BY: Miles Fisher
Vincent Sarno and Vera Ferrara Girolami—both National Past Presidents of the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America (OSDIA)—were presented with the Dr. Vincenzo Sellaro Award at the Order’s virtual Plenary Session on Saturday, February 12, 2022. The award, which is traditionally presented at the Biennial Convention, was created in 1989 and is named for the Order’s founder.
It recognizes OSDIA members who have distinguished themselves by exemplifying the ideals and principles of the Order. The Dr. Vincenzo Sellaro Award is the highest award presented to a member of OSDIA. “The importance of this award cannot be overstated,” said OSDIA National President Robert A. Bianchi, Esq.
“Out of tens of thousands of members throughout the United States, National Past Presidents Vincent Sarno and Vera Ferrara Girolami have not only led OSDIA with honor and distinction, but have also risen to the level to be awarded our Order’s highest honor. My congratulations to them for reaching such heights and to have our membership agree that they are worthy of this coveted award.”
Vincent Sarno has been a member of the Giuseppe Garibaldi Lodge #1658 in Hammonton, New Jersey, for over 20 years and the Enrico Fermi Lodge # 2229 in Medford, New Jersey, for over 30 years. He served in many leadership positions including Local Lodge President, NJ State Trustee, NJ Membership Chair from 1980 until he was elected New Jersey State President in 1987.
While he was State President, he successfully formed and received a charter for its non-profit foundation and paid off the mortgage of the Grand Lodge building. In 1995, Vince was elected as OSDIA National 5th Vice President and continued through the chairs until he became National President in 2005. Following his presidency, he served as Sons of Italy Foundation (SIF) President for two terms and was named SIF President Emeritus.
In addition to his supreme council offices, he successfully served as chairman of committees overseeing membership, fundraising, and education. He served as Education Chair for the committee that planned and conducted OSDIA’s first-ever National Youth Summit in Washington, D.C.
Vince was born on May 4, 1933, to James Sarno and Rose Mauriello Sarno in Newark, New Jersey. He graduated from Newark Central High School as a business major. He is a veteran of U.S. Navy (1952-1956), discharged with the rank of Machinist's Mate Refrigeration Mechanic, and spent one year in the special course division at Newark College of Engineering.
After beginning his government career with the U.S. Department of Defense in 1962, he received the Air Force Civilian Commendation Medal for fighting a forest fire which threatened a $26 million radar tower. During his 37-year career in government, Vince supervised seven subordinate foreman, several hundred technicians, and managed an annual budget of one million dollars.
In 1954, he married Paula, the daughter of Philip and Mary De Stefano. They have two children—Vincent and Rosemary—and three grandchildren—Nicholas Vincenzo Sarno, Christine Paula Knox, and Michelle Elizabeth Rapp.
“I’m very proud to be receiving this award,” Vince said in his acceptance. “And to share it with Vera makes it that much more important to me.”
Vera Ferrara Girolami has been a member of the Modesto Lodge #2021 in Modesto, California, for over 35 years. On August 19, 2017, she was sworn in as the Order’s 36th National President, becoming the second woman in OSDIA history to serve in that position. During her term, the Order’s name changed from the Order Sons of Italy in America to the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America.
Prior to serving as National President, she served in many positions, including Local Lodge President for three terms and Grand Lodge of California Convention Chair for two years. She founded and, for 22 years, chaired the Central Valley OSDIA Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization that raised more than $350,000 for communities and charities. In 2005, Vera became the first woman to be elected President of the Grand Lodge of California.
Vera also served in multiple positions at the national level, including National Delegate, Supreme Council, Youth Summit, Future Good of The Order, and Ritual and Protocol Handbook. She served as Fifth, Fourth, and First National Vice President.
Vera’s parents, Salvatore and Palma Ferrara, met in Ohio after each emigrated from the same village in Sicily (Rodì Milici), where Salvatore worked as a shoemaker. After Vera was born in Ohio, her parents moved the family to California.
Vera graduated from Notre Dame High School and attended O’Connor Hospital School of Nursing. She was then one of the first fourteen women to attend Santa Clara University, where she met her husband, Judge Al Girolami. Vera worked as a nurse, retiring from Emergency Room Nursing in 1989. She began a new career as Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations for the Modesto Community Bank until she retired in 2007.
Vera and Al have been married for 60 years and live in San Jose, California. They have two daughters—Catherine and Carol—and five grandchildren—Foster, Gavin, Amelia, Nella, and Eva.
“It’s a great privilege to receive this award,” Vera said in her acceptance speech. “Congratulations to Vince. It’s been such an honor to be a part of the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy for these many years.”
View the award presentations and acceptance speeches on Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America’s YouTube Channel in the video entitled “2022 Winter Plenary: Session 2” starting at 3:28:20.
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