The Italian American Executives of Transportation honored Sam Cicinelli, Al and Marlene Comella, and Vince Gerasole on Nov. 19 at Alta Villa Banquets in Addison. (708-212-1051)
Sam Cicinelli is the leader of one of the largest Mechanics’ Union in the country. He is the Directing Business Representative of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), Automobile Mechanics’ Union Local 701, representing more than 6,400 active members and over 4,200 retired members. He is extremely proud of his heritage and has always displayed a passion to help those in need.
Sam is the son of Ursula, who worked as a beautician, and Vito, who worked multiple jobs to provide for his family. He was born in 1966 on Chicago’s Northwest Side. He is the third child of four. His siblings are Angela, Mark and Tom.
In 2008, Sam married his current wife, Sandra (Badalamenti). They both were previously married and were given a second chance at love. Sandra’s son Anthony (Bellantuono), joins the beautiful family Sam and Sandra were blessed with, which includes twins Giuliana and Nicholas as well as the youngest, Dominic. Sandy is extremely supportive of Sam and the work schedule associated with his profession, knowing the importance of how Sam feels helping the membership. Sam’s success can be attributed to the work Sandy does at home running the household.
Sam began working at an early age as a paperboy as well as a cashier at a local drug store while in grammar school. While in high school, he worked as the school custodian full-time to help his parents pay for his education.
He went to the University of Illinois at Chicago and Oakton Community College to earn his Associate’s Degree while working full time for the Cook County Forest Preserve. He also earned a degree in Automotive Technology at Lincoln Technical Institute, after which he was hired at a Cadillac/GMC dealership where he worked for 12 years as a Master Technician. While there, Sam served as the Shop Steward as well as the Vice President on the Executive Board for IAM Mechanics’ Union Local 701.
In 2000, Sam was asked to serve full-time for his Union as an Organizer. He was then asked to serve as a Business Representative in late 2001. He continued with his passion defending and representing workers in their employment relationship. He negotiated several agreements, pursued hundreds of grievances and presented several arbitrations on behalf of the Union’s membership.
While working as a Business Representative, Sam decided to return to school to further his education to better represent his members. He earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Labor Studies at the National Labor College in Baltimore in 2005 and his Master of Arts Degree in Legal and Ethical Studies at the University of Baltimore in 2007.
Sam was appointed as a Trustee on the Mechanics’ Union Local 701’s Health and Welfare and Pension Funds. He also set up the Union’s website and was the webmaster until he became the Directing Business Representative. He was the Assistant Editor of the Union’s newsletter from 1995 until becoming the editor in 2002.
During his tenure as Business Representative, Sam launched the Union’s Apprenticeship Program, building it from the ground up. Sam also built the Union’s 401(k) Program from the ground up and currently serves as Chairman of that Fund. He also started a Scholarship Fund and a Benevolent Fund in an effort to give back to the members of the Union in need.
Sam has always had a passion and the drive to assist those in need. He continues to work to level the playing field allowing for everyone, Union or not, an opportunity to provide for themselves and their family. He’s a dedicated family man who feels very strongly about providing for them. His allegiance is primarily to his family and secondarily to his career on behalf of the entire labor movement. Some would view their job as “just a job,” but Sam couldn’t imagine doing anything other than what he’s currently doing.
Alan and Marlene Comella
Growing up together as friends since the age of 5 at 21st and Wesley in Berwyn, Alan and Marlene Comella were married in 1972. If asked what their greatest accomplishment in life is, their response would be their daughters, Kim and Tammy. Naturally this would be followed by their six beautiful grandchildren: Mariano, Vittoria, Alessia, Olivia, Luigi and Joseph.
Their next greatest achievement is Violet Flower Shop in Berwyn. Since 1978, the shop has been operated as a family affair, raising both children and grandchildren there while building a successful business. The flower shop became “their baby” and they worked long hours to nurture and watch it grow. In recognition of this effort, they have been featured in Checkbook Chicago and most recently Chicago Magazine.
Giving back to the community has become a meaningful part of their lives. With several relatives and friends battling breast cancer, the couple launched “Flowers for Hope” to raise funds and awareness in the fight against this dreaded affliction. What started as an in-house event has now blossomed into a street festival complete with live entertainment, raffles and the sale of food and beverages, T-shirts, candy and baked goods, with all funds raised going to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
On June 4, 2011, Disney funded the building of a new park in Berwyn, with one of their requirements being an 850-square-foot children’s vegetable garden. Violet Flower Shop also has greenhouses and a garden center. Using their expertise, they were instrumental in designing the garden and helping the project grow.
Alan has spent endless hours of involvement with the Columbian Club of Chicago, serving two 2-year terms on the Board of Directors. He has also served on the Board of Directors for the Italian American Executives of Transportation as well as on the committee for the IAET Fashion Show Fundraiser in 2015 and 2016. He is a member of the Italian American Civic Organization of Berwyn and the Order of the Sons of Italy, as well as a former board member of the Berwyn Development Corporation.
As a couple, Alan and Marlene complement each other well. Their career enables them to creatively express the thoughts, words, and feelings of others through floral design. It is very rewarding to be able to help people in times of both joy and sorrow. They will continue to operate Violet Flower Shop as both a growing business and an opportunity to reach out to and benefit their community.
Vince Gerasole serves as a general assignment reporter for CBS 2 Chicago. He joined the station in April 2001, and since that time he has anchored and reported for various station newscasts.
Gerasole has been honored for excellence in broadcast journalism throughout his career. He was named the Best Broadcast Reporter in the state by the Associated Press of Illinois in 2002 and Best Newswriter in 2006 and 2007. He has received 14 Emmy Awards for his work at CBS 2 Chicago, including three for outstanding individual reporting (2003, 2004, 2005), two for outstanding writing (2006 and 2007) and one for “Illinois Getaway Guide (2007),” a half-hour special he wrote and hosted. In 2011, he received an Emmy for Best Spot News Coverage while broadcasting live from the blizzard that trapped over 900 cars for nearly a day on Lake Shore Drive.
Gerasole was honored by the Associated Press of Pennsylvania for Best Spot News Coverage. He received the Leonardo da Vinci Award for Excellence in Communications from the Illinois and Wisconsin Grand Lodge of the Order Sons of Italy and The David Award from the IANU Foundation. Gerasole is also the 2006 recipient of the Dante Award from the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans. He is a three-time James Beard Award nominee for Excellence in Broadcast Food Reporting. Before working at CBS 2 Chicago, Gerasole worked at television stations in Atlanta; Honolulu; Washington, D.C.; and Pittsburgh. Fluent in Italian, he began his broadcasting career with the Italian network RAI. Gerasole, his wife and two daughters make their home in Evanston.