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Danzi, a 99-year-old resident of Flushing, will receive an Ellis Island Medal of Honor, an award granted to Americans who distinguish themselves with humanitarian...
By Alexander Dworkowitz
On May 11, Lucia Grieco Danzi will return to Ellis Island for the first time in 86 years.
Danzi, a 99-year-old resident of Flushing, will receive an Ellis Island Medal of Honor, an award granted to Americans who distinguish themselves with humanitarian services.
Danzi now spends her days at home, living in a quiet, well-kept home with her 80-year-old daughter, Mary DeLoria.
But the Italian immigrant has spend many years volunteering in city churches, helping out the homeless and giving her time to several Italian non-profit organizations.
Danzi also helped take care of a nephew who was afflicted with cerebral palsy, an affliction of the brain which often causes movement problems and sometimes mental retardation.
Having grown up in Apuglia, Italy, Danzi came to the United States in 1916. The 29-day voyage took place in the middle of World War I, and the ocean liner, called the America, was attacked by ships and partially damaged, Danzi said. For three days, she and other passengers sat in life vests, fearing the boat would sink.
When she finally arrived in the United States, Danzi, who spoke no English, moved with her family to the Lower East Side.
Danzi was initially skeptical of her new home.
I didnt like nothing when I got off, she said.
But Danzi grew to enjoy life on the Lower East Side, the home of many Italian and Jewish immigrants that was one of the most densely populated neighborhoods on the planet in the early 20th century.
Danzi got a job sewing baby clothing on Fifth Avenue.
85 Fifth Avenue I never forget, she said.
The eldest of seven children, all daughters, Danzi spent her free time seeing films for five cents, her favorites starring Charlie Chaplin.
We loved it down there, said Danzi. We had a lot of fun.
Just two years after arriving in the United States, she married Dominic Danzi, who grew up selling newspapers on the citys streets and later worked as a truck driver delivering uniforms.
Danzi was a member of the Mary Help of Christians Church, located on 12th Street and Avenue A. It was through the church that she began volunteering. There, she helped fed homeless children during the Depression.
We used to give eggs to all the people, Danzi recalled.
Danzi is now being recognized for her volunteer work by the Ellis Island Medals of Honor organization, a member of the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations.
Peter Hamilton, a spokesman for NECO, said there was strong competition for the medals.
There were over 10,000 nominations for 125 awards, said Hamilton.
In addition to her work at the church, Danzi volunteered with the Italian Welfare League and hosted exchange students as part of a program with Bologna University.
She was involved up to her eyeballs, said Hamilton.
Danzi, who moved to Flushing after the death of her husband in 1952, also spent her days on the Lower East Side taking care of a nephew who had cerebral palsy.
DeLoria, one of two of Danzis children, said her mothers care for her cousin which motivated her to volunteer.
It was her dedication to cerebral palsy that enlightened me and my daughter, said DeLoria, who spent years volunteering to help people afflicted with cerebral palsy. My daughter use to spend days taking care of a baby who had no one. My mother inspired us.
Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.
©2002 Community Newspaper Group
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