Italian Club of St. Louis
Celebrating our Italian heritage
and culture since 1922.

History


By Marianne Peri Sack


During and following World War 1, the United States experienced a steady flow of foreign visitors whose main purpose was to solidify diplomatic ties with the country that had been their closest ally during the Great War. 


Many of the distinguished guests that came to St. Louis were from Italy and it was natural that the government authorities would seek to enlist the aid of Italian-speaking residents that would be able to assist them in the proper entertainment of the Italian dignitaries. This request led to the concept and birth of the Italian Club of St. Louis whose sole purpose was to fulfill this role. 


The first meeting was held on December 13, 1921 at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Vincent Sigillito and on January 4, 1922, at a meeting at the Elk's Club, the organization was officially formed. A constitution and by-laws were adopted on January 25 and the following officers were elected: James Bertero, President; August Cicardi, Vice-president; Vincent D. Gallo, Financial Secretary; Joseph Freschi, Angelo Corrubia, John Ravarino and Vincent Selvaggi, Directors. 


Interestingly, the club began to add to its social and cultural aspect by promoting patriotism, protesting against any statements, written or oral, of a defamatory nature against the Italian people and assisting worthy charities. Membership in the dub came from the ranks of Italian businessmen and professionals. 


A ladies auxiliary was formed in 1938 and for years they ably assisted the men with social events such as charity balls for the benefit of the children of St. Domenic's Italian Orphan Home. The Italian Club also co-sponsored with other Italian organizations the annual Labor Day Picnic for St. Domenic's. 


In the early years, the club entertained ambassadors, royalty, generals and 150 Olympic athletics from Italy on their way to the California 1936 Olympic games. They sponsored lectures and conferences on a variety of subjects interesting to the Italian people and honored Italian and Italian-American dignitaries alike. 

Some notables were Princess Santa Borghese, prominent military figures such as Generale Armando Diaz, from WW I and Generale Pietro Badoglio from the era immediately before WW II. In 1933, the club promoted a trip to Chicago, to participate in welcoming General Italo Balbo and his 24-plane squadron who had arrived from their trans-Atlantic flight to the World's Fair. 


The Italian consulate office in St. Louis has had a dose association with the Italian Club that continues to this day. In February 1997, we were happy to welcome the Italian government's newest representative, Vice Consul Joseph Colagiovanni. 


The Italian Club has been fortunate to have many dedicated members and officers throughout the years - Jules Bertero was the president for 15 consecutive years until his death in 1937. Comm. Mario Pertici became president in 1961 and served for 27 years. A good number of our members have been honored by the Italian government for exemplary work on behalf of the Italian community. A few of the earlier members were John Ravarino, Joseph Freschi and Dr. Nicholas Vitale. Currently, the Club has 8 members that have been honored with the rank of Commendatore or Cavaliere from the Italian government. They are: Comm. Paul Rava, Cavalieri Joan Arpiani, Valerio Bianco, Aldo Della Croce, Agostino Gabriele, Antonino Lombardo, Dante Marconi, and Armando Pasetti. 


Any organization with a rich and long history must look to the future and make effective decisions concerning progress and tradition because one often appears to conflict with the other. In 1990, the Italian Club was faced with the decision to accept women into its ranks. The Ladies Auxiliary was disbanded and women were invited to be full-fledged members of the Club. Joann Gambaro Arpiani was the first female member to join the club. It proved to be a wise decision and since then women have become an integral part in the organization taking an active role as committee members and officers. Today three of the seven board members are women. 


This action seemed to be the catalyst for more change in the organization's focus - an emphasis on Italian culture was instituted. Limited use of the Italian language and Italian-related presentations are presently part of every meeting. 

In 1992, a yearly $250 award was initiated and named after Frank LoPiccolo who died while President of the Italian Club in 1991. Then another $250 yearly award, named in honor of long-time president, Mario Pertici, was begun in 1997, the year after his death. Also, member Edward Berra, announced at that time that Southwest Bank would sponsor a $500 award annually in honor of Comm. Fred Giacoma, late member of the Italian Club and vice-chairman of the Southwest Bank. The awards are given to a worthy student in the Italian language program at Washington University. This year the three awards were presented simultaneously on April 16 to Alicia Di Benedetto. 


With the closing of the St. Louis Italian Consulate office in 1978, the Italian Club began to take a more active role in local affairs in the 80s. At the suggestion of Antonino Lombardo, a longtimc member of the Italian Club and the publisher of the Italian newspaper, II Pensiero, the club began to seek qualified persons for the Lucca Award, which is presented to individuals with family origins in the province of Lucca, Italy for outstanding achievements in various fields. Member Aldo Della Croce was the first St. Louisan to receive this award in the 1970s under the recommendation of the then active Consulate office here. 

In conjunction with the II Pensiero, the Italian Club, has thus far successfully nominated the following winners of the Lucca Award: 

Gino Mariani, Comm. Rudolph Torrini, Ned Taddeucci, Dr. Eugene Mariani, Cav. Rev. Lawrence Biondi, Archbishop Justin Rigali and the following posthumous winners, Arturo Girolami, Orazio Giorgio Pieri, and Alceste Prosperi.


Milestones such as this Diamond Jubilee should not serve only as a time to review the organization's past accomplishments but should also serve as an opportunity to preview the future direction of the club. Twelve new members have joined in the last year bringing the total membership to 113. Old members continue to be enthused and active. Students in the Italian language program at Washington University have given two plays recently. Mini-lessons or vignettes from operas are given in Italian at many of our meetings. Our planned programs, on a variety of Italian subjects, should make our professional presentations the hallmark of the Italian Club. 

As we move into the next century, our roots will be firmly planted and flourish for future generations to cherish and enjoy.


Founders


Dr. Cesare Avigni 

Patrick Balducci 

Vincent Benincasa 

Jules Bertero (President)

Charles A. Boggiano 

Vincent Borghesi 

August Cicardi (Vice President)

Angelo Corrubia (Director)

Frank Dalavalle

Joseph Freschi (Director)

Vincent D. Gallo (Finance Secy) 

Joseph Garavelli 

John Ravarino (Director)

Vincent C. Selvaggi (Director)

Vincent Sigillito 

John Volpi