With 2022 coming to an end, we reflect back on the personalities, icons, and celebrities we lost in the Italian community this year. These 20 men and women of Italian descent made important contributions in the areas of cinema, art, music, cuisine, fashion, journalism, commerce, and sport.
Ray Liotta (December 18, 1954 – May 26, 2022): The death of the beloved actor who was well-known for his iconic roles in Goodfellas, Field of Dreams, and Blow, sent shock waves through the Italian American community in 2022. Born in Newark, New Jersey, Liotta was adopted by parents of Italian and Scottish descent.
Franco Harris (March 7, 1950 – December 20, 2022): The pride of the Pittsburgh Steelers is best known for making perhaps the most iconic play in football history when he caught the Immaculate Reception in 1972. His legion of fans, dubbed “Franco’s Italian Army” will live on for generations.
Monica Vitti (November 3, 1931 – February 2, 2022): The Roman-born actress rose to become known as the “Queen of Italian Cinema” with more than 50 film credits to her name. Vitti won seven Italian Golden Globes and the Venice Film Festival Career Golden Lion Award.
Ron Galella (January 10, 1931—April 30, 2022): The “Paparazzo Extraordinaire” and the “Godfather of US Paparazzi” leaves behind a legacy as one of the most iconic Hollywood photographers of the past century. Galella’s father was an immigrant from Basilicata and his mother’s family hailed from Benevento.
Helen Grayco (September 20, 1924 -- August 20, 2022): The Tacoma-born singer and actress moved to Hollywood and struck it big with her husband Spike Jones. Grayco was born to immigrants from Calabria whose name was “Greco”.
Antonio D’Amico (January 20, 1959 – December 6, 2022): The Pugliese fashion designer and model is best known as the partner of Gianni Versace. The couple met in 1982 and remained together until Versace’s murder in 1997. D’Amico was born in Brindisi and died near the northern Italian city of Brescia.
Paul Sorvino (April 13, 1939 – July 25, 2022): The likable Italian American actor appeared in over 20 films before his breakthrough role as Paul Cicero in Goodfellas. An active member of the Italian American community, Sorvino’s parents trace their roots to Molise and Naples.
Daniela Giordano (November 7, 1946 – December 18, 2022): The winner of the 1966 Miss Italia, Giordano was admired as one of the most beautiful Italian women of the 1960s and ’70s. A true Sicilian success story, Giordano always stayed true to her Sicilian roots. She was born and passed away in Palermo.
Tony Sirico (July 29, 1942 – July 8, 2022): Best known for his role as Paulie Walnuts on The Sopranos, Sirico grew up on the streets of Brooklyn. His big break came in 1999 when HBO picked up The Sopranos, and the rest is history.
Judy Tenuta (November 7, 1949 – October 6, 2022): The Illinois-born comedian was ahead of her time in many ways. Dubbed “The Love Goddess”, Tenuta was adored by fans for her edgy and direct style. She was twice nominated for Grammy Awards for Best Comedy Album. Tenuta was born to a Polish mother and an Italian father.
Dino Danelli (July 23, 1944 – December 15, 2022): One of the original members of The Rascals, Danelli’s unique style of drumming helped the band reach the top of the charts throughout the 1960s and ’70s. Danelli was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, and died in Manhattan.
Rosetta Loy (May 15, 1931 – October 1, 2022): One of the most decorated writers in Italian history, Loy began writing at the tender age of nine. Her first breakthrough came at the age of 43 with The Bicycle. Loy lived in Italy for her entire life and is of Piemontese and Roman descent.
Leonardo Del Vecchio (May 22, 1935 – June 27, 2022): The founder of global eyewear power Luxottica, Del Vecchio is a true rags-to-riches story. He rose from poverty to become one of the richest people in the world with a net worth estimated at $24 billion at the time of his death. Del Vecchio was born to southern Italian immigrants and grew up in Milan.
Joe Messina (December 13, 1928 – April 4, 2022): Messina became synonymous with the Motown Era, playing guitar alongside legendary artists such as Charlie Parker, Marvin Gaye, and Miles Davis. Messina was a proud Italian American and a hometown hero in the Detroit area.
Tony Siragusa (May 14, 1967 – June 22, 2022): Before embarking on a successful broadcasting career, “The Goose” was one of the most popular NFL players of the 1990s and 2000s. Siragusa won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001 and was originally drafted by the Indianapolis Colts.
Bob LuPone (July 29, 1946 – August 27, 2022): 2022 was a year of mourning for The Sopranos stars. LuPone played the role of Tony Soprano’s neighbor and doctor, Dr. Bruce Cusamano. Born in Brooklyn and raised in Long Island, LuPone’s family originally came from Abruzzo and Sicily.
Eugenio Scalfari (April 6, 1924 – July 14, 2022): One of the most decorated journalists in Italian history, Scalfari co-founded the newspaper La Repubblica and the news magazine L’Espresso. He was born just outside of Rome in the city of Civitavecchia.
Letizia Battaglia (March 5, 1935 – April 13, 2022): The fight against the Mafia was not just fought in the courtroom, but also in photo journals and albums thanks to Battaglia. In 2019, a documentary based on her life, Shooting the Mafia, introduced the world to Battaglia’s heroic story. Battaglia was born and died in Palermo.Dick Versace ( April 16, 1940 – February 25, 2022): Versace coached basketball at the collegiate and professional level. He began his career with Bradley University and then went on to coach in the NBA with the Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, and Milwaukee Bucks. He was born to a Puerto Rican-Irish-American mother and an Italian American father.
Gino Cappelletti (March 26, 1934—May 12, 2022): The five-time All-Star played in both the AFL and NFL with the Boston Patriots. Cappelletti is a member of the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame and his number 20 is retired by the New England Patriots. Cappelletti was born in Northern Minnesota and died in Massachusetts.