Ethnic Heritage Museum honors five local women

Staff Report

March is traditionally “Women in History Month.” Each year, the Ethnic Heritage Museum honors local women who have made outstanding contributions to life in Rockford.

The 2012 “Women in History” honorees are Anne Hammes, Elba Maria Martinez, Danuta Roderick, Mary Ann Smith and Rose Mary Zammuto.

Anne Hammes

Anne Hammes, the 2012 Irish Woman in History honoree, is the director of Nursing Operations for OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center. She provides direction and oversight for more than 600 employees of nursing and patient care services, and has operational responsibilities for the corresponding operational and capital budgets.

Hammes has broad experience in nursing and nursing administration, including working at each of the three Rockford hospitals. She has also been heavily involved in education of nurses and nursing administrators and is on the adjunct faculty of the University of Illinois College of Nursing at the Rockford campus. Through the years, she has had board positions with church, alumni and non-profit organizations.

Anne (Lonergan) Hammes is a charter member of Rockford’s Irish Marching Society and has always celebrated her Irish heritage. The Lonergan family emigrated from County Tipperary around 1848. Her grandfather Lonergan and three of her great-uncles homesteaded a section of land in southern Minnesota. Her family moved to Rockford when she was in third grade. She marches every year with her own family and with her siblings behind the Lonergan family banner in the St. Patrick’s Day parade.

An open house for Hammes will be from 2 to 4 p.m., Sunday, March 18, with a presentation at 2:15 p.m. The March 18 open house will be shared with the Hispanic Gallery’s nominee, Elba Maria Martinez, whose presentation is expected to be at 3 p.m.

Elba Marie Martinez

Elba Maria Martinez, the Hispanic honoree, was born in Arcata, Calif. She received her formal education in Mexico. In June 1978, she graduated from the University of Guadalajara with a bachelor’s degree in social work and completed her professional practice at the University of Guadalajara.

Education has always been a priority for her family, and her goal was to continue doing what she loved to do, social work. In March 1986, Martinez was hired to work for Catholic Charities in the Hispanic Office in Rockford as the immigration coordinator assistant. She was able to help hundreds of people during the Amnesty Program in which they were able to legalize their status in this country. In March 1991, she was hired to work for the State of Illinois in the Department of Children and Family Services. For the last 20 years, Martinez has been employed by the City of Rockford in the Head Start Program

Martinez is proud of her involvement in the community, such as teaching catechism for years at St. Edward’s Catholic Church and St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church and organizing and leading a support group for individuals who have experienced a loss. She has also participated as a presenter in the parenting classes offered by La Voz Latina.

Danuta (Donna) Roderick, the Polish Women in History honoree, was born in Poland. At the age of 3, she and her parents were taken to Germany as prisoners of war to work camp from 1943-1945. After the war in 1945, they lived in various camps in Germany until 1951. Upon arriving in New York, they stayed

Danuta (Donna) Roderick

there for three weeks. After that, the family moved to Rockford, where they lived with Donna’s uncle, who had sponsored them. They lived with his family for five months before finding a home of their own.

Roderick’s early education was in Germany. She attended German school for two years. After that, she attended Polish school. Upon arriving in Rockford, Roderick started eighth grade at St. Patrick School; then, she went on to Muldoon High School and finished at Rockford Business College.

Donna and her husband, Tom, have been members of St. Stanislaus Parish for 52 years, and she has been and is very active in all functions at the church. Donna has been a member of St. Stanislaus Women’s League for many years. She has been a vice president for this organization and she held the office of treasurer for seven years.

Roderick is a very active member of Parish Council and served on Social Committee for many years. She is involved with Polish Fest and has been a committee member for 31 years. She is co-chairman of the Easter and Christmas bazaars and bake sales. You can find her in the parish kitchen making pierogi for Polish Fest and chrusciki for all these events.

A reception honoring Roderick was Sunday, March 11.

Mary Ann Smith

Mary Ann Smith is a native daughter of Rockford. Her father, William Aleks, was a first-generation son born in Rockford to Lithuanian immigrants.

Mary Ann is a graduate of Maude Johnson Elementary School, Lincoln Junior High School, and Rockford East High School, and she is attended the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

She was introduced by her parents to classical music and dance through attending community concerts at the Coronado Theatre at the age of 5, and credits that experience to introducing her to the magic of the performing arts.

In 1981, Smith became president of the Rockford Coronado Concert Association (RCCA), and that longtime relationship with performances at the Coronado Theatre led her and her late husband, Gordon, to become co-chairmen of the $18.5 million capital fund drive to restore and renovate the landmark historic Coronado Theatre, which re-opened in 2001.

She has been recognized for her leadership in the arts with many awards, among them the Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award given by the Illinois Humanities Council and Rotary Club’s Service Above Self. She has also been honored by Lincoln Junior High and East High School as an outstanding graduate of those public schools.

Smith is currently president of RCCA, a trustee for Greenwood Cemetery, the oldest cemetery in Rockford, and a board member of the Friends of the Coronado. She is a past board member of Goldie Floberg Center, the Rockford Area Arts Council and has served as a peer review panelist for the Illinois Arts Council.

Her passions are attending live performances in the theater or concert hall, gardening and being a strong advocate for the preservation of historic buildings.

Visit with Mary Ann at the museum from 2 to 4 p.m., Sunday, April 1, with a special presentation at 3 p.m.

Rose Mary Zammuto

Rose Mary Zammuto grew up just blocks from St. Anthony’s Church on Ferguson Street. She became a member in 1929, the same year the church was built. Parish life and family life were synonymous for the 12 children of Joseph and Carmella Gaziano. While her sisters helped with the household chores, Rose helped the Francisca Sisters clean the church.

Rose met her husband, Peter Zammuto, in the second grade at St. Anthony Church in 1945. She is the proud mother of five children and grandmother to five grandsons and one great grandson. Celebrating her Italian heritage, Rose recently traveled with her children to visit relatives in her parents’ hometown of Aragona, Sicily.

Rose and her late husband were active with Rockford Christian Family Movement. She is also active in the National Catholic Society of St. Anthony, Court 674. Today, at 91 years old, she continues her duties as Eucharist Minister and Lector, and volunteers at St. Anne’s Center, where she is a member and spends time visiting the sick. In her spare time, she makes rosaries and hats for newborns at OSF St. Anthony and Rockford Memorial hospitals.

Join the Italian Gallery in honoring Rose Mary from 2 to 4 p.m., Sunday, March 25. A special presentation will be held at 3 p.m.

The Ethnic Heritage Museum (EHM) preserves the history and cultural traditions of six ethnic groups that made significant contributions to early life in Rockford: African-American, Polish, Italian, Lithuanian, Irish and Hispanic.

The museum is at 1129 S. Main St., and is open every Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. Group tours can be arranged by contacting the museum at (815) 962-7402 or e-mailing The museum is handicap accessible.

For more information, visit

From the March 14-20, 2012, issue

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