Serafino (“Sal”) G. Avella was born July 27, 1928 in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Italian immigrants Christina Regine and Serafino Avella, Sr., a tinsmith with his own shop and 14 children. Sal attended Central High School in Providence, and spent his working career (52 years) as a meatcutter, taking time out to serve in the Army during the Korean War (1950-1952).
Cecile Foster and Louis Rosa from the Rhode Island Mineral Hunters Club got Sal interested in mineral collecting in 1960 and were close collecting partners until 1970 when they both passed away. Sal immediately began selling minerals he found in 1960, on a part-time basis, opening the Apple Valley Minerals shop in Smithfield, Rhode Island in 1962. Following his retirement in 1989 he devoted full-time to his mineral business. His shop displayed many beautiful minerals and fossils native to Rhode Island, including amethysts from Hopkinton, fossils from Jamestown, pyrite from Cranston, quartz from Diamond Hill, and much more. He attended his first Tucson Show in 1975, and established the Sal Avella "Best of Show Theme" Award for the Rhode Island Mineral Hunters organization.
Sal was a long-time avid field-collector. For many years he collected talc and asbestos in Johnston Rhode Island, and ventured into Maine and New Hampshire as well, but one of his favorite collecting sites was the Hopkinton, Rhode Island amethyst occurrence, which he co-discovered and developed with his close friend, John Rakovan. His collection of thumbnail-size minerals numbered about 9,000 specimens. He also favored Michigan coppers (60 specimens), antique microscopes and goniometers, and English and German fossils collected around 1820-1830 (of which he had 3,000 to 4,000 specimens).
Sal had one of the few lifetime subscriptions to the Mineralogical Record (offered for only a short time in the early years). He co-wrote two published articles: “Amethyst on milky quartz from Hopkinton, Rhode Island” (1995, Mineralogical Record) and “Amethyst sceptered quartz from Ashaway Village, Hopkinton, Rhode Island” (1986, Rocks & Minerals).
Sal and his wife Dotty had two sons, Paul and David, and one daughter Elizabeth; none were involved in the mineral business, but his close friend Frederick E. Corcoran (1924-2007) helped in the business for 29 years. Sal lived at 7 Homestead Avenue in Smithfield, Rhode Island 02917 since 1960. He passed away quietly in his sleep on December 27, 2013, at the age of 85.
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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