Republicans and Democrats alike showed up in style at Costa Azzurra Restaurant on Monday night to honor two men who have spent their lives bettering the Milford community.
Local business owner and vice chairman of the Milford Police Commission, Sam Bergami, Jr., was inducted into the Milford Republican Hall of Fame.
While Bergami had time to prepare a statement for the event, the second inductee into the prestigious club did not. Joseph Della Monica, Sr. was caught completely off-guard when he was surprised by his induction into the Hall of Fame.
Mayor James Richetelli said, “We believe that there are some people that just go above and beyond doing their jobs. It’s these people that are doing great things for our community.”
Over the past 30 years, Bergami has received many awards for his involvement in community organizations and activities, his contributions to the business community and his business acumen, according to http://milfordrepublicans.org/.
He is president and CEO of Alinabal Holdings Corp., which has been identified as one of the 100 Top Entrepreneurial Organizations in America. He has received an honorary doctorate in business from the University of New Haven, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Milford Chamber of Commerce, a Small Business Person of the Year Award from the Connecticut Small Business Administration and a Good Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America, the website says. In 2007, he was inducted into the Southwest New England Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame, the site continues.
Della Monica has served on the Board of Aldermen, the Inland Wetlands Agency and the Permanent School Facilities Building Committee.
He also coordinated the United Way of Milford “Day of Action” at Camp Katoya and recently directed the construction of a wheelchair ramp for a local family living in a trailer home, after he personally secured a generous donation of material from his current employer, The Home Depot, according to the leaflet handed out at the dinner.
Della Monica has also advocated vigorously for Bodie’s Playground, an all-inclusive playground being developed in Eisenhower Park, the leaflet noted.
“He works his heart out," said Tom Jagodzinski, chairman of the Milford Republican Town Committee. "When it comes to campaign time, he is at the headquarters daily helping out.”
The event was coordinated by the Milford Republican Hall of Fame Committee. Member Paula Smith, who was busy making sure things went as planned, shed some light on how the decision on just who to honor is made.
“We get recommendations from people on the Town Committee. This year we decided on Sam (Bergami). He is just so well regarded by all around the town. We honor Joe Della Monica for being such a passionate man who constantly serves his friends, his family, his party, and his country.”
Approximately 170 area residents showed up to the event to honor the two men and the projects they have undertaken to make Milford a better place. Among those who attended the dinner were: the mayor, representatives from the University of New Haven, City Attorney Winthrop Smith Jr., and City Clerk Linda Stock, whose son Christopher Stock opened the ceremony by singing “God Bless America.”
The mood was uplifting and light inside the beachside restaurant, as attendees took part in raffles, bid on prizes, and came together to honor the two new inductees.
Kathy Kobishyn, who attended the annual event said, “It’s all about good friends and good food. The camaraderie is so contagious.”
Throughout the night, there were humorous moments including the auction of various Milford-related prizes. Nanci Seltzer bid $300 for a Dumpster donated by Milford Barrel. Win Smith bid $100 and won a dinner cooked by Milford Fire Chief Louis LaVecchia, and Alderman Greg Smith paid $175 to have dinner with none-other than the mayor.
But at the end of the day, the event was all about the honorees.
While accepting the award, Bergami said, “It is an exceptional honor to be recognized by a group of people that share the same political views as you. The work that these people put in and the decisions they make during these tough times is really exceptional.”
A warm moment occurred when Della Monica’s son, Joseph Della Monnica Jr., a Milford police officer, honored his father with a touching introduction. Brought to tears by his son’s words and surprised by the honor, the elder Della Monica said, “I am so very pleased, but also completely dumbfounded. This is an honor that I will never forget.”