Tradition and Heritage Key to Italian Fraternal Society
“La Fratellanza” (Brotherhood), is a theme the Italian Fraternal Society (IFS) has been living by since the society incorporated in 1897. Fifty-two Italian men founded the IFS, men from every region of Italy, holding their first meeting at 309 Main St. in New Britain.
“My father had been one of the original members,” said Cil Ferri who has spent most of his life as a member and runs the bar. Most of today’s members are longstanding, having come into the society following their parents and grandparents.
“I keep coming, keep doing everything I’m involved with, because my mother brought me into it,” said Santo DeFilice, Jr., current president.
“My father met my mother through membership in this society,” said Elva Stregowski, who also showed her great-grandfather’s framed membership certificate from 1914 which hangs on the clubroom wall. “Many weddings resulted from the numerous sections of the society. During the early years there had been 12 sections of the society. These included: Meriden, Middletown, Hartford had two, New Britain had four, Brooklyn, NY; Pittsfield, MA; Lee, MA; and Springfield, MA. People mingled during frequent events and got to know one another.
“It was here our ancestors could come and have a meeting place,” said Dennis Cavallo, current financial secretary, referring to the society. “They felt as one together with their kind. They felt safe, being able to collect sick and death benefits.”
“This building (Monroe St.) has been our second move here in New Britain,” said Ferri. “In the 1930s we mostly didn’t have a place of our own. Then in 1950 a club in Berlin was sold that had been used and we came to East Main St. in New Britain. The highway went through that leaving us with nothing for a while.” The Italian Fraternal Society’s current address of 131 Monroe St. was called home in 1972 with an addition being built.
The organization lives by the caring words expressed in its By-Laws … “to aid and assist those of its members as shall be in need; to visit the sick; to provide for the widow and orphan, by way of financial aid or otherwise; to promote the mental, moral and physical welfare of its members, and to do and perform any and all acts and things in furtherance of the objects of said Society not prohibited by law.”
An organization such as the Italian Fraternal Society thrives on the uplifting care and concern provided by its members to preserve what its ancestors began. As Laurie Apara, club treasurer summed it, “We belong to carry on the tradition and heritage.”
Election of current officers was held in January 2011. They are as follows:
• Santo DeFelice, president
• Ray Rossignol, vice president
• Dennis Cavallo, financial secretary
• Laurie Apara, treasurer
• Elva Stregowski, recording secretary
• Jimmy Tarca, editor
Some of the activities going on at the society are: Pasta Night every third Tuesday of each month at 5:30 p.m.; 50/50 raffle is run which benefits the winner as well as the organization! Dinner includes pasta, choice of meatball or sausage, salad, garlic bread, dessert and coffee ass for just $7/person. Porchetta night was held recently which included appetizers and a family-style meal with cash bar. Two scholarships are awarded yearly; presently the annual scholarship drive is underway. Candidates for the scholarships must be either children or grandchildren of members. The organization participates in New Britain’s Columbus Day parade – a Mass is held at St. Ann’s Church; a wreath placing at the statue of Columbus follows.
To become a member of the Italian Fraternal Society, a person must be proposed by a member in good standing. Members need not have been born in Italy but they must be of Italian descent or married to an Italian. Anyone interested in joining, or needing more information regarding the club, should contact Santo DeFelice at the club 860-229-6521.