her favorite cousin Tom Lo
Presti had prepared himself to attend pharmacy school at Union
Not surprisingly, both Angie and JoAnn chose pharmacy for their
careers, and they were reunited as freshmen at the University
of Buffalo Pharmacy School in the fall of 1956. At the time,
women pharmacists were a rarity in Buffalo, but Angie and JoAnn
comprised a group of pioneering women at UB in the late 1950’s,
including the freshman pharmacy class of 1956, which welcomed
the largest enrollment of women in the department’s history.
They included Angie and JoAnn; Maria Tomaselli; Jean Manta, Rose
Marie Mastrantonio; Mary Ferruzza; Rose Quagliana; and Margaret
Crimaldi, whose sister Rose Marie had started there in 1955.
Margaret Crimaldi Quinn completed her pharmacy baccalaureate and
went on to finish law school. Rose Marie Crimaldi Madejski
became a community pharmacist and later was a Clinical Assistant
Professor at UB.
Rose married Dr. Jan Madejski and they raised two children who
became physicians. Marge and Rose are descendants of the town
of San Pier Niceto, Sicily.
Angie Bongiovanni Coniglio and JoAnn Giambelluca Skaros became
pharmacists: Angie at Miller Drugs on the West Side, and JoAnn
at Larry’s Pharmacy in Cheektowaga.
As Community Pharmacists, they carried out their duties in an
era in which pharmacists considered their patrons not as
‘customers’, but as patients and human beings. Together, along
with the other UB women pioneers, they served generations of
Western New Yorkers with competence and caring. Angie and JoAnn,
and their families, are still dear friends to this day.