By Michael P. Walsh
Special to the Voice
Mayor Edward M. O’Brien presented Grace Iannucci Hendricks with a jacket embroidered with her new title, Italian-American of the Year, as part of festivities observing West Haven’s 19th annual Columbus Day Celebration on the steps of City Hall Friday.
Iannuccu Hendricks, a second-generation Italian-American, was showered with words of praise from O’Brien for “her dedication to her ancestry and community.”
At the 40-minute ceremony, Iannucci Hendricks received a General Assembly citation from state Reps. Michael A. DiMassa and Dorinda Borer, D-West Haven, on behalf of the city’s delegation and an Italian flag from Paul M. Frosolone, president of the West Haven Italian-American Civic Association, and Josephine Matera, former president of the West Haven Italian-American Ladies Auxiliary.
The West Haven Columbus Day Committee recognizes an Italian resident, or couple, each year who epitomizes service in the city’s vibrant Italian-American community.
“I am very proud of my heritage from Italy,” said Iannucci Hendricks, a long-standing member of the Italian-American Ladies Auxiliary.
As the sound of Italian music filled the air during the late morning cultural event in honor of the Italian explorer, Iannucci Hendricks saluted her heritage with about 100 of her closest friends and relatives, along with a sea of dignitaries and descendants of folks from the old country clad in red, white and green.
“I want to thank everybody,” she told the crowd. “Thank you very much for this (award).”
Iannucci Hendricks, a longtime Westie with a passion for Italian music and opera, is the granddaughter of immigrant grandparents from the Campania capital of Naples, Italy.
In the late 1800s, her grandparents left their homes in southern Italy seeking a brighter day in the U.S., with her paternal grandparents eventually settling in West Haven.
O’Brien also presented a citation to Iannucci Hendricks, who was accompanied by her daughters Kathleen Hendricks and Rosemary Turcotte and her sisters Leonora Raccio, Annabelle D’Amicis and Elizabeth Allspaugh.
She was also joined by several nephews and a niece.
Before an Italian blessing from the Rev. Eric Zuniga, parochial vicar of St. John XXIII Parish, which serves St. Lawrence, St. Louis and St. Paul churches, members of the West Haven High School Bel Canto Choir, directed by Phyllis Silver, sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America.”
It was followed by a rendition of the Italian national anthem, “II Canto degli Italiani,” by Liz Levy and a greeting from city Corporation Counsel Vincent N. Amendola Jr., the master of ceremonies, who lauded the choir’s performance, saying: “That’s the future of West Haven. Quite good.”
O’Brien then delivered heartfelt remarks about Iannucci Hendricks, a parishioner of St. Lawrence Church and former president of its Mother’s Club and St. Theresa Ladies Guild.
“Grace Iannucci Hendricks’ inspiring good works have helped shape the character and life of our city and its deep-rooted Italian-American community,” said O’Brien, whose Italian lineage runs on his mother’s side of the family.
Iannucci Hendricks’ propensity for community service includes sitting on the board of directors of the West Haven Community House and the board’s Fundraising and Head Start committees. She is also a member of the agency’s Head Start Policy Council and Personnel and Fund Development committees.
Her dedication to the Community House was rewarded in 2011 with the Pauline Lang Exceptional Board Member award.
Iannucci Hendricks was a 10-year member and secretary of the Board of Police Commissioners and served on the pension board.
She is a member of the Ward-Heitmann House Museum Foundation.
Iannucci Hendricks was born in New Haven in 1931 to Salvatore Iannucci, a supervisor at the Winchester Repeating Arms Co. in the Elm City, and the former Rose Zingarella, a homemaker who also toiled part time at Winchester during World War II.
After moving to West Haven in 1940, Iannucci Hendricks and her eight sisters and three brothers were brought up in a single-family home on Sumac Street in West Shore.
A graduate of Stiles Elementary School, she attended the old West Haven High School on Main Street and earned her GED diploma in 1974.
Iannucci Hendricks was employed as an office clerk at the Armstrong Rubber Co. on Elm Street in West Haven and worked at the Connecticut Savings Bank on Church Street in New Haven. She was also an administrative assistant for the Democratic registrar of voters and a paraprofessional for the Board of Education in West Haven.
Iannucci Hendricks is the widow of James Hendricks, a warhorse of the city’s Democratic Party who died in 2001.
The couple raised their four daughters, including Theresa Palluzzi and the late Patricia Carney, on Union Avenue in the Center.
Iannucci Hendricks has 13 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
Her name will join the 18 previous Columbus Day recipients on a plaque in City Hall.
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