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The Cagli Media Project
Institute for Education
in International Media
Andrew Ciofalo, Director

Story By Katrina Hickman

If you’re sitting in the main piazza in Cagli, Italy, and you hear someone speaking Italian with a Texas twang, it’s probably Thomas Anderson, better known as “Andre” or “Andre the American.”

After 44 years of living in Cagli, Anderson still has his thick Texan accent. “I can’t get rid of that,” he says. “I speak a little Italian, but not like the Italians.”

Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Anderson first came to Italy in 1943 as a young soldier fighting against the Germans. During the war he was stationed in different American bases in Italy, including Cattolica, north of Rimini.

A friend of his lived in a small town nearby called Cagli, and every so often, Anderson and nine of his friends would go into town for dances. It was during one of these visits that he met his wife, Clio Lumbrici. They were married in 1947.

Tom recounting the story of his marriage

Five months after their wedding, a jeep that Thomas was riding in, swerved off the road to avoid hitting a biker, and crashed into a tree. Anderson flew out of the car, breaking both of his legs.

He stayed overnight in a Spoleto hospital; then fellow soldiers transported him to an Army hospital in Rome. After about two months in Rome, Anderson was flown to Brooks General Army Hospital in San Antonio, Texas.

For two years he was transferred from hospital to hospital, until he was finally released in 1949.

In one of the surgeries doctors removed a bone from his right hip and placed it in his left leg. At the time of his release his legs were still crooked and he had difficulty walking so he was declared 100 percent disabled.

Because of his disability Anderson was unable to remain in the U.S. Army. He and his wife stayed in the United States for a while, but Clio had trouble finding work. In Italy she was a certified pharmacist and could work anywhere in the country, but in America she would have had to get certified in each state she lived in.

She also really wanted to return home to Cagli, so after traveling back and forth for a few years, in 1963, they decided to stay in Italy for good.

At first it was hard for Anderson to find a job because so many Italians were out of work; employers would hire an Italian before they hired an American. Anderson eventually got a job as a civilian contractor with the U.S. Army in Rome.

Until 1980, Anderson’s hospital stays were paid for by the Veteran’s Administration, but then as he became a tax-paying resident of Italy, he was able to take advantage of his new country’s universal healthcare system. Anderson notes that in Italy patients are treated whether they’re rich or poor.

Over the past six decades, Thomas has had to use crutches or a wheelchair to get around. Today, at 87, he has various assistive devices, including a stair lift in his home and a mobile wheelchair that he uses to get around town.

“In my little ‘car’ I can go anywhere I want to,” he says proudly. Anderson still misses some things about American culture – like supermarkets and big, bustling, lit-up cities. And his family. His only son lives in United States.

When reflecting on whether life is better in America or Italy he says, “All in all, it’s all the same.”

Video by Lauren Pappas
Photos by Stephanie Meros
Web Design by Reid Johnson