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Past Newsmakers

Winter 2014 Newsmakers

JOHN PHILLIPS, Esq. is President Barack Obama’s choice as U.S. ambassador to Italy.  Phillips, 70, assumed his post last September. He founded Phillips & Cohen, a law firm that has won more than $730 million in whistleblower rewards in the last 25 years. In 1986, he founded the nonprofit Taxpayers Against Fraud to fight fraud against the government. His grandparents, Angelo and Lucia Filippi, emigrated from northern Italy.  A teacher changed his father’s last name to Phillips because “it sounded more American,” he says.

YOGI BERRA, the legendary Yankee catcher, is also a WWII vet, whose heroism during D-Day was remembered last October by the Bob Feller Foundation that gave him its first Valor Award.  Berra joined the Navy when he was only 18. Now 88, he told the New Jersey Star Ledger that the Normandy invasion “...was like the Fourth of July...You couldn’t stick your head up or it would get blown off.”

FLORA DARPINO, a U.S. Army brigadier general, is the first woman in the Army’s 236-year history, to lead its JAG legal services.  In September 2013, she was sworn in as the 39th Army Judge Advocate General by Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno at the Pentagon.  As the Army’s top lawyer, she will oversee nearly 2,000 full-time judge advocates and civilian attorneys in the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corp, known as JAG.  A 26-year decorated veteran, who served in Iraq, she is married and has two daughters, but kept her maiden name to honor the memory of her immigrant Italian father, who served in WWII. 

AUGUSTO ODONE, the father who tried to cure his son, Lorenzo, of a rare brain disease, died in Italy October 24, 2013 at age 80 of heart disease.  When the boy was diagnosed with ALD, a fatal degenerative disease, Odone and his wife, neither of whom had any medical training, developed oils that prevented or slowed the disease but did not cure it.  Thanks to the oil, Lorenzo lived but in a vegetative state.  He died in 2008 at age 30.  The oil “was a long shot,” Odone told a London newspaper several years ago. “But to me a long shot is better than no shot at all.”

JEFFREY PUGLIESE, a lieutenant in the Watertown (MA) Police Department, was chosen as one of the police officers of the month in October 2013 by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund in Washington, D.C.  He helped capture one of the two alleged bombers who killed 3 people and injured more than 260 others during the Boston Marathon April 15, 2013.

THERESA SAREO, a singer/songwriter who lost a leg in 2002 when she was struck by a drunk driver, now helps severely injured others, especially veterans.  Her work at hospitals, schools and corporations world-wide has been widely praised and as is her documentary film "Theresa Sareo: Alive Again" about her life and career.  Ms. Sareo has performed for the Sons of Italy Foundation at its annual gala in Washington, D.C.