[Congressional Record Volume 140, Number 21 (Wednesday, March 2, 1994)]
[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]

[Congressional Record: March 2, 1994]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

                        TRIBUTE TO MARIANO LUCCA


                          HON. JOHN J. LaFALCE

                              of new york

                    in the house of representatives

                        Wednesday, March 2, 1994

  Mr. LaFALCE. Mr. Speaker, a longtime friend and constituent from 
Buffalo, NY, Mariano A. Lucca, passed away this week at the age of 92. 
He was a man short in stature but tall in achievement.
  Throughout his lifetime, Mariano Lucca was an activist, deeply 
involved in a variety of community improvement efforts, political 
affairs, fund-raising events for good causes.
  He was particularly active in preserving and promoting Italian-
American culture, of which he was most proud. That certainly led to his 
fascination with Christopher Columbus and eventually resulted in the 
Federal holiday--Columbus Day--we have observed in October each year 
since 1971. Mariano Lucca founded the National Columbus Day Committee, 
opened an office in Washington in 1966 and relentlessly campaigned, 
cajoled, and crusaded through the Halls of Congress in support of 
legislation to create that Federal holiday honoring Columbus. He was 
irrepressible, dogged, sometimes charming, sometimes irreverent; and, 
in the end, Mariano Lucca successfully championed Columbus' cause.
  Unquestionably, Columbus would have discovered America a lot earlier 
than 1492 if he had had an advocate of Mariano Lucca's caliber and 
persistence in the Spanish court.
  Mariano was a fascinating man, who left an indelible mark on his 
community and his Nation. The following article which appeared in the 
Buffalo News on February 28, 1994, describes in more detail his many 
activities and accomplishments during a lifetime well spent:

              Mariano A. Lucca Dies; Columbus Day Champion

                            (By Mike Vogel)

       Mariano A. Lucca, a longtime crusader who championed a 
     series of causes in a lifetime that took him from one of the 
     toughest streets in the world to audience halls of Europe, 
     died Sunday (Feb. 27, 1994) in his West Side home after a 
     long illness.
       Lucca, the man who made Columbus Day a national holiday, 
     died surrounded by family members in the 7th Street house he 
     had turned into a Columbus and Queen Isabel museum. He was 
       A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered in Holy Angels 
     Catholic Church at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. Burial will be in 
     Mount Olivet Cemetery.
       Lucca was born in 1901 on Canal Street, near the end of 
     that storied street's long tenure as one of the toughest 
     streets in the world.
       His father, Sicilian immigrant Francesco Lucca, had taken 
     over management of the Only Theatre, scene of an infamous 
     1890s murder, at a time when Italians were starting to 
     convert the crime-ridden waterfront district to a poor but 
     respectable ``Little Italy'' that would be renamed Dante 
     Place. As a child, Lucca and a friend discovered a large 
     mound of human bones in the building's basement.
       ``I was born at 104 Canal St.,'' he told the author of a 
     recently published waterfront history. ``My mother cut meat 
     until two hours before my birth--my mother had nine children, 
     and my father was a widower with five kids.''
       In later years, Lucca would claim to have been present at 
     the assassination of President McKinley. Lucca's mother, the 
     month before his birth, had gone to the Pan-Am Exposition to 
     watch his father play the cornet in a band, and Dr. Charles 
     Borzilleri--a pioneer Italian physician and founder of 
     Columbus Hospital--later gave him a certificate attesting to 
     his attendance.
       Assassination aside, Lucca's early years sparked a lifelong 
     fascination with politics and the Democratic Party. As a 
     child, he would grab a ginger ale and hide in a stack of 
     casks or flour sacks in his father's saloon to listen as 
     Francesco and influential local and state candidates 
     discussed political affairs.
       He was befriended by a young Alfred F. Smith, and much 
     later developed friendships with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 
     John F. Kennedy and others.
       In 1924, after his marriage to the former Clara L. Gugino, 
     the couple honeymooned at the Democratic honeymooned at the 
     Democratic National Convention in New York City. Lucca, who 
     staged five unsuccessful congressional bids in the 1950s and 
     1960s, attended every presidential inauguration since Herbert 
     Hoover, and President Clinton played a saxophone tune for 
     Clara at his inauguration festivities last year.
       As a teen-ager, Lucca briefly managed the Only Theater 
     while his father returned temporarily to Sicily for a health 
     cure. As a young man, Lucca investigated workmen's 
     compensation abuses for the U.S. Labor Department.
       Soon after his marriage, the diminutive crusader began 
     publishing his own weekly newspaper, the ``Warder.'' His work 
     prompted Buffalo Evening News Editor Alfred H. Kirchhofer to 
     publish his reporting and to send him twice to Europe to file 
     stories for this newspaper.
       In 1933, he filed a series of stories from Italy, in the 
     form of letters to his father. The stories detailed 
     conditions in that nation and included interviews with 
     Italian Premier Benito Mussolini, King Victor Emmanuel, Pope 
     Pius XI and the papal secretary of state who would later 
     become Pope Pius XII.
       Lucca confronted Mussolini, during a private audience, by 
     vowing that he wouldn't lower his eyes before the premier, 
     but ``only to God!'' Mussolini picked the small man up, 
     hugged him and kissed him on both cheeks, and cried, ``A real 
       ``No, your excellency,'' Lucca responded, ``an American of 
     Italian heritage, of which he's proud!''
       In 1935, a second trip abroad took him to Germany and 
     interviews with Adolf Hitler and his top aides.
       Resigning from The News shortly afterwards, Lucca began 
     free-lance advertising and public relations work, and founded 
     the Buffalo Publicity Bureau. During World War II he worked 
     as a production expediter at the Curtiss-Wright aircraft 
     plant here, and in the late 1940s began a 12-year career as 
     publisher of the Buffalo Beacon, a weekly newspaper that 
     championed the cause of the underdog.
       Always active in promoting Italian culture in this area, 
     Lucca also began a multinational annual series of Mardi Gras 
     pageants in the 1930s to showcase Buffalo's varied ethnic 
       He also organized the Buffalo Famine Emergency Committee to 
     aid war-ravaged regions of Poland and Greece in the 1940s, 
     and guided a relief effort to help residents of Rimouski, 
     Quebec, after a devastating fire leveled that town. In 1980 
     he mobilized clothing collections as the Order of the Sons of 
     Italy moved to aid victims of a massive earthquake in Italy, 
     and he and his wife traveled to that nation to make sure the 
     aid got to the 97 communities in need.
       Perhaps his greatest career achievement, though, came in 
     the 1960s, when he successfully campaigned to make Columbus 
     Day a federal holiday. Jucca founded the National Columbus 
     Day Committee and opened an office in Washington in 1966. Two 
     years later, after long and hard lobbying by the crusader 
     from Buffalo, Congress passed Columbus Day legislation and 
     the holiday was inaugurated in October, 1971.
       Lucca remained a champion of Columbus and Queen Isabel, and 
     was working on expanding his front-parlor museum at the time 
     of his recent illness and eventual death. The committee 
     staged annual or twice-yearly banquets in Buffalo, with Lucca 
     singling out dozens of local and national figures to honor 
     their community contributions.
       Surviving are his wife, Clara, 98, whom he repeatedly 
     described at banquets as the ``bundle of sweetness'' who had 
     made all his work possible through the years; a son, Fran, a 
     Buffalo-based freelance television producer long associated 
     with WNED-TV; nine grandchildren; seven step grandchildren; 
     25 great-grandchildren; and two great-great grandchildren.