Dominic DiFrisco succumbed to lymphoma on Sunday, April 28 at the age of 85, but the Chicago icon’s legacy will live on for decades to come.
DiFrisco — a PR executive and President of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian-Americans — fought for Columbus Day, derided stereotypical depictions of Italian mobsters and advocated for Chicago’s Italian American community.
Greatly saddened by loss of Dominic DiFrisco, a true friend of the Clerk’s Office who eagerly participated in our Italian Heritage Month celebrations. He was a proud Italian-American, champion of his community; he cared about racial & cultural diversity, equality and justice. pic.twitter.com/DxpPIHQyNn
— Dorothy Brown (@CourtClerkBrown) April 28, 2019
The Chicago Sun-Times reports: “DiFrisco also became a staunch defender of Christopher Columbus and reached common ground with Native Americans in 1992, 500 years after Columbus arrived in America. DiFrisco wound up traveling with Native American leaders to Italy — via Alitalia Airlines — and some of them even had an audience with the pope.”
In 2018, he helped preserve the name of Balbo Drive, after city leaders suggested renaming it to civil rights leader Ida B. Wells. Critics pointed to Italo Balbo’s role in bringing Benito Mussolini to power in 1922, but DiFrisco countered with the fact that Balbo railed against anti-semitism and was a staunch supporter of the Jewish community.
DiFrisco won, and the city renamed Congress Parkway in Wells’ honor instead.
The son of immigrants from Corleone, Italy, DiFrisco was born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Fordham University in New York in 1955. He worked in public relations for Alitalia in New York and was transferred to the airline’s Chicago office in 1962, according to the Chicago Tribune.
DiFrisco, a godfather to many, is survived by his wife Carol Loverde DiFrisco, daughter Nina Mariano and her husband, Robert, and sisters Carmela Soricelli and Louisa Termini.