MARPLE — It was all about Italian at a recent gala at the Paxon Hollow Golf Club.

About 250 guests packed the ballroom for the 28th annual Associazione Regionale Abruzzese (ARA) Delco dinner dance to pay tribute to their Italian heritage and honor local people of Italian origin or descent who have made outstanding contributions to the community while fostering Italian heritage and culture.

“This gathering of our friends and paesani at this annual event gives us the opportunity to celebrate the rich history and heritage that Abruzzo has provided to all of us,” said Nick Rapagnani of Brookhaven, president of ARA Delco. “We, as an organization, strive to organize, promote, and conduct social, cultural, sports and recreational activities as we maintain and strengthen our Italian heritage.”

Prior to a sit-down dinner, dancing, and music by Moreno Fruzzetti, Rapagnani and club treasurer Dr. Jack Colombo presented awards to 2019 honorees, Dr. Jerry and Lucille Francesco and family, the Collelouori family, and Nicholas Quercetti.

Jerry and Lucille Francesco met when he was a pharmacy student and she was working at her parents' deli at Broad and Moore streets in South Philadelphia. They married in 1964, after Lucille graduated from Drexel University as a registered dietician. They had two children, Nicole and Gerald. Lucille started her own catering and retail gourmet shop before joining her husband in his start-up company that provided sophisticated infusion services with nursing support for home patients, the greater part of which was providing specialized nutrition solutions that could be injected or instilled in dialysis patients. The company, Pentech Infusions Inc., would eventually grow to be the largest of its kind in the country and continues to operate in almost all of the United States. The Francescos sold their successful business in 2006 and it continues to thrive with more than 600 employees.

Lucille, who passed away in 2018, was honored posthumously. Both Jerry and Lucille were honored for their achievements, as well as their philanthropic generosity.   Lucille was the former chair for several years of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary Gala. Both Lucille and Jerry were members of the Leadership Council for the World Meeting of Families and participants in many other charities and non-profits.  They both were recently knighted into the Order of St. Gregory the Great by Pope Francis for their work with the papal event in 2015.

Additionally, Lucille was the chair of the Interior Design Committee for the new St. Mary Magdalen Church in Upper Providence and a generous supporter of Cityteam Ministries. She also established a new edible garden at Tyler Arboretum. Jerry volunteered his time and became chairman of the Board of Visiting Nurses Association of Greater Philadelphia. Lucille and Jerry were on the Leadership Council at Abramson Cancer Center at Penn for many years and provided financial support both to Penn and Fox Chase Cancer Center.

Jerry and his children continue with the family’s charitable endeavors, among them are supporting cancer research at Wister Institute, St. Charles Borromeo Seminary and anti-abortion organizations.

Nicholas Quercetti, 91, was an entrepreneur for more than 60 years, running many successful businesses, from land development to building apartments, townhouses, single-family homes, buildings and industrial parks. Quercetti’s companies were often the largest installers in the industry for a given product line. He served as a two-term president and was one of the original founders of the National Cellular Concrete Association. He received a “pioneer award” for being an innovator in the gypsum floor underlayment industry. His success propelled him to give back to those in need by joining UNICO to raise money for local charities. He has been a vibrant member of UNICO for over 50 years. Quercetti was a founding member of St. Mary Magdalen Parish, a board member of Philadelphia ARC and PARC, a member of Knights of Columbus, and Men of Malvern.

Married for more than 68 years to his late wife, Marie Quercetti, Nicholas is the father of five children, grandfather of 13 and great-grandfather of 11. According to ARA Delco, “Nicholas is a successful teacher, mentor, entrepreneur, storyteller, and most importantly of all, someone who always gives of himself to others.” Quercetti was introduced by his son, Nick Quercetti Jr., and his grandson Travis, who both spoke of Quercetti’s generous spirit and giving heart.

Cheryl Colleluori is president of HEADstrong Foundation, which she and her family founded to honor her late son, Nicholas, and make his vision a reality. Over the past seven years, the HEADstrong Foundation has carried out its mission to improve the quality of life for those affected by cancer and to support those working to eliminate the disease. The Foundation is committed to the future of HEADstrong, including Nick’s House, the HEADstrong Foundation’s headquarters and temporary, complimentary housing where families can stay while their loved ones are seeking medical treatment in the Philadelphia area.

“What’s amazing is that the HEADstrong Foundation is the brainchild of a 19-year-old facing his mortality,” said an emotional Cheryl about her son as she choked back tears thanking ARA Delco for the award. “I couldn’t be prouder to be a champion of what Nick saw and wanted. At the end of the day, family defines what the HEADstrong Foundation is all about. The best gift that Nick gave our family was the strength to face life after he was gone. He made all of us realize that family is everything.”

Cheryl provides leadership, strategic direction and vision for the development and achievement of the organization’s mission in partnership with the board of directors to determine HEADstrong’s future strategies and endeavors. Cheryl is also an American Red Cross speaker and a member of the Abramson Cancer Center Leadership Council. She and her husband, Pat, have won many awards for their leadership, vision and community involvement.

Nick Colleluori’s brothers Michael, Daniel and Pat were also recognized for their roles in the HEADstrong Foundation. Their brother, who lost his battle with blood cancer in 2006, founded HEADstrong from his hospital bed to fulfill his wish of providing physical, emotional and financial support and improving the quality of life for patients with families affected by cancer. Michael serves as vice president of HEADstrong Foundation. He has dedicated his life to promoting the nonprofit and oversees the day-to-day operations, donor development, IT development and strategic planning aspects for the foundation.

Pat Colleluori serves as director of Marketing for HEADstrong Foundation, leading its creative team. Pat’s role is in fundraising, media promotions, program development and special events. His efforts have helped propel the foundation closer to its goal of helping those currently fighting cancer and their families.

ARA Delco also presented the Anna Rapagnani Memorial Award for Achievements in Italian Studies to Pietro Giardini, a senior at Widener University, and Christian Gallo, a senior at Ridley High School.

This year’s dinner dance was chaired by Lou DiPietro. Others on the event committee include Rapagnani and Colombo, as well as Casilda Quaciari, Dr. Thomas Benedetti and Rose Juliano Patton. The event was also made possible by the association’s board of directors and officers.

For 10 years, ARA Delco has hosted the annual Italian American Heritage Festival in Rose Tree Park each June, as well as an annual Christmas gala, a bocce club, Italian Music Night, Italian Cinema Night, and an annual fundraising pasta dinner to benefit Don Guanella Village. During the dinner dance, Rapagnani presented a generous check to  the Rev. Dennis Weber, S.C., of Don Guanella Village, from the proceeds from this year’s fundraising dinner.

Additionally, Abruzzese Delco offers Italian language lessons for children and adults at St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Upper Providence. The Rev. Ralph Chieffo, pastor of St. Mary Magdalen and Abruzzese Delco chaplain, celebrates Mass in the Italian language, quarterly throughout the year.

For more information on membership or upcoming ARA Delco activities, visit www.abruzzidelco.com.

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