Testa Family History
John Testa’s family has over a century long history in the Peekskill/Cortlandt area. John’s great-grandfather Joseph left his home in Cerami, Sicily and arrived in New York in 1890 as one of the first Italian settlers in this area. A barber by trade, Joseph was also an accomplished tenor and musician. During a pleasure trip through Peekskill in 1900, Joseph liked the area so much that he immediately relocated to South Street in Peekskill where he established his business. He retired in 1921. He lived with his wife, Mary, son Louis and daughters Nina and Concetta. Joseph was a founding member of the Christopher Columbus Society in Peekskill and served as president of the organization for many years. He died in 1940.
Born in 1890, John’s grandfather, Louis, enjoyed a productive life in Peekskill as well. He attended Drum Hill School and Peekskill Military Academy. Louis worked as a clerk and interpreter in the Peekskill Post Office, was an active member of the Peekskill Elks Lodge No. 744 and Centennial Hose Company No. 4. He also served as Secretary of the Christopher Columbus Society and as a member of the Peekskill Council of the Knights of Columbus. He married Celia Vozzella in 1914 and had two children, Joseph (John’s father) and Mary. Louis had an untimely death in 1918 at the age of 28 as a victim of the Spanish Influenza epidemic. Louis’ sister Nina was a well-known seamstress in Peekskill and died in 1975. His youngest sister, Concetta, became a well-loved and respected mathematics teacher at Hendrick Hudson High School. She retired from teaching in 1965 and died in 1987.
The Testa family continued in Peekskill with John’s father Joseph L. and mother Clara Suessenbach Testa. Along with four other couples, Joe and Clara established the Guardian Cub Scout Pack 126 (now known as Assumption Pack 127) in 1950. Joe served as the Pack’s first Cubmaster and Clara became a Den Mother. Clara was also active in the Assumption Mother’s Club and the Catholic Daughters. As a boy in Peekskill, Joseph was a member of Boy Scouts Troop 1, the oldest troop in the country. He later went on to become an active member of the Peekskill Fire Patrol and became Grand Knight of the Peekskill Council of the Knights of Columbus. Joseph was a conductor for the New York Central Railroad, a manager of the Peekskill Motor Inn and as a long time employee of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd at Mount Saint Florence in Peekskill (now known as Chapel Hill Estates).
John’s mother, Clara Suessebach, grew up in the Town of Cortlandt as the oldest of 5 children. Clara’s father was of German decent and her mother was from Irish (Murphy) and Scottish (McElroy) stock. They were originally from Williamsport, Pennsylvania and moved to Corlandt in the 1920’s. Her three brothers, William (Bud), James and Richard all served in the US Armed Forces and became well known contributors to the Cortlandt area. Bud and James were active members of the Montrose Fire Department and Richard became the Superintendent of the Buchanan Sewage Treatment Facility. Clara’s sister Evelyn (Sissy) worked for the US Government and traveled throughout the world, eventually retiring to California.
Together Joe and Clara raised five children in Peekskill - Joseph W., Nina, Louis, John G. and William. Joseph died in 1988 and Clara in 1998. John G., former Mayor of Peekskill, along with his wife Nancy and children John Jr. and Katy, proudly continues his family’s tradition of service and commitment to the Peekskill community and surrounding area. In 2009 John was elected Westchester County Legislator District #1 and was re-elected to that position in 2011.