Monday, November 23, 2009

Joseph Maselli, 1924-2009

Deep Water coauthors Thomas Hunt and Martha Macheca Sheldon sadly note the passing of Joseph Maselli (right) and extend their deepest condolences to his surviving family and many friends. Joseph Maselli, a distinguished leader in the Italian-American community in New Orleans, was enormously supportive of the Deep Water project and composed a preface for the book's upcoming second edition. His obituary is presented below:

Joseph Maselli died Sunday, Oct. 18, 2009, after a brief hospitalization at Ochsner Foundation Hospital. He was 85. He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Antoinette Cammarata Maselli, his brother Dominick Maselli, his four children, Joseph Maselli, Jr. ( Donna), Frank Michael Maselli, Jan Maselli Mann (Jim) and Michael Gerard Maselli (Stacy); eight grandchildren, Caroline Maselli, Annie Maselli, Matthew Mann, Michael Mann, Michael Maselli, William Maselli, Melani
Maselli and Sandy Maselli. He was predeceased by his parents, Frank Maselli and Mary Iannetti Maselli, his brother, Carmine Anthony, and his grandson, Joseph Maselli, III.

He was born in Newark, New Jersey, the son of Italian immigrants, and was transferred to New Orleans during WWII, ultimately meeting his wife of 63 years, Antoinette Cammarata and attending Tulane University on the GI Bill. After graduating from Tulane in three years, he opened a small liquor store which eventually grew to become City Wholesale Liquor Company, and wholesale distributorship which is a thriving business 60 years later. A true entrepreneur, he ran or financed numerous other businesses throughout the New Orleans area.

Mr. Maselli was an amateur sports enthusiast with a special love for the Tulane Green Wave. He supported amateur boxing and traveled with the U.S. Olympic boxing team to Russia in 1971 and then brought the Russian team to fight an exhibition match against the U.S. team at the Louisiana
Superdome a few years later. He was also on of the founders of the Carrollton Boosters in the late 50’s.

By 1975, Mr. Maselli focused his energy on civic endeavors and, in particular, on preserving the Italian culture and heritage, and fighting against prejudice on behalf of all nationalities. He
founded the Italian American Federation of the Southeast and was founding member of National Italian American Federation in Washington D.C. He published the Italian American Digest and founded the American-Italian Museum. He was instrumental in developing the Piazza d’Italia in New Orleans and served as an ethnic advisor to Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan and Bush. In 1984, he developed the “Italian Village,”one of the most popular aspects of the World’s Fair.

Included in his many honors were his receipt of The Statue of Liberty Ellis Island Medal of Freedom, the National Conference of Christian and Jews Weiss Award, and the Torch of Liberty Award of the Anti-Defamation League. He was awarded the title of “Grand Ufficiale,” the highest commendation from the Italian government for his lifetime work preserving the Italian Heritage.

He considered his children and grandchildren as his proudest accomplishments.

Honorary Pallbearers were John Amato, Justice Pascal Calogero, Dr. Phillip Cancilleri, Ernest Colbert, Eddie Compass, Larry Conkerton, Thomas D’Angelo, Lolis Elie, Judge John Gale, William Goldring, Nick Greco, Dominic Grieshaber, Russ Herman , Jim Letten, Moon Landrieu, Tommy
Lasorda, Ron Maestri, Salvatore Panzeca and Joseph Scelsa.

His funeral service was held at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church at 1139 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., New Orleans, Louisiana. Interment followed in Metairie Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations to the American Italian Renaissance Foundation, P. O. Box 2392, New Orleans, La. 70176 in memory of Mr. Maselli, will be greatly appreciated.