Meet Carlton Senior Living’s resident spotlight- Sylvia Thomas. A second generation American, Sylvia’s parents both immigrated from Prosecco in Northern Italy, the region from which the sparkling wine, AKA “Italian Champagne” is created!  She was born in Akron, Ohio on February 16, 1930 the youngest of four daughters to parents Gelindo and Margaret Ortolano.

At the time of Gelindo and Margaret’s immigration economic and political hardships in Italy were motivating factors bringing people to America. Between 1900 and 1915, 3 million Italians immigrated to America, which was the largest nationality of “new immigrants.”  “New Immigration,” refers to the third and largest wave of immigration from Europe and consisted of Slavs, Jews, and Italians. This differs from the “Old Immigration” which consisted of Germans, Irish, British, and Scandinavians that occurred throughout the 19th century.

Akron was home to three major tire manufacturing companies which were hiring immigrants, consequently a community of others from Italy developed there.  Gelindo worked for Goodyear Tire for many years but eventually became a cement contractor running his own business.

Sylvia says she was spoiled being the baby of the family and had lots of love and attention.  She followed in her older sister’s footsteps and became a dietician graduating from The University of Akron.   This is where she met her husband William Thomas through RooCatholic, a Catholic Student Organization which has been at the University of Akron since 1936. Sylvia was at a dance and cut in to dance with William and things progressed from there!  They were married in December 1950.

The couple were blessed with four children who were all born in Ohio.  Daughter Margarite was born in October 1951 followed by son Craig, then Dennis, and finally Mary Rebecca “Becky.”

Due to frequent job transfers the family moved around a bit, first to Utah for a time when the children were young.  They spent a lot of time camping and made trips to visit all the National Parks.  In 1969 they moved to Redlands California and the three older children went off to college as they graduated high school.  From there the couple and their youngest child Becky moved to Alaska where William worked as an engineer and Sylvia as an expediter on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS).  Becky stayed in Alaska and continues to live there to this day. TAPS is one of the world’s largest pipeline systems which was built between 1974 and 1977, after the 1973 oil crisis caused a sharp rise in oil prices in the U.S.  The pipeline posed a wide range of difficulties for engineers due to the extreme cold and the difficult, isolated terrain.  There were several more transfers and subsequent moves between Texas, California, Alaska, and then back to California, with Bill and Sylvia finally settling in Pleasant Hill.

Sylvia has lived at Carlton since April 2018 and can be found participating in Word and Brain Games, group exercise, musical events and playing cards.  She loves to play bridge which she started playing in college and has played all her life and continues today.  Sylvia is very sharp and has a flair for language and is a great asset at group crossword!  She is also an accomplished seamstress and knitter who made all her daughters’ clothing and amazing knitted articles including a beautiful cardigan sweater that she wears.  Sylvia is a fun and friendly addition to our Carlton community.

View additional Resident Spotlight articles.

Written by Mary Ann Ashby, Personal Expressions Assistant at Carlton Senior Living Pleasant Hill

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