Five Hundred Plus
1993 – At the Columbus Day ceremonies, major addresses were delivered by Gonzalo de Ojeda, Consul General of the Embassy of Spain (“The Return of Columbus to the New World: Its Impact”); Cornelius Heine, Executive Secretary of the U.S. Capitol Historical Association (on “Columbus and the U.S. Capitol,” reproduced in the 1998 program book); and Carl Anderson, K. of C. Vice President for Public Policy (elected Supreme Secretary in 1999), who spoke on “Columbus and the Immigrant: His Impact.” Judge Vincent J. Femia of Maryland served as Master of Ceremonies, and the DeMatha Wind Ensemble provided the music, with additional musical selections by Sylvan Ayers.
In the meantime, WCCA had added two new members to its Board: Phillip Nelson (Master of K. of C. Fourth Degree) and Blanche Davis (Prince Georges County OSIA Lodge), replacing J. Kemp Cook and Robert Houston. John C. Moore continued as chairman, and Louis Figliozzi, long involved in the celebrations, was elected vice-chairman. The secretary and treasurer switched positions, with Edward M. Sullivan assuming the former, and Nina Baccanari the latter position. There was a net drop of three in membership now that the Quincentenary was over, with 31 listed in the program booklet.
1994 – Although Chairman John Moore had announced that he would appoint a search committee and no longer serve after his term ended on December 31, 1993, a replacement had not been found, and the 1994 program booklet (now 40 pages), listed the same officers, though the chairman was now serving in an “Acting” capacity. Pending such revisions to the by laws, the board had been expanded through special “alternate memberships” and Dr. David R. Curfman, Richard Aleksy, and Gino Marinucci were added in that way. There was also a net gain of eleven dues-paying members, with a total of 42 dues-paying members of all types. The program booklet netted between $1,300 and $1,400, consistent with what it had produced previously.
An addition at the beginning of the program, to be included in subsequent years, was the posting of the colors at the beginning of the ceremony by an Honor Guard from the Military District of Washington. The program itself followed the familiar pattern, with music by the Commonwealth Ensemble and addresses by Judge Angelo Castelli of Prince Georges County; Judge Lawrence S. Margolis of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims; Mr. Robert B. Blancato, Executive Director of the White House Conference on Aging; and remarks by the 1991 essay contest winner for D.C., who had been invited back: Zulima Espinel, now a student at Columbia University, whose earlier winning essay was printed in the 1994 program booklet. (This year’s remarks, titled “Where are the Heroes?” appear in the 1995 program booklet. The custom of having a young speaker on the program would be continued in the ensuing years.) There followed the usual wreath presentations.
The general meeting of the Association on November 29 added the following to the board: Reginald C. Bush, Francis J. Loughney and George Hanna (all present or former K. of C. officials), Pino Cicala (of the Lido Club and Italian radio) and Anthony Russo (OSIA). At the follow up meeting of the Board on December 10, Dr. David R. Curfman was elected chief executive to succeed John Moore, and Reginald Bush was elected to the number two position. John Moore succeeded Nina Baccanari as treasurer of the Association.
Dr. Curfman had been involved in the seminal meetings leading to the establishment of the Association, donated the program covers in 1992 and supported the effort financially each year with an inside-cover “advertisement” in the program booklet featuring specially-chosen historical artwork relating to Columbus.
The new president, as the chief executive was now called, introduced an attractive gold-plated membership pin, and certificate with embossed and beribboned gold seal, to reach out for membership and participation to various patriotic societies that have a focus on historical events up through the American Revolution. Insignia of office were also introduced, featuring the logo from the pin and the seal, suspended on a neck ribbon incorporating the colors from Columbus’s coat of arms.
On July 29 the board simplified the dues structure to have only three types of members: commercial ($100), nonprofit organization ($75), and individual ($25). The August board meeting also decided to waive, at least for the present, the former policy of restricting wreath-laying as a privilege of membership in the Association.
