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Fathers of the Year to be honored at June 5 International Music Festival

June 1, 2011

Staff Report

Rockford’s Ethnic Heritage Museum will unveil the 2011 Fathers of the Year at its 21st Annual International Music Festival from noon to 3 p.m., Sunday, June 5, at the Lithuanian Club, 716 Indiana Ave.

The International Music Festival is a full afternoon of local entertainment and a barbecue dinner. In addition to unveiling the Fathers of the Year, the festival will showcase the talents of the Cannell Puris with Irish songs, Chuck Peila on the accordion, David Thompson and his trumpet, the Ballet Folklorico Aquetzalli, violinist Mihon McKinney and Eric Schroeder with classical guitar music. Door prizes and basket raffles will also be available.

Tickets for the International Music Festival are $8 and can be purchased online at www.ethnicheritagemuseum.org or by calling (815) 962-7402.

During the Music Festival, six local Fathers will be the recipient of the 2011 “Father of the Year” Award. In addition to being great fathers, they are being honored for their many accomplishments and contributions in improving life in the Rockford area.

This year, the six “Father of the Year” honorees are Larnel “L.A.” Malone III (African-American), Jim Ryan (Irish), Cono J. LaLoggia (Italian), Charles H. Laskonis (Lithuanian), Aurelio De La Rosa (Hispanic) and Joseph A. Wojewodzki (Polish).

Larnell “L.A.” Malone III

Larnell Malone III, affectionately known as “L.A.” received both his bachelor’s of arts and a master’s of arts at Rockford College. At Rockford College, he served as a graduate assistant basketball coach and continues to serve as a volunteer since 2008. This journey through life has equipped him with skills and wisdom to mentor males in the formative adolescent stage of their lives.

L.A. assisted in facilitating and operating summer basketball camps and high school shootouts. Since 2006, he has served as a volunteer coach for youth ages 7-14 years at Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) and Rockford Public School District 205. L.A. also has formed Grade 7 boys’ and girls’ traveling teams. The girls are affectionately named Larry’s Lady Legends (after his beloved father), and the boys are The Rockford Ambassadors, a name chosen as they display prowess and integrity as representatives of Rockford.

L.A. serves as president of the Men’s Fellowship Ministry at St. Paul Church of God in Christ. He works in the academic arena as a teacher in the recruitment and retention ACT Prep Course at Booker Washington Community Center, which is free to all in the community.

His vocation is working for Northstar. He is married to Tracie, and they have three children—Victoria, Larnell IV and Londyn. His passion and avocation is truly being with family, serving as patriarch, coaching/playing basketball and, most importantly, as guiding pillar of young men in their transition from adolescence to manhood.

Jim Ryan

Jim Ryan is 100 percent Irish on both his father’s and mother’s side. Jim was born in New Haven, Conn., and was raised in Rockford after moving here with his family at age 3. He attended Rockford public schools and graduated with honors at Rockford Boylan Catholic High School. Jim played college football at Augustana College and received his bachelor’s degree in both public and business administration. He went on to receive his master’s degree in public administration from Northern Illinois University, with a specialized focus in city management.

After working for Woodridge and Grayslake, Ill., Jim relocated back to Rockford in 1999 and accepted the position of construction program manager within the City of Rockford Public Works Department. In this position, he aggressively pursued both state and federal grant funds for infrastructure investment in the Rockford community. Much of his efforts have been developing plans and pursuing funds to reconstruct major state highway entries into the city, such as West State and South Main streets.

Jim has been the project director for the Northern Illinois Commuter Rail Initiative, as well as the chief architect of Rockford Global TradePark, an aggressive economic development strategy to retain and attract jobs surrounding the Chicago Rockford International Airport. Jim accepted the job of city administrator in 2005 under Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (I), and has served in that role ever since. He points to landing Lowe’s Midwest Distribution Center, the overhaul of the city’s water system, going to a pay-as-you-go infrastructure investment program, and implementing many operational improvements within the city organization as some of the contributions made in his tenure as city administrator.

Jim has received a Community Service Award from the Illinois Park and Recreation Association and Rockford Park District, as well as receiving a “Forty under 40” award from the Rockford Chamber of Commerce for his contributions. Jim and his family are members of Holy Family Catholic Church, and when not working at his vocation, he enjoys playing with his kids and golfing.

Jim and his wife of 10 years, Nancy, have three children—Daniel (8), Genevieve (7) and Molly (5).

Cono J. LaLoggia

Cono J. LaLoggia was born in Calumet City, Ill., into a family that loved music. Cono became involved with music as a student at Thornton Fractional High School.

The head of the glee club, hearing Cono sing, asked him to join as a freshman (normally reserved for sophomores). Cono played the cello until his junior year when he changed to the bass fiddle. As a senior, Cono played the bass drum in the concert, symphony and marching bands.

