phe·nom·e·nal adjective: very remarkable; extraordinaryThis word comes to mind in describing the fantastic night enjoyed by all the attendees at the annual St. Anthony Alumni Dinner Dance. More than 200 people dined on sumptuous repast and were entertained by the musical stylings of the Dave Berger Quarter. Two St. Anthony classes used the occasion as a reunion: 1974 and 1969. Both were well attended and created a festive atmosphere. Almost everyone got up and walked around, talking to as many people as possible throughout the night.
Best wishes for good health go out to Carmella Ryan and Ed. Also conspicuously missing were Fran Trentacosti, Jack Rossi, and Gloria Bernardi–all well appreciated, traditional attendees. We were also honored to have Chicago’s Alderman, and our own Pullman boy, Chicago mayoral candidate Bob Fioretti, who stopped by to say a few words. Since growing up in Pullman and serving as President of the Pullman Civic Organization, Bob has gone on to accomplish a great deal for the citizens of Chicago. We wish him continued success as he works his way up to the top spot on the political ladder in “The City That Works.”
The atmosphere at the dinner was highly charged as classmates who hadn’t seen each other in many, many years reconnected and recounted stories of their youth. A constant flow of people throughout the night pulled one another to groups where someone else from their past waited. Out-of-town visitors came from California, Florida and spots in between. In my own family I called my sister Rosie Wojtas over to meet Marco Richello, in from Grand Rapids. Two weeks previous Marco had gone to his local Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the Bears and mentioned that he was from Roseland. The person to his right said, “My mom’s from Roseland.” Lo and behold, it was my sister’s son Ray who was passing through–and decided to get some wings and catch the Bears while on driving break. Small world indeed.
Maryann Marcus Block of Tinley Park, who had attended St. Salomea, accompanied me. I thought since she’d previously met my sister she would at least know her. However, as is with all things Roseland, Maryann had also gone to Mother of Sorrows and, therefore, was excited to see her former classmates Doris Bauer and Betty Balsa–in attendance with her mother, and her brother from California. At our table was Larry Panozzo; his wife and Maryann had attended Mother of Sorrows with their daughter Danielle–once again, a small world.
One major difference many people commented on was that very few people stayed at their tables before or after the meal. Everyone took advantage of the moment to speak to as many people as possible. Past experiences of misbehaving at school (with the accompanying reactions and punishments from the nuns) provided for some great stories. There was also discussion of current events and ways to keep in touch via Facebook pages such as “St. Anthony de Padua Parish, Roseland” or “Dan Bovino Roseland Roundtable.”
Father Mark beam throughout the night; a highlight of the fundraising evening was a presentation by the two people mostly responsible for publishing the new, combined version of the 1972 and 1988 St. Anthony Parish Cookbook. John Pesavento and P.J. Reynhout, with the aid of others people, produced a volume priced at only $20, with all funds going to St. Anthony’s. P.J. and John’s presentation to Fr. Mark put a smile on his face. These fundraising efforts normally might garner somewhere in the area of $1,000. Through their hard work and the desire of alumni to keep the spirit of St. Anthony of Padua Parish alive, P.J. and John presented Father with a $2300 check.
The phenomenal success of the St. Anthony Alumni Dinner Dance stems from the experienced, giving and knowledgeable threesome that have annually persevered to make this fundraiser a “not-to-be-missed” event. We can thank Louise Dalla Betta, LouAnn Sola Pretto, and Armand Dequi for their never-ending efforts to give us a place to meet and recap our life experiences with friends who’ve lived our lives alongside us.
Another annual happening that also gives me great pride, and coincides with the St. Anthony event, is the Annual Pullman House Tour. I’m very fortunate that, at this point in my life, I’m in a place I love both physically and spiritually. My house wasn’t included in the tour this year; however, due to the great community vibe and the curiosity of the many people attending the House Tour, I showed my home to four separate groups of Pullman visitors. These included Jeanne and Lou Raffin, very generous supporters of St. Anthony. As a matter of fact, Lou and I both make our own wine and exchanged bottles we produced. Other attractions this year included the 40-plus classic antique cars on display. And for the first time in two years, the Pullman Hotel was opened for viewing–showing off the outstanding progress made on restoration of the first floor. That effort is well underway and the hotel will hopefully reopen in 2015 after an almost three-year hiatus.
We may also see in the news of the coming year concerning the advent of the Pullman National Memorial Park. Community support for this project has been unbelievable, given benefit to the Pullman and Roseland areas. It will mark a welcome step in the progressive movement of Pullman Pride. All in all, these represent phenomenal days for Chicago’s Far South Side pride.