A list of Italian Americans in the news is highlighted in each issue of Italian America magazine, the official publication of the Sons of Italy®. The list below reflects Newsmakers from the current issue. Newsmakers from past issues are also available for viewing.
TONY BENNETT lobbied for stronger gun control at a February 6 news conference in Washington, D.C. held by Mayors against Illegal Guns. Bennett urged Congress to support President Obama’s gun reform plan. “I still haven’t gotten over Connecticut,” the 86-year-old singing legend said.
JON BON JOVI, the famed rock star, headed Forbes’ 2012 list of most charitable celebrities for his efforts to eradicate homelessness. The 51-year-old musician runs Soul Kitchen, a restaurant in Red Bank, NJ that has no prices on the menu. Diners pay what they can for a three-course meal. Those unable to pay donate their time instead.
OLIVIA CULPO, 20, was named Miss Universe 2012 at the 61st Annual Miss Universe Pageant in Las Vegas last December. The Rhode Island native is the first American since 1997 to take home the crown. A sophomore at Boston University, she was chosen Miss USA 2012 last June. She is an accomplished cello player from “a big Italian family,” she says.
KEESHA DENTINO, a 27-year-old U.S. Army Staff Sergeant danced with Vice President Joe Biden at the Commander-In-Chief’s Ball last January. A military police office and Bronze Star recipient, she has served two tours of duty in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. While in Afghanistan she worked with Special Forces working with local women and children.
JOE INCANDELA, an American physicist at CERN, the European nuclear research center in Geneva, heads a team of 3,000 scientists looking for the Higgs boson particle that might explain how the universe was created 13.7 billion years ago. Discovering the particle could win him a Nobel Prize.
ALYSSA MASTROMONACO, 37, is deputy chief of staff for operations at the White House with an office right next to the president’s. In 2011, the political magazine, The New Republic named the 37-year-old from upstate NY, one of the 25 “most powerful, least known” people in Washington.
NANCY PELOSI, the first woman and first Italian American to be Speaker of the House, was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in March. A member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 1987, Pelosi was its 60th speaker from 2007-2011 and is currently the House Minority Leader of the Democratic Party. Among the hall’s famed 256 women, is also the first woman vice-presidential candidate, the late Geraldine Ferraro.
ANNETTE FUNICELLO, who captured the hearts of millions of teen-age boys in the 1950s and 1960s, first as a Disney Mouseketeer and then as an actress, died from multiple sclerosis April 8 in California at age 70. Her beauty and modesty made her popular with young girls as well. Stricken with MS when she was about 50 and confined to a wheel chair, she once said her fantasy was to have everyone who ever watched her on TV donate one dollar to medical research.
PIETRO MENNEA, a famed Italian Olympic sprinter, died March 21 at age 60 in Italy. He took home the gold at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, after winning a bronze medal at the 1972 Munich Games. In 1979, he set the world record in the 200-meter race with a time of 19.72 seconds at the World University Games in Mexico City. His record held for 17 years, until 1996 when Michael Johnson ran 19.66 at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
ROBERT REMINI, a respected biographer of President Andrew Jackson and later the official historian of the U.S. House of Representatives (2005-2010), died of a stroke March 28 in Illinois. He was 91. Remini also wrote highly praised biographies of other 19th century American presidents.
RITA LEVI-MONTALCINI, who shared the 1986 Nobel Prize in Medicine for her discovery of the nerve growth factor, died December 30 in Rome at age 103. Born in Turin, she studied medicine but was expelled from academia by Mussolini because she was Jewish. She immigrated to America where she did research at Washington University in St. Louis. Her discovery of how nerve cells become nervous systems is used to treat Alzheimer’s, cancer, Parkinson’s disease and muscular dystrophy.
VINCENT SOMBROTTO, who led the 1970 U.S. postal strike as a New York letter carrier, protesting low wages and poor working conditions, died January 10 in New York State. He was 89. The strike eventually involved 200,000 postal workers and led to Congress creating the U.S. Postal Service in 1971that insured collective-bargaining rights for workers.