Schiro pours passion for heritage into OSDIA role

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Schiro and Marsalli

Being Italian has always been central to Frank Schiro’s identity, and for decades he has devoted himself to highlighting the accomplishments and contributions of the community in the United States.

An experienced litigator and trial attorney in Milwaukee, Schiro recently was elected president of the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America, Grand Lodge of Illinois and Wisconsin. He is the founder of the former Filippo Mazzei Greater Milwaukee Lodge, which in 2009 merged with the Chicago Lodge to become the current Grand Lodge.

Joining Schiro as Grand Lodge officers are Immediate Past President Marie Marsalli, Orator James LasCola, Treasurer Giacomo Mancini, Recording Secretary Linda Loparco and Financial Secretary Maria Mancini. Serving as trustees are Carl Busateri, Rick Bonanno, Sandi Cianci, Mario D’Antonio, Anthony DiMiele, Isabella Loparco-Siemsen and Carol Hatley.

Schiro’s father was born in Sicily, where his mother’s family also came from, and Schiro grew up surrounded by close relatives in a primarily Italian-American neighborhood in Rockford. “I didn’t know I was American until about the second grade,” he recalls.

After high school, Schiro earned an undergraduate degree from Northwestern University in Evanston and then attended Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee. He started practicing law as a public defender in 1969 and spent several years as an assistant district attorney for Milwaukee County. He has been in private practice since 1984.

Founded in 1905 as a mutual aid society for Italian immigrants, the Order’s mission now includes “encouraging the study of Italian language and culture in American schools and universities; preserving Italian American traditions, culture, history and heritage; and promoting closer cultural relations between the United States and Italy,” according to its website.

Its headquarters are in Washington, D.C., with hundreds of lodges nationwide. Through the years, its national Sons of Italy Foundation has raised more than $115 million for scholarships, disaster relief, and cancer and disease research, according to the organization.

Schrio explains that the current name of Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America was changed from its original Order Sons of Italy in America to be inclusive. (In the Italian equivalent of the original, “Ordine Figli d’Italia in America,” “figli” applies to both men and women).

The Grand Lodge of Illinois and Wisconsin has many uplifting and positive initiatives, such as giving out merit-based scholarships to local high school seniors of Italian descent, and awards of excellence to “Italians of all walks of life that distinguish themselves for their values and accomplishments,” Schiro says.

Lodge membership is about $50 yearly and “is worth its weight in gold,” Schiro says, noting that one of the perks is a free subscription to the magazine Italian America. Social activities that double as fundraisers include spaghetti and bocce nights.

Most recently, the Grand Lodge of Illinois and Wisconsin had been in the process of relocating and in a period of overall transition following the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused a drop in membership across civic organizations, and the unexpected death of two of its presidents, Schiro says.

However, he’s optimistic about its future, because “we have a good panel of invested Italians who want to get it back to what it was,” he explains.

Schiro’s resume includes serving as president of the National Italian American Bar Association and Wisconsin Justinian Society of Lawyer, as well as being named a “Leading Lawyer” by Milwaukee Lifestyle Magazine.

As for his personal interests, he likes to bike outdoors every day whenever possible, as well as cross-country ski and play golf. He used to do kickboxing, for which he has a third-degree black belt, he adds.

Schiro says he will always remain devoted to encouraging people to explore the history of Italians and Italian Americans in the United States.

“The Italian contribution has helped forge the American Dream, from Columbus to Amerigo Vespucci to (former Supreme Court Justice Antonin) Scalia, and many, many more,” he says. “I invite people to join (the Grand Lodge of Illinois and Wisconsin). There are connections and relationships that are built, and you can learn about all the Italian contributions to this country.”

About Elena Ferrarin

Elena Ferrarin is a native of Rome who has worked as a journalist in the United States since 2002. She has been a correspondent for Fra Noi for more than a decade. She previously worked as a reporter for The Daily Herald in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, The Regional News in Palos Heights and as a reporter/assistant editor for Reflejos, a Spanish-English newspaper in Arlington Heights. She has a bachelor’s degree from Brown University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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One comment

  1. Frank Schiro has accomplished most everything he was driven to do. As a leader of this Lodge and the Grand Lodge, he inspires fellow Italian Americans to follow his footsteps in achievements in the OSDIA and in Life itself. Working with Frank on any project is a meaningful experience for all involved.

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