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Skilling Family collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 19.0009

Content Description

This collection contains letters, artifacts, photographs, and ephemera from Vincent and Leona Mazzoni's time served during World War II. Leona and Vince wrote letters to their sister, Josephine Gaudio, who saved all of these items. Both Vincent and Leona served in the Pacific Theater. Leona served in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps in the China Burma Indian Theater with the 172nd General Hospital and Vincent in the U.S. Army on New Guinea.


  • 1941-1946
  • Other: Date accessioned: 2019-05-28


Language of Materials Note


Conditions Governing Access Note

This collection is open to all researchers.

Conditions Governing Use Note

All requests for permission to quote, publish, broadcast or otherwise reproduce from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Associate Dean for Special Collections & Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Florida State University Libraries as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher.

Biographical/Historical Note

Leona Mazzoni was born in Pennabilli, Italy on March 3, 1911. She was raised in Venice, Italy and emigrated to the U.S.A. in 1920 at age nine with her mother Elizabeth and sister Josephine. Her aunt Maria Mazzoni, Martin’s sister, also accompanied them on the ship. They arrived at the Port of New York and immigrated through Ellis Island. They joined Leona’s father Martin in Hazleton, PA where Martin had immigrated in 1910.

She graduated from Hazleton High School in 1929 and from St. Joseph’s Hospital School of Nursing in Reading, PA in 1932. She then worked as registered nurse at Pennsylvania State Hospital, Corrigan Maternity Hospital, and Public Health Clinic in Hazleton, PA.

After her parents’ deaths, she lived with her sister, Josephine and brother-in-law, Carmen, in 1938. Her two brothers, Vincent and Louis, also lived in the household. Carmen provided the house, Josephine was the homemaker, and Leona provided financial support to raise the two orphaned brothers.

In 1942, Leona joined the U.S. Army as a lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corps and was assigned to the Army Air Force base at Key Field in Meridian, Mississippi where she met Francis Curie Skilling (1900-1968), a medical officer who had volunteered for the Army Air Corps in 1942. He had been a practicing ophthalmologist since 1935 in Miami, FL until his death in 1968.

She was later assigned to MacCluskey General Hospital in 1944 and served in Texas and Bushnell, Utah for overseas training. She was attached to the 172nd Hospital Unit and later the 142nd Hospital Unit of the University of Maryland. She served in the CBI (China – Burma – India) theater in 1945. Her main station was in Calcutta, India in a colonial hospital leased from the British government and staffed by Americans. She served as an RN with the nursing unit.

While in India she flew to Karachi and Darjeeling on USAAF transport aircraft. She flew “over the Hump” (the Himalayas) and into Kunming, China. She was usually the only female on the aircraft (C-47s) when wounded soldiers were being carried.

During her tour of duty overseas, she corresponded with Major Francis Skilling. She also corresponded with her sister Josephine and her nephews Robert and John Gaudio, known as “Bobby” and “Jackie”. She corresponded with her brother Vincent, who served as an enlisted man in the US Army Chemical Corps.

Vincent was sent to Hollandia, New Guinea where he developed a mysterious blood disorder in 1945. He was returned to the U.S. mainland in 1945 and entered Walter Reed Army General Hospital in Washington, D.C. for treatment. Some of his surviving letters to his sister Josephine make up part of the collection.

In 1945, Leona was reassigned to Walter Reed Hospital as a nurse and was allowed to help take care of her brother Vincent, who was dying. After his death on September 20, 1945, his funeral was held in Hazleton, PA at the local parish church.

Leona had been in touch with Francis C. Skilling, who was still assigned to the deactivated hospital at Key Field, MS. After he obtained leave, they reunited at his family’s home in Chevy Chase, MD where she met his parents. They had been separated for nearly two and a half years. They then traveled by train to Pennsylvania where they were married on Monday, December 3, 1945.

He was assigned to Ft. Sill, OK as a medical officer where they lived until he was discharged from active duty in 1946. They returned to his previous place of residence in Miami, FL where he re-opened his private ophthalmology practice . They had three children who were born in Miami Beach, FL: Francis, Jr., Vincent, and Mary Emma.

Francis C. Skilling was born on August 26, 1900 in Chicago, IL and passed away on August 8, 1968 in Miami, FL. Leona passed away on May 6, 1997 in Tallahassee, FL. They are buried at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic cemetery in Miami, FL. Their children currently reside in Tallahassee (Francis), Clayton, GA (Vincent), and Washington, D.C. (Mary Emma Hotze). They are the donors of the Mazzoni/Skilling Collection to the Florida State University Institute on WWII and the Human Experience.

Prepared by Francis C. Skilling, Jr. on May 8, 2019.


5.25 Linear Feet (5 half boxes and 1 oversized box (31.5x23.25"))

Custodial History

Transferred from the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience to FSU Libraries Special Collections & Archives in July 2022.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Leona Mazzoni's son, Frank Skilling.

Skilling Family Collection
Sara Underwood
June 5, 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the FSU Special Collections & Archives Repository

116 Honors Way
PO Box 3062047
Tallahassee FL 32306-2047 US