John N. LaCorte
John N. LaCorte, a champion of Italian heritage who won a national holiday honoring Christopher Columbus and got a major bridge named for a neglected explorer, Giovanni da Verrazano, died on Wednesday at Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn. He was 81 years old and lived in Brooklyn Heights.
He died of complications from a heart attack, his family said.
For more than 50 years he promoted the accomplishments of Italians and Italian-Americans, who he said were often uninformed about their heritage or ashamed of it.
The campaign for Columbus Day began with a celebration in Brooklyn in 1939. His idea spread in Italian neighborhoods and led to a parade in Manhattan. Inspired by the green stripe down Fifth Avenue for St. Patrick's Day, he asked the city to paint a purple stripe, a color Columbus liked, for Columbus Day. When the request was denied, he appealed to Mayor Robert F. Wagner, who acceded. A Stamp for Garibaldi
Marching in one parade in 1947, Mr. LaCorte passed the office of an Irish historical organization and decided to found the Italian Historical Society of America, which continues today.
He helped get a postage stamp commemorating the Italian patriot Garibaldi, traced New York's first Italian settler to 1635, credited the founding of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to Charles J. Bonaparte and claimed that Antonio Meucci, a Staten Islander, invented the telephone before Alexander Graham Bell patented and commercialized it.
Mr. LaCorte won belated recognition for Verrazano, the first European to explore New York Harbor, which Verrazano did 85 years before Henry Hudson sailed up the river that bears his name.
Mr. Lacorte's causes included preventing juvenile delinquency, controlling neighborhood crime, slowing the spread of high-rise apartments and opposing Communism in Italy and San Marino. A Price on Virginity
His ideas were often quixotic. A wealthy man, he announced a plan in 1987 to give $1,000 to teen-age girls who remained virgins until age 19. The plan drew international attention, criticism from feminists and few if any applicants. Later he tried to promote the idea of human improvement through an organization called the Better World J L Institute.
Born in Jersey City, Mr. LaCorte moved to Sicily with his parents and grew up there. He returned to the United States at the age of 19 with 17 cents to his name. He played briefly in a band, then sold refrigerators and vacuum cleaners before a long career as a salesman for New York Life Insurance and then running his own agency.
He is survived by his son, John J., of Torrence, Calif., and one grandchild.
Credit: New York Times article by Bruce Lambert, Nov. 23, 1991
Biographical / Historical
The Orange County American Italian Renaissance Foundation Inc.(OCAIRF) was an Italian heritage group founded in the 1970s to promote and celebrate the contributions of Italian-Americans to the development of Orange County, CA.