The Sons of Italy Gabriele D’Annunzio Lodge 321 in Rotterdam honored its first female president at the 96th annual Columbus Day dinner last month.
Frances Suraci White was surrounded by friends, family and other Sons of Italy members when she was given a plaque at Mallozzi’s Banquet and Ballroom on Oct. 14. She was honored for her achievements and hard work with the group for the past 64 years.
“It’s heartwarming to know people are thinking of you,” said White, when she found out several weeks prior to the dinner that she would be honored. “I was happy to be able to do everything I’ve done for the lodge over the years.”
White had originally belonged to the local women’s auxiliary, but in 1947 male Sons of Italy members asked if she would help form a women’s lodge, called Cornelia. She became its first president. Several decades later the two lodges merged into one to help combat low membership numbers.
In 1989, more than four decades after bringing women into the local group’s fold, White became the lodge’s first female president.
“When I joined, I got involved in everything that was taking place,” she said. “I don’t believe in joining a group and not being active in it.”
White held every major position in the group since she joined, from secretary and treasurer, to trustee. She was also chairperson of the lodge’s Scholarship Committee, and represented the Sons of Italy in 1992 when a statue of Christopher Columbus was erected in Schenectady’s Veterans Park.
Over the years, White worked with many officers and committees of the New York state Sons of Italy Grand Lodge, as well.
She was also on the Scholarship Committee for the Grand Lodge and was a state trustee for nine years.
‘Family of the year’
During that time, White’s family was granted the “Family of the Year” award from the Grand Lodge for their work within the community. As a member of Our Lady Queen of Peace in Schenectady, she served as a trustee of the church, and chair of the annual Festa, in which she enlisted the help of her two sons Francis and Joseph. She was also a member of the Rosary Society and the Pastoral Council.
Today, she has lessened her workload to spend time with her five grandchildren and one great-grandchild, but she continues to mentor members of the Sons of Italy Lodge 321.
Current President Lou Fazzone called White an asset to the lodge.
“She’s very valuable to us,” he said. “She is very familiar with all of the bylaws, so she’s the one you go to with any questions. We thought she finally deserved this award.”
Last year, Lodge 321 honored National Sons of Italy President Joseph J. DiTrapani. Fazzone said this year they wanted to keep the award local.
“I’ve met so many people I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to meet before and learned so much about my heritage over the course of the years,” said White.
“I had a great time.”