Nov 14, 1933 - April 28, 2019
He was born November 14, 1933, in the Bronx to Leoluca and Antonina, immigrants from Corleone, Sicily. After graduating from his beloved Fordham University in 1955, Dominic began his illustrious public relations career with Alitalia Airlines that ultimately brought him to Chicago in 1962, thanks to an introduction to then-Mayor Richard J. Daley. When Alitalia decided to close its Chicago office and offered to move Dominic back to New York City, he turned the offer down because he fell in love with Chicago and could not leave. With a deep devotion to his craft, Dominic’s expertise soared to great heights in the areas of government and community relations.
When the Italian American community was at risk of losing one of its cornerstones, the Our Lady of Pompeii church, Dominic, along with other Little Italy community leaders, neighbors and alumni bound together to raise enough money to save the church and personally petitioned the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin to allow the special place to remain open. 25 years later the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii is shining on due, in large part, to his dedication and influence.
One of Dominic’s favorite days of the year was the Columbus Day Parade. For 46 years, Dominic would be color commentator during the television broadcast of the parade. Dominic never met a microphone he didn’t like. During the broadcast, Dominic would use the time wisely, plugging in every person who was important to him or the Italian American community. He also never wasted an opportunity to tell ANY elected official, “You know, the Columbus Day Parade is the only ethnic parade still on State Street. Don’t you dare move it.”
As one of the most fanatic admirers of the New York Yankees, in 1998, it was no surprise Dominic was a supporter of DiMaggio Plaza, a site on Taylor Street in Chicago’s Little Italy created to honor Yankee Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio.
How ya doing kid? I have shoes older than you. These God damned cell phones… when you read these phrases, you only hear one voice: Dominic DiFrisco.
Dominic was a loving husband, father, grandfather, father-in-law, brother, uncle and Godfather to many. As he would say in Sicilian dialect, “Sangue mio.” My blood. Dominic’s other family were the countless world-wide friends and colleagues that he would laugh, mentor and share with any hour of the day or night. There literally wasn’t a corner of the world where Dominic didn’t know someone.
As a Commendatore of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, Dominic carried the torch for countless topics important to the Italian American community and was the community’s voice. He was an early leader of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans (JCCIA)—a nonprofit organization that serves as a congress for the Chicagoland Italian American organizations and represents the community on a local, state, national and international level.
In 1971, as president of the JCCIA, Dominic created one of his proudest achievements: the Dante Award. Each year, the JCCIA presents the coveted award to a member of the local news media who has answered Dante Alighieri's call to be "no timid friend to truth." And in 2014 Dominic added the Filippo Mazzei Public Affairs Award to the annual Dante Award event.
On the JCCIA website, Dominic is quoted saying, “Our Italian American community and the Chicagoland community are infinitely richer for our Dante and Mazzei recipient contributions to journalism and public affairs."
For more than 50 years, Dominic’s primary office was the corner booth at Gene and Georgetti’s. Stemming from a personal friendship from proprietor Gene Michellotti, you could find him there during weekday lunches and even dinners, and frequently for a Saturday lunch. What will forever be called Mr. DiFrisco’s booth, when he was there you would see him visiting with celebrities, high profile elected officials, colleagues or anyone in the world Dominic wanted to help.
When you look up the word “networking” in the dictionary, you will see a photo of Dom sitting at the head of the booth table. Edelman, the public relations firm he spent more than 20 years with, must have had one hell of a large printing bill to cover all of Dominic’s business cards that he would give out. And it wouldn’t be uncommon if you thought you had a one-on-one lunch scheduled with him, only to find out two or three others were “stopping by;” it was how he connected people.
But Dominic’s love for his Italian heritage expands far beyond the mother country. He held immense admiration for numerous ethnic groups including the Jewish, Chinese, African-American, Native American, Greek, and Hispanic communities, to name a few.
One of his recent multi-cultural conquests was seeing through the renaming of Congress Parkway to Ida B. Wells Drive. City officials were trying to rename Balbo Drive, named after the famed Italian aviator, but that idea was met with stiff opposition led, in part, by Dominic, and instead, aldermen shifted to renaming Congress Parkway. He was quoted as saying, "Ida B. Wells is getting her long-overdue recognition, and we are retaining a cherished part of Italian-American culture," Dominic dismissed the idea that Balbo was no longer an appropriate figure to be honored with a street name. "The founding fathers of the United States killed innocent people too," DiFrisco replied. "Atrocities are committed in all wars… I'm sure people will continue to attack Balbo's legacy in Chicago, and we will continue to defend it."
“Hello. I’m at Gene’s having lunch… are you stopping by?”
Dominic’s world will live vicariously through his deeply devoted wife and songbird of his life, Carol Loverde DiFrisco, the apple of his eye, daughter Nina Mariano and her husband Bob, and his pride and joy, grandson Pasquale Dominic Gianni. When Pasquale was attending Dominic’s alma matter Fordham, he was once quoted as saying, “Pasquale is the core of my happiness and life.” Dominic was also incredibly proud of Pasquale being in law school and everything he has accomplished in life.
There are countless stories that can be told about a man who was larger than life to so many. His smile was infectious, his look was impeccable, and his heart was one of a kind.
As we close a chapter on a life that was so impactful, we know heaven now has a corner booth with a red and white table cloth, with a glass of lemon water (no ice), and a Bloody Mary… and a cell phone ringing with a voice saying, “These God damned cell phones…”