GREENWICH — Columbus Day was marked Monday with a salute to the Italian flag outside of Town Hall by the St. Lawrence Society and the larger contributions of Italian immigrants to the town.
“This day is full of memories for us all, but most thoughts point to the hard work of our parents and our grandparents,” St. Lawrence Society PresidentTod Laudonia said, as he led the ceremonial flag raising.
“Those are the people who worked hard. They were not concerned with self-fulfillment, only working toward a greater good: their families and the community that they lived in,” he said.
The annual event is in its 29th year. Laudonia said the Italian flag was raised, to stand a partner with the American flag outside of Town Hall.
“It’s a symbol of our ancestors’ love for their newfound country,” Laudonia said. “They worked together to move our country further.”
A crowd of close to 50 turned out for the event despite windy, chilly weather. On hand were First Selectman Peter Tesei; U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, a town resident; and State Reps. Livvy Floren, Michael Bocchino and Fred Camillo.
As tradition of the annual Columbus Day event is to honor a notable Italian American resident of Greenwich. Several of the past honorees were part of the crowd on Monday morning outside Town Hall.
Greenwich native Sam Romeo, a small business owner, radio host, volunteer and chairman of the town Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners, was honored this year at the flag raising and at a dinner at the St. Lawrence ClubMonday night.
Romeo, a volunteer for town organizations for decades, was credited for his contributions to Greenwich. Tesei proclaimed Oct. 10, 2016, as Sam Romeo Day in town.
“It’s been a really rewarding life in Greenwich,” Romeo told the applauding crowd. “I’m so fortunate that my grandparents moved here to Greenwich in the early 1900s. Serving here in volunteer positions has fulfilled me in ways I can’t truly express to all of you. I have a wonderful family, great friends and I grew up in the best community in the United States.”
Laudonia called Romeo “a shining example” of the philosophy of their ancestors, who came to America and became part of moving the country forward through hard work. He called Romeo, who was unanimously chosen by the St. Lawrence Society’s board for the honor, a “doer and a thinker” and praised him for working behind the scenes in helping his fellow residents.
Romeo and Laudonia raised the flag together.
The honoree said he was humbled to be honored in front of his family and friends. He said he had never known how many lives he touched until he saw people come out for the event.
Tesei joked that the proclamation, which detailed Romeo’s contributions to The Nathaniel Witherell, Parsonage Cottage,North Mianus School and other community organizations, was put together for those who didn’t know his background. After the ceremony, Tesei said Romeo personified the volunteer spirit that is such an important part of Greenwich.
“This is a very due honor,” Tesei said. “Sam has given decades of his time to the town for its betterment and I think it’s appropriate as an Italian American that St. Lawrence honors him in this way. It’s a fine tribute to a good man.”
Public service has been an important part of life, including decades on the Representative Town Meeting, Romeo said.
“It’s a love of the town and a love of people,” Romeo said. “I like people and I like helping people, especially those who are less fortunate than I have been. I’ve got some helping hands along the way growing up in this town and I’ve never forgotten that. It’s my way of giving back to the community and helping others. I know how much it means to get just a little boost from somebody who can do something for them.”
Laudonia was part of a group of Greenwich residents who traveled over the summer to the town’s sister city, Rose, Italy. Many of the Italian immigrants who came to Greenwich came from Rose, he said.
“The differences that exist between our two cultures became obvious to me in Italy, but the other thing that became obvious is the respect we have for each other,” Laudonia said. “We all need to continue to remember the sacrifices our ancestors made coming here to America and assimilating into our society.”
Tesei also remarked on that history, saying the work of their ancestors in building so much of the town was a great source of pride to him and other Italian Americans in town.
“It’s wonderful to be able to take out one day of the year to recognize those contributions and the sacrifices they made,” Tesei said. “We have a great town that we hope to leave to the next generation.”
Laudonia said that as the St. Lawrence Society looks for new members and expands its reach in the community, it’s important to keep traditions like the flag raising and tribute dinner alive.
“The only way people will remember what happened in the past is if you continue traditions,” Laudonia said. “This is a tradition that’s very important to us, particularly as we try to bring in new peopl,e and I’m happy to say my daughter is one of those new people. It’s always exciting to do this. I see some new faces in the crowd this year, and that’s wonderful.”