UNICO names Gentile first female Person of the Year
By Katelyn Gendronkatelyn@thereminder.com
SPRINGFIELD – Hampden County Clerk of Courts Laura Gentile may be the first woman to ever receive Springfield UNICO National’s Person of the Year Award but the honor, she said, cannot be attributed to her efforts but the values her parents instilled in her.
“I’m not interested in clout, for me it’s just an honor for my parents,” she told Reminder Publications as she fought back tears. “That’s really why it’s [this award] is so important to me. This would probably mean more to my mother than me winning the election. She was instrumental in making sure that for my bother’s and I that our heritage was an integral part of our life.”
Gentile’s mother, Barbara Santaniello, died of pancreatic cancer more than a decade ago. Her father, Attorney Robert Santaniello, is a past recipient of the award, which will be presented to Gentile in March 2014.
According to the award criteria on UNICO’s website, the recipient “shall not only be a positive reflection of our heritage, but also take pride in being one of us. One who best demonstrates the ideals and goals of Springfield UNICO; [and] in keeping with our tradition, this distinction is to be bestowed on one who has given of himself and been of service to our community, apart from what he may have contributed through his association with Springfield UNICO.”
Gentile said, “It’s really important for me that I carry on this tradition of being a proud Italian American and I raised my son [the same way]. We have very humble roots ... We have a good life but it came at the price of our ancestors.”
Gentile noted that she maintains ties to the Italian-American community by supporting UNICO’s efforts as well as an active membership in the Siri Club.
“Women aren’t part of the Springfield UNICO Chapter but I’m very in tune with my Italian heritage, whether it’s fundraising for the church, Taste of Italy or if UNICO sponsors any fundraising events,” she said.
When asked of her initial reaction upon finding out about the award, Gentile replied, “I was surprised! It’s an honor, such an honor.”