Anthony Fornelli, a longtime acquaintance going back some decades when we were both politically and socially active with the JCCIA—he, as a force in both the Justinian Society of Lawyers and the JCCIA, and I, as President of the Gregorian Society of Educators.
His personal odyssey, as a first generation offspring of one of the many immigrants who had found their way to Chicago’s legendary Taylor Street, is reflective of the gene pool our immigrant parents brought with them from their Mediterranean roots, produced a leader of the Italian American community during the 1970s–its most influential and impactful days.
Other notable figures, such as U.S. Congressman Frank Annunzio, Chicago Alderman Vito Marzullo, Illinois Congressman Victor Arrigo, and the likes of Anthony Sorrentino were included in that roundtable of those Camelot days. But it was Anthony Fornelli who picked up the mantle and emboldened us to challenge the issues of that era. Those issues included the lack of representation of Italian Americans in the media, the scarcity of Italian Americans in the executive suites, and Anthony Sorrentino’s depiction of the Italian American experience:–“that suffocating feeling of inferiority.”
Recently, Tony related the following story which I share with you. His two daughters came to Taylor Street to enjoy Italian lemonade. They engaged in conversation with members of one of the Old Neighborhood Italian Clubs that still exist. “Our father, Anthony Fornelli, was born somewhere in this neighborhood,” “Yeah! That was Midge and Jerry. Right across the street is where they lived…in the Briatta barber shop building.”
Tony was only two years old when his parents, Midge and Jerry, left Taylor Street, the port-of-call for Chicago’s Italian Americans. But, as his daughters attested in their search for their roots, Tony will always be the proud son of the Legendary Taylor Street.