Club History... Frank Befera, who owned local television stations, and Jeno Paulucci, local entrepreneur and founder of Michelina’s and Chun King, founded the club in 1976. The men started the club with the intent to promote Italian heritage in the community through food and fellowship. One year later, the Women’s Auxiliary was added. Last year the club lost, through death, Jeno Paulucci and Mike Colallio, a Medal of Honor recipient. The women’s group lost Margaret Cherro, who died at age 106 in March. She was known as a historian of Duluth’s Little Italy neighborhood.
“It’s good fellowship, and it’s a good way to keep the Italian heritage alive,” said Denice Campanario, scholarship committee chair for the Italian American Club. Maria Iallonardo said that people with Italian American heritage are “passionate.” She quoted a poster with a saying that her father, the late Pasquale Iallonardo, kept at their family lake cabin.
The poster reads, in part: “Everybody should be Italian at least once a year. Being Italian isn’t just a nationality; it’s a state of mind, a state of mind that says, ‘Look, go out and grab life.’” As Maria read the rest of the quote to the Budgeteer, she choked up. “Italians are passionate people,” she said. “Obviously, because I’m crying over my dad.”
“It’s a state of mind: Family is so important,” she said. And so was the food. “In growing up, everything was based around food, she said. “You’d be looking forward to the next meal before you got up from the table.”
“Our ancestors came over here. Most of them were masons, and they built things like St. Peter’s Cathedral,” said Patricia Kolojeski, who is Italian on her mother’s side. Munger Terrace on Mesaba Avenue was built as a fancy townhouse in 1891-92 by Italian stonemasons.
The Italian American Club was instrumental in bringing bocce ball, an Italian outdoor bowling game, to Duluth. Mayor Fedo, an Italian, helped install lights and courts by Wheeler Field. Folks young and old are still playing bocce.