Archive for October, 2010

The Garibaldi-Meucci Museum, and the Italian-American community, lost one of their staunchest advocates on October 18 with the passing of John Dabbene. Mr. Dabbene, who spent most of the last 30 years of his life fighting discrimination and promoting a positive image of Italian-Americans, died of a heart attack shortly after having hip-replacement surgery. He was 72.

Born in Brooklyn on July 30, 1938, Mr. Dabbene attended PS 142, Brooklyn Technical High School, New York Community College, and Polytech Institute where he majored in electrical engineering. He entered the U.S. Army in 1960 and served on active and reserve duty for six years. In 1967 he received certification as an Electrical Lighting Designer. He worked for Con Edison for 43 years and retired in 1999 as their Senior Electrical Designer.

Mr. Dabbene’s efforts touched the entire Italian-American community, but closest to his heart was the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum. His appointment as Chairman and President/CEO in June 2001 began a renaissance for the small historic house. Under his direction, the museum restructured all its programs for schools, colleges and community groups; started a museum gift shop; developed traveling exhibitions; formed a Speaker’s Bureau and completed over $250,000 in restoration projects. Even though he had stepped down as President/CEO of the museum in March, he remained extremely active in all areas of the museum administration.

“John’s whole life was about passion, and it was his relentless passion for the museum that was really the heart of this place,” said Museum Director Nicole Fenton. “He is irreplaceable.”

A few highlights of Mr. Dabbene’s other involvements and achievements include his membership on the board of the Italian-American Legal Defense and Higher Education Fund, and the New York City Italian Heritage and Culture Month Committee. He was President of the Staten Island Chapter of Arba-Sicula, representative of the New York State Commission for Social Justice (CSJ) to the National Conference of Christians and Jews, and a board member of the National Italian-American Media Foundation. He twice served as President of the Wm. C. LaMorte Order Sons of Italy in America (OSIA) Lodge (now Father Capodanno Lodge) and was frequently a delegate to the National OSIA convention. He was a founding member of the New York Commission for Social Justice (CSJ) and served as president from 1993 to 1999 where he developed the first national Positive Image Program. In August 2005, he was appointed the first President Emeritus of CSJ, and in 2009 was awarded the Bene Emeritus Award by OSIA—its highest award for service to the Italian-American community.

Mr. Dabbene is survived by his wife of 48 years, the former Marcy Killberg; sons Michael and Peter and daughter Susan Rose; grandsons Christopher, Matthew and Giovanni, and granddaughter Lucia.



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 The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) has announced that it has received the largest philanthropic gift in its history, a $2.6 million bequest from the estate of the late Victoria J. Mastrobuono.   That’s wonderful  news not just for NIAF but the entire Italian American community.  We hope that Mastrobuono’s example will encourage other Italian American philanthropists to help support the cultural and educational activities of other Italian American groups.

Ms. Mastrobuono. a dedicated supporter and NIAF council member, was a long-time patron of education and the performing arts with a significant history of both identifying and supporting emerging artists and was extremely proud of her rich Italian heritage.

“We are honored by Ms. Mastrobuono’s generous bequest and feel that it acknowledges NIAF’s extraordinary commitment to our educational programs. As the largest single gift in our Foundation’s history, her philanthropic generosity provides financial strength to the Foundation to develop new programs and fulfill our mission,””said  NIAF Vice Chair Hon. Patricia de Stacy Harrison.

According to NIAF, the funds will be used for several new NIAF programs including The Victoria J. Mastrobuono Education Luncheon in perpetuity during the NIAF Convention Weekend; The Victoria J. Mastrobuono Fellowship in the Arts for students pursuing academics in Italy; The Victoria J. Mastrobuono Challenge Grant for Advanced Placement (AP) of Italian for the continued funding of the College Board’s AP Italian Program; The Victoria J. Mastrobuono Distinguished Speakers Series in the Arts, Literature and Music featuring leading experts in their respective fields; The Victoria J. Mastrobuono Digital Archive at NIAF, a public, online index of NIAF’s history and The Victoria J. Mastrobuono Engagement Initiative, an online education, communication and outreach program utilizing new media.

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Thank you, Mr. President, for your thoughtful choice of words in proclaiming October as Italian American Heritage and Culture Month.  Italian Americans are proud of our heritage but we are even more proud to be Americans.

Following is the text of the Presidential Proclamation, as released by the White House this evening:


In the five centuries since Christopher Columbus, a son of Genoa, Italy, first set sail across the Atlantic Ocean, countless individuals have followed the course he charted to seek a new life in America. Since that time, generations of Italian Americans have helped shape our society and steer the course of our history. During Italian American Heritage and Culture Month, we recognize the rich heritage of Americans of Italian descent and celebrate their immeasurable contributions to our Nation.

Bound by enduring values of faith and family, Italian Americans have flourished in all areas of our public and economic life while preserving their proud Italian traditions. Upon arrival in the United States, the Italian American community faced racial, social, and religious discrimination. Yet, Italian Americans have persevered with hope and hard work to reach for the American dream and helped build our great country. As proud service members, they have also defended the liberty and integrity of the United States since the Revolutionary War.

Today, the legacy of these intrepid immigrants is found in the millions of American men, women, and children of Italian descent who strengthen and enrich our country. Italian Americans operate thriving businesses, teach our children, serve at all levels of government, and succeed in myriad occupations. Drawing on the courage and principles of their forebears, they lead in every facet of American life, dedicating their knowledge and skills to the growth of our country.

The Great Seal of the United States declares “out of many, one.” As we forge new futures as a unified people, we must celebrate the unique and vibrant cultures that have written the American story. Many determined individuals have sought our shores as a beacon of hope and opportunity, and their spirit of limitless possibility and example of resolve continues to inspire and guide our Nation. As we honor the long history and vast contributions of Italian Americans, let us recommit to extending the promise of America that they embraced to future generations.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim October 2010 as Italian American Heritage and Culture Month. I call upon all Americans to learn more about the history of Italian Americans, and to observe this month with appropriate programs and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fourteenth day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fifth.


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As Italian Americans prepare to celebrate Columbus Day,  we are tragically reminded  not only of the contributions that Italians have made to America but of Italy’s continuing committment to bring stability and peace in troubled parts of the world.  When Christopher Columbus set sail across the Atlantic his findings, said President Obama yesterday in his Columbus Day Proclamation,  “would change the map of the world and forever alter the course of human history.” 

Today, however,  we mourn the tragic loss of four Italian soldiers, Gianmarco Manca (born at Alghero September 24,1978), Francesco Vannozzi (born in Pisa, March 27, 1984), Sebastiano Ville (born in Lentini, Siracusa, September 17, 1983) and Marco Pedone (born in Gagliano del Capo, Lecce, April 14,1987) who were killed in Afghanistan today in a roadside bomb attack.    Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said he was saddened “by the tragic ambush.” But added that the Italian Government was “grateful to all Italian soldiers who, in various missions around the world, allow our country to keep its international commitments in support of peace and against any form of terrorism.”  

Thirty-four Italians have died in Afghanistan since 2004. On this Columbus Day weekend let us remember them.

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