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Westlake resident Joe Marinucci cited as immigrant success story

 

By KEVIN KELLEY

WESTLAKE – Global Cleveland, the nonprofit organization dedicated to attracting and welcoming immigrants to economic and social opportunities in Greater Cleveland, recently selected Westlake resident Joe Marinucci as an example of the area’s immigrant heritage.

The organization is marking 2017 as Immigrant Heritage Year and has been publishing profiles of area immigrants as inspirational stories of global diversity in Cleveland on its website, GlobalCleveland.org.

Marinucci was born in a small town near the Adriatic Sea in the Abruzzo region of Italy. He has no childhood memories of Italy, given that he and his parents emigrated to the U.S. in 1956 when he was 2 years old. He grew up in Little Italy, where Italian was spoken in the stores and in the Marinucci home.

The former Westlake City Schools Board of Education member learned English at school and by watching American television. He recently reminisced about watching “The Andy Griffith Show,” “The Rifleman” and “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

In 1963, at the age of 10, Marinucci was sworn in as a naturalized U.S. citizen alongside his mother, Delfina, now 89, and his late father, Ruggiero.

As a teen, Marinucci went through a period when he wanted to feel more “American” and avoided speaking Italian.

But as an adult, Marinucci is very proud of his Italian heritage. He and his wife, Dani, a portrait artist, made a point of giving their four children, now adults ages 24 to 30, classical Italian names, although none is named after any particular individual or family member. Dante, Antonia, Lucia and Vincenzo have visited Italy several times with their parents and keep in touch with their Italian cousins through social media, their father said. The Marinuccis now have a grandson named Lorenzo.

Marinucci and his wife, who have lived in Westlake 19 years, will spend August visiting his home region of Abruzzo. During past trips, it has taken him a few days for the Italian language to come back fluently he said. He describes conversations with his mother today as “a combination of Italian and English.”

Marinucci said he appreciates Cleveland’s ethnic heritage in his job as president and CEO of Downtown Cleveland Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the downtown area.

“We really do believe that immigrants could be an important force in terms of bringing investment and entrepreneurial activity and residents into downtown,” Marinucci said. “So from my perspective, being able to talk about my background and how immigrants are important to Cleveland’s economy and important to our history I think is an important part of our strategy going forward.”

The growth in the number of people living in the downtown area has great economic benefits, Marinucci said.

The downtown population now is about 14,000, Marinucci said, and about 1,000 additional housing units are currently under construction. By mid 2018, he said, the downtown area population, which is increasingly diversified, will approach 16,000, roughly the population of Bay Village.

“Companies now want to be where their talent wants to be,” Marinucci said, adding he believes this population growth will lead to increased economic activity.

Marinucci is aware immigration is an important topic in today’s politics, but he hopes people will remember that ethnic heritage is a big part of the Cleveland area’s identity.

“Cleveland’s history is told by immigrants that came and built the city,” Marinucci said. “It’s nice for us as a community to recognize that value and to put us in a position where we build upon it going forward.”

 

 

 

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