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PRESS RELEASE
October 3, 2013

ESSEX COUNTY FREEHOLDERS
CELEBRATE ITALIAN HERITAGE MONTH

Freeholders Leonard Luciano & Brendan Gill Host Event
And Honor Philip B. Alagia, Paul Alongi, Sr., and Angelo Di Federico

(Newark, NJ) – The Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders celebrated Italian Heritage Month during a ceremony held on Wednesday, October 2, 2013, at the Hall of Records.  The event was hosted by District 4 Freeholder Leonard Luciano of West Caldwell and District 5 Freeholder Brendan Gill of Montclair.  During the celebration of Italian culture and heritage, the Board also honored the following individuals: Philip B. Alagia of Fairfield, Paul Alongi, Sr., of Bloomfield, and Angelo Di Federico of Newark.

Freeholders Leonard Luciano of West Caldwell (far left) and Brendan Gill of Montclair (far right) hosted the Freeholder Board’s Italian Heritage Month Celebration on Wednesday, October 2nd, at the Hall of Records.  They are pictured above with the event’s honorees: Paul Alongi, Sr., of Bloomfield (center, left); Angelo Di Federico of Newark (center); and Philip B. Alagia of Fairfield (center, right).  (Photo by Glen Frieson)

Freeholder President Blonnie Watson opened the program by thanking Freeholders Luciano and Gill for organizing the event and welcomed the attendees saying, “On behalf of the Board of Chosen Freeholders and the sponsors, we welcome you to our Italian Heritage Month Celebration.  There is no county in New Jersey that is more diverse than ours, and today we pause to recognize the County’s rich Italian heritage.”

“I have been raised and educated as an Italian American in Essex County to become a hard-working public employee, and I wouldn’t have it any other way”, said event co-sponsor Freeholder Luciano as he recounted his family’s history in Essex County.  He described his grandfather and namesake, Leonard Michael Luciano, who immigrated to the United States from Benevento, Italy, in 1901 at the age of 12 and soon thereafter settled in Newark’s Ironbound neighborhood where he married and started a family of 12 children before moving to Livingston in 1931, where he’d purchased farmland like his family owned back in Italy.  “My father, Leonard, Jr., was raised in Livingston and then taught in Newark for 40 years”, said Luciano, a Newark teacher himself, “and my cousin and other family members have served on the Newark Fire Department.”  “Their service, my family and our cultural tradition”, he continued, “have undoubtedly made me who I am today.”

Freeholder Gill also spoke about his family’s history, surprising many by revealing that his paternal grandfather’s name was Federico Giglioli.  “He experienced discrimination and even physical abuse solely for being an Italian-American and a Roman Catholic”, said Gill, “and for that reason he eventually shortened his last name to ‘Gill’”.  “The most important thing my grandfather preached was tolerance, and that coming from a man who had every reason to be angry, to be upset, for having been denied employment because of where he came from, and who he was.”  “So today”, he continued, “I think it is important that we recognize people like my grandfather, Italian-Americans we might not have read about in textbooks, but who set the precedent for events like these.”

Honoree Angelo Di Federico of Newark (center) is joined by Freeholders Leonard Luciano of West Caldwell (left) and Brendan Gill of Montclair (right) during the Board’s Italian Heritage Month Celebration at the Hall of Records.  (Photo by Glen Frieson)

Honoree Angelo Di Federico grew up in the Ironbound section of Newark’s East Ward where, as a youngster, he helped his father in the family business, “Sonny’s Tailor Shop”.  He graduated from East Side High School and then worked in the Office of the Essex County Sheriff for four years before assuming responsibility for the family business, where he worked for the next 25 years. 

Di Federico followed in the footsteps of his father, “Sonny”, to become very involved in East Ward politics and the Democratic Party, and proving himself to be a capable and effective leader as a lifelong resident of the community and local businessman.  He has also served as an Aide to Newark’s East Ward Councilman, Augusto Amador, for the last 14 years, with whom he has been very active and successful in raising funds to benefit Pop Warner programs, Senior Citizens’ activities, Back-to-School programs, and so many more.  Di Federico resides in the East Ward with his wife, Maria, and their two sons, Angelo and Gianni.

Freeholder Luciano introduced Di Federico as “one of those individuals who emulates Italian-American values; he is a hard worker in the community, and a friend to many”, and spoke about the role Sonny’s Tailor Shop played in keeping Italian culture and traditions alive in the Ironbound.

“I’m proud to be an Italian-American and I want to thank Freeholders Luciano and Gill for giving me the opportunity to be here and celebrate this great event”, said Di Federico, who also thanked his mentor, former freeholder president Joseph Parlavecchio, and spoke proudly of his grandparents who came to the United States from Abruzzo and Naples.

Freeholders Luciano (left) and Gill (right) presented the Board’s commendation to honoree Paul Alongi, Sr., of Bloomfield at the Hall of Records.  (Photo by Glen Frieson)

Paul Alongi, Sr., was born in Newark, graduated from Barringer High School, earned a B.A. from Rutgers University, served in the U. S. Army from 1955-56, earned his J.D. from Seton Hall Law School, and then practiced law for 25 years.  For the last 25 years, he has been the Operations Manager and Claims Manager for First Indemnity of America Insurance Company, as well as Vice President of the Holding Company, ABSCO Ltd. Corp.  He has served on the Bloomfield Board of Education, the New Jersey Commission of Investigations, and has also been a long-time leader in many community organizations, including: the Bloomfield Federation of Music and Civic Band, the Garden State Concert Band, St. Thomas the Apostle Parish and Finance Councils, Holy Name Society and Circle of Friends. 

