Massena Italian-American Club receives citation from Assemblywoman Jenne honoring their centennial anniversary
Friday, November 24, 2017 - 6:16 am

Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne recently stopped at the Italian-American Club in Massena to present club members with a citation from the New York State Assembly marking the association's 100th anniversary in Massena. She visited with club Treasurer Dan Bronchetti and three members of the club now in their 90s. Pictured are, clockwise from bottom, Tony LaRosa, Bronchetti, Sam Cappione, Roy Portolese and Jenne.

MASSENA -- The Massena Italian-American Club received a citation from Assemblywoman Addie Jenne, D-Theresa, honoring their centennial anniversary.

"The Italian-American Civic Association of Massena has helped keep alive the traditions of the first immigrants who came to the community to construct the power canal and work at Alcoa for the past century," Jenne said in a prepared statement. "The club has evolved and sustained its mission over the years and remained an important part of the community's fabric. It was obvious during my latest visit the club continues to remain an important gathering spot for the camaraderie and friendly competition it has provided to several generations in Massena.”

During a break in the Briscola game, Jenne had an opportunity to visit with long-time club treasurer Dan Bronchetti and three nonagenarians, Sam Cappione, Roy Portolese and Anthony Larosa.

They shared stories about their lives, connections to the club, and the importance of the camaraderie that takes place when members come to the club for card games, coffee, or a meal.

Their work history is part of the story of Massena -- the legacy of men and women immigrating to community in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Cappione, 96, the club's oldest member,is one of the nine children of the late Amedeo Sr. and Philomena (Bronchetti) Cappione. He was part of the family's beverage distributorship business, A. Cappione Inc., with his brothers until his retirement. The business is now run by the next generation of Cappiones.

Portolese and his brother, Sal, ran the Club 284, a popular restaurant on East Orvis Street, from 1945 to 1977. He later helped his brother, who operated Tiffany's Restaurant on Main Street for several years.

Larosa was a pharmacist, and Bronchetti was a tool and die maker at General Motors.

It was a Thursday night at the Italian-American Club, and several men, including President James Bronchetti, were in the kitchen preparing the weekly dinner that draws a large crowd of appreciative members and guests.

Other club members stopped by at the table as Jenne presented a citation from the New York State Assembly honoring the club on its 100th anniversary.

"It truly is a testament to their dedication and commitment that the club has prospered for 100 years. It was truly a pleasure to be able to stop at the Italian-American Club and celebrate their accomplishment," she noted.

"I enjoyed the opportunity to sit and reminisce about the old days with some of the club's senior members. Their love for their Italian heritage and traditions is evident when you first walk through the doors," Jenne said.

The first generation of Italian-American immigrants, most from the Province of Calabria on the southern tip of the country, started a Sons of Italy chapter in Massena in 1917.

They met at members' homes and at union headquarters before construction started in 1929 on the Beach Street location that has served as the club's home since 1931.

The Sons of Italy became the Italian-American Civic Association of Massena in 1960. The building was remodeled and expanded in 1961, and then underwent major repairs after suffering heavy damage in a 1989 fire that was determined to have been started by an arsonist.

The club has seen a number of changes since the first Italian-American immigrants –- most living in the Grove or in the North Main Street area on the village's north side first started meeting together.

An Italian-American Women’s Civic Association was formed in the early 1930s. It later merged with the Italian-American Civic Association, and the club also opened its doors to non-Italians to reflect the changing demographics of the community.

The Italian-American Club at 12 Beach St. has been named one of TAUNY's Very Special Places for preserving ethnic identity and pride at a time when that is easily lost in the modern era.

"The men and women of the Italian-American Civic Association of Massena continue to play an important role in their community," Jenne said.

"They continue to sponsor banquets for Massena Central High School sports' teams, including the track and girls' swim teams, and regularly hold dinners to raise funds for the Back the Pack program that assists students with food security needs, Hospice and Palliative Care of St. Lawrence Valley, the Trinity Catholic School Foundation and the St. Mary's Memorial Fund," Jenne said.

"I am certain the founders of this club would be very proud of the work their children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren have done to keep this club an important part of the fabric of the Massena community," she noted.