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Opening Day of The Cleveland Italian American Heritage Month

On Monday evening , October 3rd, we went to the official opening of Cleveland Italian American Heritage Month in the Rotunda at Cleveland City Hall which was put on by the Cleveland Italian American Heritage Committee of which Mayor Frank Jackson and City Councilman Matt Zone served as honorary co-chairs and included such people as img_5019 Ms. Pamela Dorazio Dean from the Western Reserve Historical Society and Ms. Rose A. Zitiello, Vice President of the Justinian Forum. We got to talk to Ms. Dean for a moment and she told us to convey her best wishes to Ms. Margaret W. Wong whom she admires very much.

Throughout the evening a lot was said about the values of Italians and/or Italian Americans so we were motivated to look up some of the qualities most associated with them. Accordingly, we turned to a "reference.com" on our iPhone and found out that they included friendly, hospitable, intelligent, gentle, tasteful, and family oriented. We, ourselves, would add hard-working to the list if it was not there.

Near the start of the program, Councilman Zone paid a loving tribute to Mayor Jackson whose mother was an Italian American. He said that the mayor shared their values and that he brings these values to work with him every day. He thus considered the Mayor to be a "humble public servant" instead of a politician and for that we should all be grateful.

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Mayor Jackson was indeed quite moved by the tribute. In a letter of"Greetings" that appeared in the program booklet, the Mayor wrote that "the influence and heritage of Italians can be seen in every corner of our city from the Italian Cultural Garden to the stonemasonry at Lakeview Cemetery."

Sister Dianne Piunno, SND, of St. Ignatius of Antioch Church gave the opening prayer in which she said that three of the things that distinguished one's Italian heritage were "faith, family and fine food." She went on to say that this evening several Italian Americans would be honored who have made an "indelible impact on Cleveland."

And those honored who were Mr. Mario Ciano (Business); Mr. Joseph J. and Mr. Marie Brescia Frank (Lifetime Achievement); The Di Fiore Family (Entrepreneurship); and Mr. Frank F. Fiorilli (Individual) certainly have made important contributions to the Cleveland/Northeast Ohio area.

img_5018During their acceptance speeches all of the honorees praised the support they have received over the years from their families and friends. They also expressed pride in their Italian heritage which instilled in them the before-mentioned qualities that have helped them succeed. Lastly, they urged the everyone there (that included several families with small youngsters) to pass on the traditions and culture of their own heritage to their children.

Thanks to the program booklets that contained extensive biographies of all of the honorees, we learned that Mr. Fiorilli, who worked successfully as a teacher and in Cleveland's Dept. of Human Services, is famous for the tours he has given of Little Italy since 1970.

We also learned that Mr. Tonino Di Fiore was born in Rionero Sannitico, Italy where he learned to be an auto mechanic. He immigrated to the United States with his family back in 1970 and brought with him his extensive knowledge of automobiles which helped him to succeed here. Today his family owns many auto parts stores and warehouses that enable them to provide employment for some 500 people.

Mr. Ciano was born in Italy too and came to the United States at age 10 in a group of post World War II orphans that was organized by Catholic Charities. After a while, he was adopted into an Italian family here in the U.S. Over the years, he has assisted many families in matters pertaining to adoptions. Before the ceremonies, we complimented him on his good works and he meant it sincerely when he told us that "God has been good to me" and because of that he has been able to do so many good things for others.img_5004

Mr. and Mrs. Frank have been involved in all kinds of projects launched by local community organizations, Italian American organizations, and the Holy Rosary Church which they have attended for many years. Mr. Frank, himself, is not Italian by birth but during his acceptance speech he acknowledged that the Italian community welcomed him with open arms after his marriage to Marie and the ensuing relationships have been the most "friendly, open, and supportive" that a person can ask for.

Near the end of the program, we were addressed by Mr. Basil Russo, National President of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America. Mr. Russo said that one common thread that all of the honorees possessed was that they all came from and went on to make "exceptional families" and perhaps the most important characteristic of being Italian was the maintenance and support of family. He reminded us all that Columbus Day will be celebrated next week and invited us all to come to Little Italy to take part in the celebration. He contended that Columbus Day signifies a historical event that would eventually lead to people from all over the world immigrating to America/the United States. Moreover, Columbus Day is a time when one should pay tribute to his/her ancestry who were brave enough to make the long journey here.

Then it was time for the closing prayer which, once again, was given by Sister Dianne Piunno. Once again Sister Dianne acknowledged the importance of "faith, family and fine food" but this time took things a step further when she said that nothing is more important than a family being able to come together at a mealtime to praise God and then break bread together.

By:

Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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