Alongi has also held many leadership positions with UNICO, including member/President/Secretary of Bloomfield UNICO and President and 3rd Vice President of UNICO National.  He was named West Essex UNICO’s “Man of the Year”; was the recipient of UNICO’s Mille Grazie and Vastola awards; was named the St. Thomas the Apostle “Man of the Year”; selected as the Grand Marshal of the 2012 Nutley-Belleville Columbus Day Parade; was appointed a Cavalieri (was Knighted) by the Government of Italy; and was an original trustee for the National Italian-American Foundation (NIAF).  Alongi resides in Bloomfield with his wife, Toni, and they have two children, Paul A. Alongi and Gina Ring, and six grandchildren.

“I have come to know Mr. Alongi through his work, not only through his involvement locally in Bloomfield, but also through his history for many, many years in Italian-American activities”, said Freeholder Gill.  “Today it is my privilege and honor to acknowledge him for all his efforts and all his accomplishments in celebration of his Italian-American heritage.”

“It took me 43 years to finally make it to this room”, joked Alongi, who was an unsuccessful freeholder candidate in 1970.  “We all have different stories to tell about our heritage”, he said, explaining, “My dad was an Italian merchant marine, and he jumped ship in New York to escape Mussolini and fascism, eventually making it to Newark.”  He also explained that years ago when he was young, people in the ‘neighborhood’ didn’t promulgate their Italian heritage through events like this, but rather “by working to keep our families together during difficult times.”  He also spoke about joining the Italian service organization, UNICO, years later, and about how it changed his life and began his commitment to public service.  “It was a turning point in my life”, he said, “and I went on to be the National President and to become a Cavalieri in Italy for our efforts helping with earthquake recovery.”  He went on to thank his family for supporting him throughout his work and thanked the Board “for this great honor.”

Essex County Chief of Staff Philip B. Alagia of Fairfield (center) was honored by Freeholders Leonard Luciano (left) and Brendan Gill (right) during the Board’s Italian Heritage Month Celebration at the Hall of Records.  (Photo by Glen Frieson)

Phil Alagia has served as County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo’s Chief of Staff since 2003.  He was born and raised in Newark’s North Ward, attended Montclair Immaculate High School and earned a degree in Accounting from Rutgers University.  He began his professional career at The North Ward Center in Newark, where he continues to serve on the Robert Treat Academy Board of Directors.  During his tenure as Chief of Staff, the County has seen unprecedented improvement and progress in its fiscal stability and infrastructure.  He also oversees innovative programs at the Department of Corrections and the Juvenile Detention Center that bring an additional $60 million of revenue to the County.  Alagia has been involved in national, statewide and local Democratic politics for years, and has managed campaigns for several high-profile races. 

As a member of the Project Pride, Inc., Board of Trustees, he was among the organizers of the Pride Bowl Football Game that has raised over $4 million to support academic, recreational and scholarship programs for Newark’s children.  He is also the founder of the New Jersey Pride Softball Organization, a nationally-recognized program for girls, and coached the Newark Project Pride Softball Team to the first National Championship of the Major League Baseball-sponsored RBI Program.  Mr. Alagia resides in Fairfield with his wife, Anmarie, and their three children: Philip, Giuliana and Carmela.

Freeholders Luciano and Gill made the presentation to Phil Alagia together.  “Phil”, said Luciano, “you are our friend, our colleague, and more fitting for tonight, our ‘paisan’.”  Freeholder Gill pointed out that they believed this event would be a perfect opportunity to honor him, “…knowing how proud you are of your Italian heritage”, and to rectify the injustice of Alagia having never been recognized in this way, even after all of his years in public service.  “Tonight we want to thank you for all you do not only for the County, but for so many others as well, politically and otherwise.”

“I am so proud to be Italian and to be here tonight”, said Alagia, who also explained that he was a first generation Italian-American as “both of my parents were born in Italy and only came to this country in the 1950’s.”  He also explained that his grandfather had come alone to the United States, but then returned to Italy after five years so that his children would be born American citizens.  Alagia also thanked the freeholders for honoring him and recalled the rich Italian heritage of the freeholder board, “with such great Italians like Joe Parlavecchio, Jim Paganelli, Joe Scarpelli, Nick Rolli, Carmine Casciano, Jerry Greco, Linda Lordi Cavanaugh, Joseph DiVincenzo and others who served in this room.”  He also credited his mentors, Fran and Steve Adubato and County Executive DiVincenzo, and the entire North Ward Center family, “for instilling in me pride for my Italian heritage, but also how important it is to love everyone and celebrate the diverse heritage of others as well.” 

The Celebration was attended by many of the other members of the Freeholder Board, including Freeholder Vice President Patricia Sebold and Freeholders Carol Clark, Rufus Johnson, Rolando Bobadilla and Gerald Owens.  Also attending were Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr., State Senators Nia Gill and Teresa Ruiz, County Clerk Christopher Durkin, Surrogate Theodore Stephens, Register Philip Thigpen, Sheriff Armando Fontoura, Mayor James Gasparini and Councilman John La Forgia of Fairfield, and Caldwell Councilman Edward Durkin, among others.

The opening and closing prayers were offered by Father Joseph Scarangella of the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Montclair, and entertainment was provided by accordionist Frank Gesumaria and guitarist Ralph Amendola.  A catered reception for the honorees and their guests followed the program.

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For Additional Information:
Gary Kroessig, Public Information
Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders
973-621-4452
Gkroessig@freeholders.essexcountynj.org

 

Board of Chosen Freeholders, County of Essex
Hall of Records - Room 558, 465 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd., Newark, New Jersey 07102
Tel: (973) 621-4486 Fax: (973) 621-5695