An epoch has come to an end with the retirement of Josephine Petitti as executive director of the Midwest District of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America.
“It’s been a long and wonderful run, and it’s been an honor to serve,” says Petitti, who has more get-up-and-go at 90 than most folks do at half her age.
A driving force for the local ISDA and the Italo-American National Union before it, Petitti joined the IANU Bianco Lodge half a century ago, taking charge of its annual St. Joseph Table and helping to transform it into a thriving annual event. She also served as cook and manager of the IANU banquet hall for years.
Petitti was part of the team that worked with Pat Pavini and Pat Naples on the merger between the IANU and the ISDA, taking over as executive director of the Midwest District with the retirement of Pavini in 1991 and as Midwest vice president with the passing of Naples in 1996.
From those two positions, she oversaw and executed every aspect of the district’s operations, from handling correspondents and keeping the books to running meetings and spearheading fundraisers.
A highlight of her career was attending the National Italian American Foundation gala three years ago. “It was such a glamorous event, and it was a thrill to rub elbows with so many important people!” she recalls.
According to Petitti, her greatest pleasure has been working with IANU Foundation Chairman Anthony Basso and President Ken Kolnicki. “They always had my back,” she praises. “Whenever I needed anything, they were there for me.”
National President Basil Russo conferred the title of honorary national vice president upon Petitti at the 2018 convention.
“Josephine is a truly extraordinary individual,” Russo proclaimed from the podium. “She is loving, nurturing, intelligent, compassionate and strong-willed. Her family always came first, and she brought that family-oriented mindset with her to the ISDA, treating those in her district and throughout the organization as her family. She was never afraid to speak her mind, and her advice was always valued and welcomed.”
Don’t expect Pettiti to go quietly into retirement. She’ll continue to run breakfasts, dinners and holiday parties at her retirement community, and lead seniors at her parish in trips around the country.
“People ask me, ‘How did you make it to 90?’ and I say, ‘Well keep busy! Don’t just sit in your chair! Get out!’” she enthuses.