The Grand Lodge of Illinois/Wisconsin, Order Sons of Italy in America, celebrated its 91st annual Columbus Banquet on Oct. 10 at the White Eagle in Niles.
Richard R. Della Croce, Columbus Banquet Chair and Master of Ceremonies for the evening, welcomed the guests and introduced the Grand Lodge Officers, honored award recipients and the Columbus Queen representative as they entered the hall.
Highlighting the evening were the presentations of the 2015 Humanitarian Award and the Columbus Patriot Award. In addition, the Illinois Sons of Italy Foundation awarded nine scholarships to Italian American students who are continuing their education.
Receiving the Humanitarian Award was Nick DiNovo on behalf of the DiNovo Family of 115 Bourbon Street. The Cajun-themed bar/restaurant complex was established 17 years ago by Nick who was later joined by his late father Anthony “Pops” DiNovo and his brother, Vince. Their fundraisers and benefit programs has helped many people from all walks of life get through very difficult times. Numerous events have been held at 115 Bourbon Street where groups and organizations are given the proper support, funds and tools that are essential for success.
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Robert Ruffolo was presented with the 2015 Columbus Patriot Award. Ruffolo is the United States Diplomat to the Republic of Italy and the Office of Defense Cooperation’s chief operations and security in that country. He has served in the United States Army for 28 years during which time he has helmed crucial and sensitive missions that have taken him across the globe from Iraq, Egypt and Bosnia to Japan and ultimately Rome where he has served in the U.S Embassy since 2012. A brief list of Ruffolo’s decorations includes the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, two Bronze Stars, two Meritorious Service Medals, three Commendations Medals, a Joint Service Achievement Medal, a Master Parachutist Medal and seven medals for overseas campaigns.
In presenting the awards, Grand Lodge President Marie Marsalli, stated, “Both gentlemen truly deserve being honored by OSIA and demonstrate their true love and support of their Italian heritage and culture in their daily lives. They serve their community and country with pride, respect and dignity.”
Receiving the Leone d’Oro scholarship was Marissa Politano, daughter of Ralph & Denise Politano; the Illinois Sons of Italy Foundation scholarship was Victoria Schwieger, daughter of Scott & Lisa Schwieger; the Chicago Heights Lodge scholarship was Julian Hansen, son of Carl & Margherita Hansen; the Americo Vespucci Lodge scholarship was Sydney Dupuis, daughter of Roxane Dupuis; the Grand Lodge of IL/WI scholarship was Skylar Blasz, daughter of James & Michele Blasz; the Filippo Mazzei Greater Milwaukee Lodge scholarship was Zachary DiTorrice; the Southwest Lodge scholarship was Lea Cameron; the Illinois Sons of Italy Foundation scholarship was Cristina Loizzo; and, the Mayor Ronald Serpico scholarship was Michael Serwetnyk.
Attending the festivities were Elizabeth Villapiano Carrol, Columbus Queen representative; Enza Raineri, JCCIA Vice President; the Rev. John Belmonte, OSIA Chaplain; Grand Lodge Council officers; lodge presidents; and members from the filial lodges.
Entertainment for the evening was provided by Nino Folino. Mr. Folino’s performance of the American and Italian Anthems and “Proud to be an American” were outstanding.
Photos by Tim Townsend.