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Italian heritage club disbands, donates to Norway museum



THE TYROLEAN TRENTINO CLUB, organized in 1983 by Joseph Zanoni Jr. in Norway, has donated its remaining funds for a special exhibit at the Jake Menghini Historical Museum after the club decided to dissolve. From left, in the front row, club members are president Sandy Franch; Mary Spera and Debbie Costa; museum partners member Rosemary VanPeymbrook; club members Rose Ball and Gabriella Cescolini; club vice president Mary Zanoni; and club members Catherine Redman, Theresa DeGroot, Ann Tavernini, and Monica McElroy-Denissen. In the second row are Jake Menghini Partners Shirley Foisy and JoAnne Sternhagen; club member Molly Pellegrini-Sgrecci; Museum Director Mark Sertich; club treasurer Patricia Pollard; and club members Florence Redman and Greg Larson. Not shown is club secretary Michael Zanoni. (Terri Castelaz/Daily News photo)

NORWAY — After 40 years of gathering to celebrate their Italian customs, the Tyrolean Trentino Club of Norway has come to an end.

Although the club has decided to officially dissolve, the Norway area’s rich Italian heritage will be showcased in a special exhibit at the Jake Menghini Historical Museum.

To assist with the display, the Tyrolean Trentino Club has donated its remaining funds of almost $1,200 to the museum.

Many of the club member’s family photographs, heirlooms and artifacts, as well as the club’s flag, can be viewed at the museum.

“We felt it was important to not only support the museum, but it’s a way to continue to honor our heritage,” club vice president Mary Zanoni said.

TYROLEAN TRENTINO CLUB Vice President Mary Zanoni points out her father, Joseph Zanoni Jr.,who founded the club. (Terri Castelaz/Daily News photo)

“We are very invested in this community,” club president Sandy Franch said.

Norway’s International Tyrolean Trentino Organization of North America, or ITTONA, group was organized in 1983 by Mary’s father, Joseph Zanoni Jr., who came from Cloz, Italy. They were part of the ITTONA that formed in 1976.

They had about 50 local members in the beginning, Zanoni said. But that wasn’t sustainable.

“Every one is getting older — our youngest member is 62. No one wants to join anymore,” she said.

The remaining members made the decision to end the local organization last July, Zanoni said. But they still intend to keep ties with ITTONA. Clubs remain active in 21 U.S. states and 26 countries.

TYROLEAN TRENTINO CLUB Vice President Mary Zanoni presents a check for about $1,200 to Jake Menghini Museum Partners member Rosemary VanPeymbrook. Funds will go to support the new Italian display at the museum. (Terri Castelaz/Daily News photo)

“We can still go to the conventions — they are always welcoming,” Franch said.

The Zanoni family came from Chicago but spent their summers on Hamilton Lakes, where Joseph built the Big Pine Resort that hosted many club outings.

“My dad was also part of the Chicago club,” she said. “He was a real organizer — he always would say ‘We got a party.’”

Italians are very family-oriented, she noted, so any get-together would include eating, singing and dancing. “My father also played the accordion,” she said.

Members, too, would attended national conventions across the states that took place every couple years.

“Each group would bring their flag to display — it was a lot of fun,” Zanoni said.

The first Italians to reach the Norway-Vulcan area in the mid-1800s were recruited by mining companies in the region, along with workers from all over Europe. Many of them came from Trentino, Italy.

Among those immigrants was Mary Zanoni’s grandfather, Stefano Luchi. “He walked on foot all the way from Pennsylvania and it took them three months,” she said.

Early on, after settling in the states, the Italian community would gathering to socialize with those who spoke Italian, as many immigrants at that time didn’t speak English, Franch noted.

While a permanent exhibit will be established at the museum, “they have so many artifacts, they can’t possibly display them all at once, so they are talking about having a rotating display,” said Mark Sertich, museum director.

The museum, at 105 Odill Drive, will open for the 2024 season Wednesday, June 5. Hours will be 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from June through August.

If there’s enough interest, the museum will stay open in September, Sertich said.

“We always have at least two museum members during those hours to give guided tours to the public,” he said.

For more information, contact the museum at 906-563-5586.

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