17 May 2010

What I have in common with Ronnie James Dio

Yesterday a great singer died: Ronnie James Dio – just Dio to fans like me. Ronnie James Dio was born Ronald James Padavona 10 July, 1942 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, an only child in an Italian family. They lived in Portsmouth until the family moved to Cortland, New York early in his life. With his first wife, Loretta Berardi, Dio adopted a son, Dan. His second marriage was to Wendy Galaxiola. Dio's father Pat, Wendy and Dan, and two grandchildren survive him. All this is from Dio's obituaries today. I found myself wondering what his family's story was. Here's what I found today.

I guessed his father Pat might have been born 25 years (+/-) prior to 1942. I searched for Pat* Padavano in New York with that approximate age and came up with just one good candidate in the 1930 census: Patrick Padavano, age 11 (born abt 1919), with older brothers John and Peter, living in Cortland, New York. The head of the house, presumably Dio’s grandfather, was Anthony Padavano, a steel worker in a wire mill. Anthony and his wife were born in Italy, and in 1930 they owned their own home worth about $5000. Anthony Padavano does not appear ten years earlier in the 1920 census. On the other hand, Antonio Padavano is in Cortland in the 1920 census along with the rest of the family to confirm this is the same fellow. When researching immigrants expect name changes. Patrick’s older siblings are John and Piero – not Peter, another name change. Neither Antonio nor his wife could read or write English. Finally, the earliest record I found today for Antonio in this country is his 1917 WW I draft registration record. Back then he's married with only his two oldest sons.

Back to my original question: what do I have in common with Dio? He and I are both grandchildren of immigrants who came to New York. I look forward to contributions to come from the grandchildren of today's immigrants arriving in New York and San Francisco and maybe even Arizona somehow. But I'm not sure any of them will sing as well as Dio.


  1. Hi Dan. A reader on my site sent me a link to this post. I really like the research you did here. I have a history of Ronnie Dio's early career at www.padavona.com. I was wondering if I could quote some of what you put here. I'd give you credit, of course. You can go to the history section of my site to see what I've done. If it's ok, just shoot me an email through the contact form on that site. Thanks! Jeremy.

  2. Hi Dan. I'm an editor of the hungarian wikipedia. Could I use your post to enlarge the article about Ronnie James Dio? I also would be grateful for permission to use one of the pictures, you made. Please write me through the contact on my editor page.

  3. Just wondering... why would you search for Padavano while Ronnie's real name was Padavona? Or am I missing something?

  4. It was not unusual back then yo change the spellings of last names. Ronnie's Father Pat was my father's 1st cousin