In 1937, his father took him to a music store, and he was given his first accordion lesson. After seven lessons, he was told they could not afford the accordion or the 50-cent lessons. This did not deter Cono. He continued to study, and in his junior, year he entered an amateur hour talent show. Playing blindfolded, wearing gloves and with the keyboard covered, he performed the Sharpshooters March. It was a good enough performance to take second place and win the $2 prize (first prize was only $3).

He began playing gigs in the local saloons with a friend on the violin. This was the beginning of 70 years of performing in the music world. He joined the jazz orchestra with sax, trumpet, trombone and percussion sections. He and a few of his friends created their own jazz combo band, and this was really the first work involving a group.

In December 1942, Cono was drafted into the service. While in Hawaii, he began playing the piano. In April 1945, Cono arrived on Iwo Jima. He bought a clarinet, and it kept him occupied when he was not on duty.

He is a member of the YMCA retired men’s orchestra, has his own accordion club of about 10, and has even resurrected his cello career for about four years in the Rock Valley College orchestra, and Park District “Party in the Park” series in the late 1990s. He has been an active member of the Local Musicians Union since his early days. Along with his brothers, and their own band, he has brought to Rockford almost 70 years of music.

In an interview, Cono said he was a “hobbyist.” However, Cono can play any song he barely heard just once, and can play any song in any key, and play for days and days and never play the same song twice. He still must play every day, or something will be missing from his day.

Charles H. Laskonis

Charles H. Laskonis, proud father of three, was born in Chicago to Regina Brenmark (Ukrainian) and Charles M. Laskonis (Lithuanian). At the age of 9, he moved to the Rockford area, where he attended St. James of Belvidere and later Belvidere High School. After high school, he went on to complete an apprenticeship program to become an electrician with the IBEW.

Charles married Laura Marsili, and together they have three children—Charles R. (19), Hillary (18) and Jacob (16). As his children grew, Charles attended their sporting events, ballet recitals and plays, and still found time to coach their baseball teams, from T-ball to Little League.

Now that his children are older, Charles leads by example. He lends his time and electrical expertise to the community by volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, Festival of Lights and Share Fest, among other things. Charles has taught his children the values of hard work, respect, responsibility, individuality and independence by always parenting democratically. Charles is a patient, loving and humorous father who always puts his family first.

Aurelio De La Rosa

As a police officer and a decorated Army veteran, Aurelio De La Rosa is owed a debt of gratitude for his service to this country and our community. He has received several wartime commendations, including the Purple Heart for wounds he received while serving in Operation Just Cause (Panama).

A Rockford police officer since 1991, Aurelio is certified by the National Law Enforcement Training Center to provide training to fellow officers. He has also been an active member in the Police Benevolent and Protective Association (labor union). His commitment goes beyond that of public servant, as evidenced by his participation in the Toys for Tots, of which he was the chairman for five years. Patriots Gateway’s program “Alternatives to Gangs & Life Skills” counts on Aurelio to speak to the youth about their lives and the choices they make.

La Rosa is the proprietor of Delarosa Submission Wrestling, an academy for all ages focused on wellness, self-defense and confidence building. In addition to the physical movements of mixed martial arts, the academy teaches children to be confident, while promoting walking away from confrontation when at all possible.

Joseph Anthony Wojewodzki

Joseph Anthony Wojewodzki was born in Poland but immigrated to the U.S. in 1965. He is a graduate of Machesney Park Harlem High School and Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. Joe started his career 36 years ago at Ingersoll Cutting Tools and is employed as a design engineer.

In 1981, he became a charter member of Polonia—Polish Folk Dancers. The group performed in Rockford’s first On the Waterfront Festival, and performed at many other local festivals, including many Fourth of July parades. Also that year, Joe became a charter member of Polish American Unity Committee (PAUC), whose purpose was the raising of funds for the Solidarity movement in Poland. In 1983, Joe was elected chairman of the PAUC.

Joe is a member of The Polish National Alliance, the largest ethnic fraternal organization in the U.S., and the Knights of Columbus. He is an active member of Holy Family Catholic Church, where he serves as an usher.

He lives in Rockford with his wife, Ann, and two sons, Christopher and Thomas.

Joe enjoys outdoors, hunting, fishing and picking mushrooms in the fall. And during the cold winter evenings, Joe enjoys reading history books from the World War II period.

Ethnic Heritage Museum

Ethnic Heritage Museum is unique in its blend of ethnic groups: African-American, Italian, Lithuanian, Irish, Polish and Hispanic. The museum tries to enlighten visitors of the cultural history of each of these groups and their contributions to life in Rockford.

From the June 1-7, 2011 issue

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