WOLCOTT – Leonard Insogna, husband of Mildred Musco Insogna, passed away peacefully on the morning of Feb. 9, 2022, having spent the previous day and evening with family and friends.
He was born Dec. 7, 1921, in Waterbury, the son of Filomina and Antonio Insogna. He was educated at Duggan School and Crosby High School. He was a graduate of Columbia University, where he majored in economics, and did graduate studies in the same discipline.
He, Mildred and their newborn son moved from New York City back to Waterbury in 1950, where he took a position as a purchasing agent at Moe’s Auto Parts. After working there for many years, he returned to his true passion, education, and taught economics at both the Waterbury and Torrington branches of the University of Connecticut.
He was fluent in Italian and German, and served as a translator for Italian POWs during World War II, having volunteered for service in the Army in the middle of his college career. He read the Italian classics in Italian, taking copious notes in the margins of the Divine Comedy. He read the Greek tragedies and all of Shakespeare’s works. He could recite Greek mythology from memory. He loved classical music, particularly Beethoven, but was also the person who introduced his children to American folk music, from the Weavers to Bob Dylan. He loved the outdoors, and family vacations were frequently also camping trips. He was an avid hiker and was a member of a hiking/backpacking club with members less than half his age.
He was both a product of his time and ahead of his time. He grew up during the Great Depression in a large, first-generation, immigrant working-class family. His older siblings worked in the factories in Waterbury and the Naugatuck Valley. Recognizing their brother’s brilliance, they helped fund his college education. He never forgot his roots, and after returning to his community had a profound influence on the lives of many, many people there. His magnetic and empathetic personality coupled with an astounding fund of knowledge and a fierce devotion to social and economic justice were spell-binding, and altered and informed the trajectory of not only the lives of his four children but those in an ever widening circle of family, friends and coworkers. Among them were two young men who readily acknowledge the impact he had on their lives. One went on to become an internationally famous apiarist and head of UConn’s Waterbury branch, and the other a successful dentist who, as a tribute to the influence Leonard had on his life, established a scholarship in Leonard’s and Mildred’s names for students attending the Waterbury branch. Others became grade school teachers, pharmacists, nutritionists, professors of mathematics and biology, dentists, physician’s assistants, physicians, and lawyers for unions.
He and Mildred worked tirelessly for their four children. They instilled in their children not only the value of family and hard work but also of social and economic justice as well as stewardship of the natural world. Because of their efforts, all four were able to attend college and go on to graduate studies in health care and work-place safety. The Insogna home was always full of family and friends usually summoned to share an incredible home cooked meal enriched by far ranging conversation and advice.
He was a political and social activist committed to addressing economic and racial injustice. His activism was shaped by several life experiences and people: by the economic inequities of the Depression, by his uncle who was an anarchist, by workers he met as a union steward for the American Mine Mill and Smelter Workers Union and by socialists he met in the Army. Carlo Tresca visited his parent’s home when he was a young man. In the 1950s, he helped form the local chapter of the National Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy. He was an outspoken advocate for racial justice and in the 1960s helped form a group opposed to the war in Vietnam. He was arrested at one of their protests. He formed the Common Peoples Party in 1968 to support the candidacy of one of his friends for a house seat in the U.S. Congress. He acted locally but had a forward-looking world view, and never lost faith in humanity.
He is survived by his four children, Karl Insogna (wife, Marybeth Gillette), Marta Lisa Insogna (wife, Janet Kniveton), Frederick Joseph Insogna (wife, Martha Hook Insogna) and Salvatore Musco Insogna (wife, Ngoc Hoang). His seven grandchildren are Nicholas Insogna, Timothy Insogna, Iris Insogna, Natalie Insogna, Sofia Kniveton-Insogna, Emma Insogna and Millie An Insogna. He leaves four great- grandchildren, William Insogna, Matthew Insogna, Leonardo Insogna and Esme Insogna. He also leaves a devoted sister-in-law, Linda Musco. He was predeceased by his wife and six siblings, Michael Insogna, Angelo Insogna, Joseph Insogna, Rose Annuli, Anna Mannello and Marge DeCosmo.
A private celebration of his life will be this spring.
Contributions in his memory can be made to the Leonard and Mildred Insogna Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarships for students who attend UConn’s Waterbury Campus. Donations should be specified for that scholarship and mailed to The University of Connecticut Foundation, 2390 Alumni Drive, Suite 3206, Storrs, CT 06269-3206.