1995 – The ceremonies were streamlined, with a single Columbus Day Address, by Dr. Jose Luis Restrepo, Special Advisor to the Secretary General of the OAS, and an essay reading by student Daniel D. Lupini, winner of a national essay contest on Columbus sponsored by OSIA, who had been brought from his home in Fullerton, California at WCCA expense. As in the past, the embassies of Spain, Italy, and the Commonwealth of the Bahamas were represented. The DeMatha Band and the Navy’s Sea Chanters furnished the music. In implementation of the new policy on wreath presenters, the program booklet listed (in addition to seventeen of the usual organizations) fifteen patriotic societies new to the celebration, plus the U.S.-Mexico Chamber of Commerce and the Hispanic Cultural Organization of Maryland–for a total of 34 wreath-presenters. At the very beginning of the entire ceremonies they entered in procession preceded by the Columbus Expeditionary Banner, to take their reserved seats in the front. (NIAF generously sponsored a Capitol Hill reception for wreath-presenters and dais guests following the ceremony, to be repeated in subsequent years.)
The ceremonies included a presentation to former chairman John Moore of a special Founding Chairman Emeritus Medal based on the same design as the officers’ insignia. (The tribute is on p. 22 of the 1996 program booklet.)
The program booklet had grown to 48 pages, with an attractive cover donated by the new president featuring a color reproduction of a richly-illustrated souvenir ribbon from the quadricentennial Columbus Day celebration in 1892. The president had concentrated on reaching out to acquaintances in patriotic societies for memberships and participation in the program, and 54 individual members are listed in the program book, along with 12 K. of C. entities, 4 OSIA lodges, 3 other Italian organizations (NIAF, the Lido Club, and the Fr. DeCarlo Post of the CWV) and two commercial organizations.
At the general meeting several additional members were added to the board: Richard J. Higgins of NIAF (formerly U.S. Consul in Genoa), Paul Biciocchi of the Lido Club, Hector Diaz of Hispanics in History, and Anthony Tringale; Daniel Quaid and Louis Figliozzi became honorary board members. The general membership also voted a resolution to commend the President at the end of his first year in office “for the success of this year’s celebration and for his efforts for the growth and development of the Association, building on the foundations of the past.”
1996 – The Columbus Day Address was delivered by Dr. James Patrick Kiernan, Historian of the OAS. The youth speaker, through the courtesy of NIAF, was Elizabeth Salamone of Oakton, Virginia. Included in the ceremony was the presentation of a special Distinguished Officer Medal to retiring secretary and former treasurer, Edward M. Sullivan, who along with John Moore was one of the two remaining members of the original board, and like him had served as an officer from the beginning. Music was provided by the Bishop McNamara High School Symphonic Band, and 33 wreath-presenters are listed in the program book. It was estimated that there were about 650 people at the ceremony.
Two of the participating organizations, the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) and the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR), announced at the ceremonies the initiation of a national Columbus essay contest open to students of all racial and ethnic groups in Grades 9 and 10, with NSDAR administering the contest and NIAF providing a $1,000 prize and transportation for two to Washington where the winner would read the winning essay at the 1997 Columbus Day Ceremonies.
1997 – This was the 25th anniversary of the first celebration of Columbus Day as a federal holiday, and the program book, now grown to 52 pages, presented a history of that development, along with a history of the local Knights of Columbus, who were then commencing the 100th anniversary of their establishment in the area, and had been intimately involved with the original establishment of the national Columbus Memorial, the subsequent annual celebrations at the site, and establishment of WCCA. The cover featured a striking color reproduction of the cover of the banquet program for the 1912 banquet sponsored by the K. of C. at the time of the unveiling. The number of individual members listed in the booklet had grown to 85, with essentially the same organizational and commercial membership as previously.
