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Behind-the-scenes hero Dominic Gambino

Some benefactors are drawn to the limelight that their generosity attracts and others prefer to work their charitable magic behind the scenes. Domenico Gambino is cut of the latter cloth. A co-owner of the Tony’s Finer Food grocery empire, Gambino has been a quiet force for good in the Italian-American community for decades, deploying resources and leveraging connections with little fanfare and great effect. “What I do I do from the heart and because it makes me feel good,” Gambino explains. “That’s all the thanks I need.” Born in Ciminna, Sicily, in 1945, Domenico is one of eight children of ...

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Rep. DeLuca saves the day!

It’s amazing what someone can accomplish with a little passion and diplomacy. State Rep. Anthony DeLuca’s recent defense of Columbus Day is a shining example. As we all know, annual celebrations of Columbus have been under assault for decades, with cities and states across the country either flat-out eliminating them or supplanting them with celebrations honoring Native Americans. The latest major municipality to deep six Columbus Day was Los Angeles, where the city council voted 14-1 to replace it with Indigenous People’s Day following a fractious public hearing that attracted national media attention. But here in Illinois, our celebration still ...

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Answering Columbus’ critics

  Spanish philosopher George Santayana once noted that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. When it comes to Columbus, the Italian-American community seems condemned to have history rewritten right out from underneath it for the same reason. To be fair, backing Columbus has been a no-brainer for much of the last century. His mind-boggling accomplishments had earned him the adoration of Americans in general along with a special place in the hearts of Americans of Italian descent. Defying conventional wisdom as well as outlandish odds, he sailed west toward the Indies and into the great unknown. In doing ...

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Learning from history

  In the column I wrote last month about widespread efforts to blot out Columbus Day, I touched upon a game-changing encounter that took place a quarter of a century ago. In July 1991, Native- and Italian-American leaders entered a room as adversaries and left as allies who embraced each other’s cultures and supported each other’s causes. As a result, peace reigned over Chicago’s quincentennial Columbus Day celebrations. But how exactly did this remarkable détente occur? For the answers, I turned to its principal architect: Dominic DiFrisco. A gifted public relations professional and talented mediator, he served as president of ...

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Defending Columbus

  Columbus Day is under assault as never before. Once unabashedly celebrated throughout the land, it was hailed initially by President Harrison in 1892, designated a national holiday by President Roosevelt in 1934, and pegged to the second Monday in October by President Nixon in 1972. A couple of halcyon decades followed during which schools, banks and governmental agencies across the country closed each year in honor of the Admiral of the Ocean Sea. The hero of the day is particularly cherished by Italian Americans, who have celebrated his history-altering accomplishments and shared ancestry with parades that back to San ...

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