Where are you from?
I was born in Giuliano Teatino, I small town 15 kilometers from the Adriatic Sea in the Chieti province of Abruzzo, Italy.
What was your childhood like?
I was two years old when I came to the United States and Cleveland in 1956. My early childhood memories were of Little Italy, where everyone spoke Italian and Italian stores and merchants were at every corner in the neighborhood, which was anchored by Holy Rosary Church. I did not begin speaking English until I began to attend school.
What brought you to Cleveland?
My Uncle, Joe Marinucci, lived in the Little Italy Neighborhood of Cleveland and he sponsored our entry into the United States and helped my father secure his first job working as a steel worker in a copper smelting plant.
What were your first thoughts about coming to the United States? Did those change?
Since I was so young when I first came to the U.S., I don’t really have memories of coming to America. My parents have said I really enjoyed the 11-day boat ride from Naples to New York, and had “the run of the ship”. Being in an Italian speaking enclave, my early years were fairly normal for a growing child.
What challenges did you face transitioning here?
Once I began school, I had to learn the English language very quickly, which was a challenge since my parents spoke Italian at home – watching TV became a way to learn English more effectively. I also remember that during my early teenage years, I wanted to be more “American” and went through a period, pretty normal for a teenager, where I did not want to speak Italian anymore.
What is your occupation? Are you a member of a sorority, fraternity, or any other civic or social organization?
I am President & CEO of Downtown Cleveland Alliance, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving Downtown Cleveland. I am involved in numerous civic and professional organizations, most recently I was elected to the Board of the Union Club in Downtown Cleveland.
How have other Clevelanders made you feel welcomed?
During my early years, I attended Murray Hill School, a public school, and then Holy Rosary School, a parochial school associated with the church. My experience in those early years was very insular and very much tied to the Italian culture, which revolved around food, family, community, and the Church.
When I attended Cathedral Latin High School in University Circle, my world view changed and I met classmates and their families who were from all over Cleveland and made me feel extremely welcome.
What traditions or customs do you continue to practice?
We continue to value good food and family, and cherish some of our old-world traditions, from celebrating Christmas Eve with seven different fishes, to making and canning our own tomato sauce each September with “Nona”.
What do you love about Cleveland?
Cleveland is part of my DNA, so when you ask “What do you love about Cleveland?”, it is like asking “What do you love about family?”. For me, I love the entire experience of being a Clevelander.
Why is it so important to welcome immigrants and refugees?
Cleveland has a rich history of immigration, ethnic and cultural traditions. The history created is what many people love about Cleveland. Immigration is a way to nurture that history, while creating new avenues to attract talented entrepreneurs to our community. This strategy will create jobs for our new residents, but more importantly, for our existing residents.
Why is it important to travel abroad?
Travelling abroad allows you to experience directly different people and their respective communities. The knowledge we gain through these experiences allows us to recognize the similarities of different people and cultures, but first and foremost, to help us honor and celebrate the differences.