SOUTHINGTON - Alphonse D’Angelo will receive Southington Unico’s Gold Medal of Honor - the organization’s most prestigious honor - on May 17 at the Aqua Turf Club.
For more than four decades, D’Angelo has shared his love of world languages, specifically Italian, French and Spanish. He taught at Southington High School for nearly 35 years and for the past six years, has taught Italian as a volunteer at the Sons of Italy.
The Gold Medal of Honor has been awarded annually since 1945 to a distinguished Southington citizen. The 2015 recipient was Sister Marie Roccapriore.
Called “Allie” by family members and “Fons” by friends, Alphonse - whose name is “Alfonso” on his birth certificate - is well-known in town for more than his linguistic skills. To start with, it’s that ubiquitous D’Angelo name.
“We were the third Italian family in the town of Southington,” he states proudly of the D’Angelo clan.
His maternal grandmother came to Southington from Italy in 1875, his father in 1911. His family grew up on Bristol Street.
After graduating from Boston College, D’Angelo taught French for one year at the University of Connecticut.
A chance meeting in downtown Southington with the then-superintendent of schools led D’Angelo to discover high school-level teaching as a substitute teacher.
“I found that I liked high school teaching better than I liked teaching college,” he explained.
And so, in 1963, Mr. D’Angelo was employed by Southington High School as a French and ancient history teacher. He continued his education at Central Connecticut State University in the master’s program for teaching.
Once the high school moved to its current location on Pleasant Street, D’Angelo was asked to introduce an Italian program to the curriculum. A trip to South America to meet with relatives in Argentina led him to discover a third language for which he had a passion: Spanish.
“I ended up living with a family in Mexico for nine summers in order to learn Spanish,” he said. “I also received my sixth-year degree in Spanish from the University of Arizona.”
In 1997, D’Angelo retired from the school system, but not from his love of languages and community - most notably his beloved church community. He has served in a multitude of volunteer positions at St. Thomas Church, where he was baptized, including the Social Action Committee, the School Board, the Parish Council, and the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) team. He was also a eucharistic minister at St. Thomas for six years.
D’Angelo has volunteered in Waterbury with the Rev. James Graham, the founder of the Sts. Martin & James Respite, an AIDS ministry, and is involved with Small Christian Communities, participants of which meet each week to read and discuss Scripture.
He has taught English for immigrants in the town’s Adult Education Program and Italian classes at St. Peter’s Catholic School in Torrington, and tutored priests in Suffield in Spanish. He is also a longtime member of the Southington Historical Society and the Nutmeg Depression Glass Club.
For the past six years, D’Angelo has volunteered his time with the Sons of Italy, teaching Italian twice a week to beginners and more seasoned learners.
D’Angelo said he was moved to tears when members of the Southington Unico Gold Medal Selection Committee notified him that he was to be this year’s Gold Medal recipient.
“They said I had done more to increase interest in Italy and Italian language than anyone else!” he said. ““I am humbled and honored to receive the Gold Medal Award.”
D’Angelo has traveled to Italy 22 times. Three years ago, he had an audience with Pope Francis and got to shake the pontiff’s hand.
The Gold Medal Award Dinner will be held May 17 at 6 p.m. at the Aqua Turf Club.
Tickets are $55 and can be obtained at Fasulo & Albini CPAs, 16 Cornerstone Court, Plantsville; Simply Wireless, 750 Queen St., Southington; and Southington Insurance, 85 Liberty St., Southington.