During a 10-day period, my wife Sharon and I attended two celebrations at Sirico’s Caterers, the last of the old Bensonhurst halls where everyone in Brooklyn got married, bar mitzvahed or celebrated their silver, golden, and diamond wedding anniversary.
Sirico’s, family-owned and operated for almost 70 years, brings its decades of experience to every affair, with delicious cuisine, beautiful ambience and excellent service, making any function memorable.
So it doesn’t matter if you attend the 130th anniversary of a church (like the one for St. Finbar’s on Sept. 10), or show up at the 60th anniversary of my sister Jennie and brother-in-law Leo Vento (like I did on Sept. 19), you’re bound to have a fantastic time.
With over 300 parishioners and friends in attendance at the hall on 13th Avenue between 80th and 81st streets, my friend and colleague Eileen La Ruffa was given Saint Finbar’s Lifetime Achievement Award (which is the least they could have given her. Of course, they should start the process of making her a saint, but Eileen is too active to lie down and wait).
Here’s her impressive bio on 50 years volunteering for the church and the community.
When her daughter Maria was old enough to attend kindergarten, St. Finbar parishioners had just built the school. Both her children attended the school and received their sacraments there. Fr. Dominick Cutrone was associate at that time, and soon had Eileen involved in everything.
“He made me what I am today,” she said, pointing out that he gave her the confidence she didn’t know she had. Before she knew it, she was chairwoman of church functions with Joe DeLuca, Diane Mina, and Millie Marolla, whom she considers her mentors and partners. Eileen was active in the Marian Rosary Society, published the church bulletin before computers, joined the Home School Association and became president. They formed the teen clubs, had bike-a-thons, hay rides, the roller and ice skating parties, and had a great time. When her children graduated, she remained active in the school and the church.
Fr. Failla became pastor in 1978, and, along with Fr. Sal Capolarello, made up the dynamic duo that didn’t stop. Thirty years ago, they oversaw the 100th Anniversary of the Church, which was phenomenal. Between the dinner dance, the centennial parade and the parishioner’s renovation of the Church (where volunteers scraped, moved pews, relocated the altar and painted and restored the artwork in the church over a three-year period) it seemed things couldn’t get better. And Eileen was there to photograph the renovation from beginning to end.
Fifty years in one place is a lifetime achievement for anyone. However, Eileen also became involved with the community beyond the church. She’s played a part with the Bensonhurst Volunteer Ambulance Service, Community Board 11, American Cancer Society, CERT, 62nd Precinct Community Council. She’s worked for Senator Marty Golden, is a member of Friends of Historic New Utrecht, Federation of Italian Americans, Brooklyn Graphic Newspaper, 86th Street Board of Trade, Bensonhurst Renaissance, Bensonhurst Redevelopment Corp., Bath Beach Community Improvement, CUE and Visitation Academy.
After receiving awards and citations from Golden, Councilman Vincent Gentile, Assemblyman Peter Abate and St. Finbar’s pastors, Eileen made this acceptance speech.
“It has been a wonderful experience, I have met so many friends, some are here, and some are gone. My late husband Dominick was a patient man who allowed me to spread my wings, the wings I never knew I had. My children blessed me with four grandchildren. Maria and Michael Stamolis have two sons, Nicholas who is 10 and Theo who is 7. Dominick is the proud father of his son Dominick, 20 and daughter Marisa, 19. I am very fortunate to have the family and friends that I have and as long as I can, I will continue to use the talents God has given me. I gratefully accept the Lifetime Achievement Award from my friends at St. Finbar.”
Hooray for Saint Eileen LaRuffa … to be continued
Screech at you next week!