Standing: Rita DeFrange, LeAnne DiTirro, Bob Giusto, John Gargano, John Callor, Ed Mendicello, Bev Mendicello, Laurie Creason, TJ Henderson
Seated: Fran Brehm, Anna Vann, Sal Siraguse, Fred Marzano, Paul LoNigro, Pam Wright
The Order Sons of Italy in America was formed in 1905 by Dr. Vencenzo Sellaro. Originally called “L’Ordine Figli d’Italia,” the Order Sons of Italy in America was established in the Little Italy neighborhood of New York City on June 22, 1905, by Dr. Sellaro and five other Italian immigrants who came to the United States during the great Italian migration. Their aim was to create a support system for all Italian immigrants that would assist them with becoming U.S. citizens, provide health/death benefits, provide educational opportunities, and offer assistance with the transition to America.
Like the national organization, the Denver Lodge #2075 brought together Italians in the Denver area. The Order Sons of Italy in America Denver Lodge #2075 has been promoting Italian heritage, giving back to the community and giving Italian Americans a place to make friends and share their stories for over 50 years. The Denver Lodge was formed under the Grand Lodge of California in April of 1958 by John Decicco, Joe Ciancio, Jr., and Al Decredico.
They wanted to start a club that would unite Americans of Italian descent in the Denver area and give them an entity to become (at that time) brothers who all shared the common bond of “la famiglia.” Membership was strong in the beginning and nearly 200 men were initiated. Over time membership decreased and women were welcomed in 1959. Membership was going strong and elections of officers were competitive. As the Denver Lodge didn’t have a permanent place to meet, members met in various places around the Denver area including the Mt. Carmel School and various bank buildings.
Early events of the Denver Lodge were held at Mt. Carmel in their gymnasium and the Grand Ballroom at the Brown Palace. Notable events of the time were Columbus Day parades and dinners and even a “Rocky Marciano Night”. The reason for the event didn’t matter as much as the fact that friends and family were brought together to share memorable times. Other events throughout our history have included family picnics, Carnivale dances, spaghetti dinners, Sunday activities, bocce tournaments, children dance recitals, and so much more.
Throughout the years, the Denver Lodge has been involved in events around the community. The Lodge has been an annual participant in the Wheat Ridge Carnation and St. Patrick’s Day parades. The Lodge also participated in numerous fairs, festivals and public events. In the past the Sons of Italy chorus, led by John and Gloria DeFrange, preformed in various local events. Who can forget the many queens that gave the Lodge a strong positive presence in the community as well as competing in the pageant at the Grand Lodge of California Conventions? The Lodge even sponsored sports teams.
Members of the Denver Lodge bought their first building at 38th and Harlan in 1981. Finally members had a place to call their own and a place to hold meetings and host events. They rented the hall to other organizations as a way to raise funds. Near the end of the payment terms the interest rate was set to spike from 12% to 18%. Displeased with the increase, Anne Ciancio launched an alternate plan to take pledges from the membership to payoff the remaining balance. When the idea was presented to the membership, the needed funds were raised in just 10 minutes. Each member was repaid in full at the original interest rate of 12%. It’s fair to say that the membership really did live up to the true good of the order.
In 1983 the Denver Lodge started organizing bingo events. Sessions were originally hosted in the Lodge building but because of its size and the amount of players, a decision was made to rent space in a bingo hall.
By 1987 bingo sessions were bringing in an amazing $20,000 a month. The members’ hard work was paying off. It was this profitable endeavor that allowed the growing 650 members to start looking for a bigger building. Our current building was purchased in October of 1986. Organizers were able to put down a large down payment on the building. After some clean-up and alterations, such as removing pews and alters out of the former church, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held in May of 1987. By 1995 the Lodge was completely paid off. In 1991 the kitchen was expanded creating a facility that made some restaurants jealous. When you look around the hall, know that it was made possible by devoted members who gave their time and money to get what you see around you today.
Also in 1995, the Grand Lodge of Colorado was formed. Since the membership had exceeded the national OSIA minimum requirement of 500 members, the Denver Lodge separated from the Grand Lodge of California and the Grand Lodge of Colorado was formed.
Since 1995, in addition to the Denver Lodge #2075, the Grand Lodge of Colorado has welcomed the Southern Colorado Lodge #2738, the Cristofro Colombo Lodge#1309, the Cabrini Lodge #2826, the Royal Gorge Lodge #2866, and the Pikes Peak Lodge #2870.
Our membership has fluctuated over the years but there has always been one common goal…to unite Americans of Italian descent and make a difference in the community. Since its inception, the Denver Lodge has donated thousands of dollars to local and national charities, held numerous events, and has been a place for the building of numerous friendships.
So what has been the key to our success? Plain and simple–hard work, friendship and determination. Like any relationship in our lives, being a member of OSIA requires maintenance and dedication. With a little sacrifice and contributions from our members we will continue to be a strong a viable organization. Why not come join us!