“My mother wanted me to become a doctor, but I eventually chose to become a scholar of Italian-American culture,” says Candeloro. After a distinguished career in education, Dominic is now the curator/head librarian, archivist, go-to-guy and alter-ego at the library in the Italian Cultural Center at Casa Italia in Stone Park. And he does it just about full time, and on a voluntary basis.
His father, Lodovico, was born in 1898 in Pianibbe Rapitella (a small village of Casoli in the province of Chieti). In 1922, he embarked to Cuba, and after six months he boarded a ship for illegal immigrants to New Orleans. Candeloro has located the document that identifies his father as a “stowaway” with no money on his person. From there, Lodovico somehow managed to reach Chicago to work as a laborer with fellow Italian immigrants in the Taylor Street area.
“My mother, Yolanda Giannetti, was brought to Chicago Heights, the industrial suburb of Chicago. She emigrated in 1914, when she was just 5 years old, with her mother and an aunt, from Amaseno (Frosinone). My parents met when a relative of my mother, who was also a friend of my father, introduced them in 1930. They married in 1931 during the depths of the economic depression.”
The oldest of three children, Dominic was born in 1940. Dominic did not disappoint the dreams of parents as he was successful in school, and became a professor of history, which led him to rediscover his ethnic identity. In 1972, Dominic visited his homeland with his wife Carol. He returned enthusiastic about his cultural identity. In 1978, he agreed to teach at the University of Illinois, with the help of the Italian American Executives of Transportation, a local club that wanted to revive Italian-American studies in colleges. It was the beginning of a professional career that would turn him into a champion of Italian culture — dedicated to improving the lives of folks from our community, helping all of us to not abandon our rich ancestral ethnicity.
Candeloro included in his courses the rediscovery of novels by Jerre Mangione, Pietro Di Donato and John Fante, and built in information about Chicago, conferences, and an archive dedicated to the great names of Italian culture. Soon, he became an administrator at Governors State University and also president and tireless promoter of the Italian Cultural Center. His travels in Italy became frequent because of the conferences he attended as a teacher and humanist. In 1991, in Perugia, he coordinated a conference. In 1997, he helped organize an official visit to the sister city of San Benedetto del Tronto by a delegation from Chicago Heights. “I feel strongly about my duty to give voice to our culture. The connection to Italy today represents for me a cornerstone of our tradition and I will fight to ensure these do not disappear entirely in the ‘melting pot.'”
Candeloro became deputy mayor of Chicago Heights and executive director of the American Italian Historical Association. He has published “Chicago Ethnic,” (1981) “Suburban Italians,” “Making History” (1990), ‘Italians in Chicago” (1999), “Images of America” (2000) and has also published in prestigious Italian and American magazines (Altreitalie, Illinois History Teacher, Prologue: The Journal of the National Archives, American Journal of Economics and Sociology, The Italian American Encyclopedia). He is a member of the Chicago Historical Society and the Illinois State Historical Society. He has become a reference point for the Department of Cultural Anthropology at the University of Rome, for the Agnelli Foundation of Turin and the NIAF.
“One of the greatest satisfactions, something that gives me paternal pride, is that my daughter Gina has studied at the University of Perugia, and both my daughters are interested in the Italian culinary tradition. At home we have never given up certain habits, and it is very touching to see the girls prepare for the Italian sweets, ciambelle, at Easter.”
Anthony J. Fornelli, one of our most respected leaders, say of Dominic: “Casa Italia is extremely fortunate to have this altruistic, highly educated and motivated community leader serving us, especially on a volunteer basis, as our historian, author and vouch safer of all things Italian in the Chicago area.”