Revision and updating of the by laws was brought to completion by Richard Higgins, who had been elected to the previously unfilled position of Counsel in January, and the new by-laws were approved at the general meeting on November 24. At the same time, the membership enthusiastically approved in principle a resolution naming Columbus as “Man of the Millennium” (reproduced in the 1997 program booklet) and a proposal for securing its adoption by other organizations. Thomas B. Lank (of the K. of C.) was elected to the Board and, at its next meeting, to the position of Secretary.
1998 – This year marked the eighty-fifth anniversary of the 1912 unveiling of the national Columbus Memorial. The program book, now fifty-six pages, again used on its cover the color image of the original banquet program from that event, and inside reproduced the text of the program booklet for the original entire 1912 weekend celebration, along with later descriptions of those events.
The membership list in the booklet had now grown to 115 individual members, along with the usual organizational members (with slight changes in the latter), for a total of 140. Newly listed on the board members were Robert Barbuto and Lourdes S. Morales (Cultural Hispanic Organization of Maryland).
At the civic ceremonies the invocation was given by Rev. Dr. Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, and music provided by the United States Army Band. The Columbus Day Address was delivered by Dr, Ana Maria Snell of Johns Hopkins University on the subject of Queen Isabella: “A Queen and an Explorer Meet.” Highlight of the program was the presentation by Mrs. Charles Keil Kemper, President General of the D.A.R. and Dr. A. Kenneth Ciongoli, President of NIAF, of the first winner of what would become the annual NIAF-NSDAR Columbus essay contest: Crissia Ahnna Reay of Wonder Lake, Illinois, who read her essay comparing the importance of the voyages of Christopher Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci. There had been 1,709 entries from all around the country. Thirty-three organizations, now including the Organization of American States. presented wreaths.
The 1998 celebration had a further streamlining of the ceremonies by the elimination of the Columbus Day address, with the chief focus now on the reading of the winning essay in the second national NIAF-NSDAR contest. Ryan A. Stoner (coincidentally from nearby Fairfax, Virginia), read his essay on “The Legacy of Christopher Columbus,” his research quite evidently in tune with the modern age, drawing as it did on some resources available only on CD-ROM and on the internet. Again Dr. Ogilvie gave the invocation. Music was provided by the United States Marine Band, then celebrating its own centennial.
A special “Distinguished Member” presentation was made to Gustave S. Weber of the Knights of Columbus, who had served as editor, writer, and composition and production manager of the program booklet since its beginning six years earlier. The program booklet over the years was largely handled by Knights of Columbus, who also provided most of the advertising and advertising sales. However, production of the full color cover–a costly item–had at times been donated by others, such as Dr. Curfman in a couple of years. This year’s cover, donated by the Lido Club, reproduced a mosaic of Columbus from the Palazzo Tursi (now the Town Hall) in Genoa, the city where Columbus was born.
An updated list of the membership on a special insert showed 110 individual, twenty organizational, and two commercial members, for a total of 140 paid memberships. In addition, the following honorary memberships, which had been conferred over the years, were listed: The Archdiocese of Washington; the United States Army Band (Col. L. Byron Shelburne, Jr., Director); Virgil C. Dechant, Supreme Knight, K. of C.; Doria Dean Elton Kemper (former President-General, NSDAR), James Patrick Kiernan (Historian, OAS); Jose Luis Restrepo (Special Advisor to the Secretary General, OAS); Rev. Msgr. Roger C. Roensch (former Chaplain to the DC K.of C. and for many years celebrant at the Sunday religious observance); and Dr. Ana Maria Snell (who delivered the 1997 Columbus Day Address).
The Board of Directors contained two new names: Robert Royal (of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington), and Gustav W. Weber.
Attendance at the separate religious celebration on the preceding Sunday at Holy Rosary Church, recognized by the Association but handled by the Lido Club and the Knights of Columbus, was greatly enhanced this year by an Italian Street Festival sponsored by another group immediately following, and apparently to be repeated in subsequent years.