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October 11, 2014 - 2:55pm

Laurie Napoleone named by Batavia Downs Gaming as Italian-American of the Year

posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, Italian-American, columbus day.

Press release:

Batavia Downs Gaming is pleased to announce that Laurie Napoleone is the historic racetrack’s recipient of its annual Italian-American of the Year award. Napoleone will receive her award on Oct. 13, Columbus Day, with a special trackside ceremony after the seventh race. Mr. Joe Gerace, the first recipient of this award, will act as Master Ceremony.

She’ll also be joined by other past award winners, Chuck Zambito, Ray Cianfrini, Joe Teresi, Charles Ruffino and Russ Romano.

Laurie (Pero) Napoleone is the wife of Mark Napoleone and the proud mother of four children, Mark Jr., Ashley, Christen, and her angel, Michael. She is the daughter of the late Charles and Marien Pero, and the sister of Charles, David and Adelyn Pero.

Laurie earned her bachelor of science in Nursing from Niagara University in 1982 and started working as a registered nurse after graduation at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester. After her marriage to Mark in 1983, she returned to her hometown and began working at St. Jerome Hospital, where she stayed for 15 years. After playing a role in the initial stages of the merger between St. Jerome Hospital  and Genesee Memorial Hospital, she decided on a career change into a school setting.

She worked for the Batavia City Schools as a school nurse / teacher at Robert Morris Elementary School. She earned a master‘s in Nursing from the University of Phoenix in 2004. Laurie then took her love for healthcare as well as teaching, and is currently employed by the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership. There she is an instructor in the Health Careers Academy, a program for high school seniors who are interested in pursuing a career in healthcare while gaining college credits.

Along with her husband, Laurie is the co-founder/member of the Michael Napoleone Memorial Foundation. After the passing of their youngest son, Michael, at the age of 8 to Burkitt’s lymphoma, (an aggressive form of blood cancer) the Napoleones created a foundation in Michael’s memory. It  helps families facing the challenges of a pediatric cancer diagnosis, supports research efforts in pediatric blood cancers, and assists youth sports and youth activities in the community.

Laurie speaks on behalf of the foundation and is a strong advocate for the families; has lobbied in Washington for more support of research efforts; and is passionate about the Foundation’s mission.

In her free time, Laurie enjoys entertaining with family and friends, Zumba, and writing.

Batavia Downs Gaming is proud to honor Laurie Napoleone as its 2014 Italian-American of the Year.

Brian Graz
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Italian-American named by Batavia Downs Gaming... do we really need to keep these segregationist associations going? Italian-American. Irish-American, Polish-American, African-American???

I too am an "Italian-American", but I learned from my Dad when I was in grade school, that I am an American... Not an Italian-American.

I'll never forget. When I was in grade school someone [after learning my last name Graziaplena] asked me if I was "Italian". I didn't know? So when I got home I told my Dad what happened. He actually got mad and told me "NO you are an American, if anyone asks you that again this is what you tell them".

He was right.

{Dad, you've been gone almost 30 years now... I love ya and still miss ya}

Jason Crater
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Batavia Downs Gaming is owned and operated by Western Regional Off-Track Betting, a public benefit corporation. Municipalities that own Batavia Downs Gaming include: City of Buffalo, Cattaraugus County, Cayuga County, Chautauqua County, Erie County, Genesee County, Livingston County, Monroe County, Niagara County, Orleans County, Oswego County, City of Rochester, Schuyler County, Seneca County, Steuben County, Wayne County, and Wyoming County.

-From the "About Us" section of their website. Seems wrong that these municipalities are supporting awards like this, for the reasons stated by Brian.

Kyle Couchman
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While it doesn't happen often I am in total agreement with Jason and Brian on this. It seems a little arrogant putting the Italian American label on it and really shows that while we frown on segregation and racism it is still practiced in limited form that is deemed more politically correct.

It should either be allowed or not Racism will never go away til even things like this are no longer practiced.

Howard B. Owens
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Yes, let's live in a society where we don't celebrate our differences, where individuality is frowned upon, where the wealth of other cultures is swept under the rug, where being proud of one's heritage is considered sinful, where everybody must be alike, act alike, think alike.

Yes, America of the monoculture. Screw the melting pot. That's passe.

Who wants to join me for the Statue of Liberty demolition party next week?

Congratulations on your award, Laurie. You're a credit to Genesee County and to Italian-Americans. Thank you for all you do.

Scott Ogle
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Well said, Howard.

Jason Crater
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Individuals SHOULD be proud of their heritage. GOVERNMENT, or companies owned by government entities, however, should probably avoid singling out one heritage over the other.

Congratulations Laurie, I'm sure you're more than deserving of this award.

I can't wait until next month, when the Batavia Downs announces the winner of the Japanese-American of the Year award.

Maybe it's just sour grapes because I'm a mish-mash of European ancestors and nobody wants to give me an award.

Howard B. Owens
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Batavia Downs is also a business, with a need for community outreach, involvement and marketing. I consider it rather thin-skinned to have a problem with them honoring one of the largest, if not the largest, cultural demographic in our community. I don't see how it slights anybody at all, though personally, I would rather see them honor Welsh-Americans (I'm sure I'm as much a hodge podge as you, but I self identify mostly as Welsh).

BTW: Thinking more about Kyle's "racism" remark. There's no word I can find in my thesaurus for the opposite of racism, but there is an opposite attitude. Racism is hating somebody because of their skin color or ethnicity. The opposite of racism is loving somebody because of their race, ethnicity or cultural heritage. We need more of that kind of "reverse racism" in this country.

Hell, yeah, let's have a Japanese-American award, and an African-American award, and a Mexican-American award, and even a Welsh-American award. Why not? The best way to fight racism is to celebrate all of these different backgrounds and contributions to society.

Here's an idea for Batavia Downs: An "American Melting Pot Day." That would bring people to the gate, I'm sure. It wouldn't bother me in the least, even, if it was a different day than Italian-American Day.

(Now, this thing about honoring Columbus ... )

Dave Olsen
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The opposite of racism is..........nothing.
If we would just stop talking about it it would go away.

[video:www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMGfhXCpN2k]

Bea McManis
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Maybe the reason for the IItalian-American night here, is that Batavia Downs was owned by an Italian-American for many years. Mr. Provenzano wasn't perfect, but it was his passion and dedication that built and employed many people over the years. How many of you had family or friends who worked there?
The Italian-American award is not new. Neither is the sniping every feel good event or post receives on this site.

Brian Graz
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Cultural diversity is king, and a house divided can not stand. There IS a difference between individual culture and uniqueness being celebrated, and public/community operations picking and choosing who is to be celebrated.

My original post intended nothing negative about any people personally/individually celebrating their heritage. But when a Public Benefit Corporation engages in this selective activity, what is the potential for "public benefit"?

I especially like the reference to "screw the melting pot"... brilliant. Doesn't it mean a melting together of nationalities, cultures and ethnicities, creating one whole with a common culture?

We have [and have had] numerous "exclusive" African-American Awards and organizations... how's that working out to foster community???

Scott Ogle
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"If we would just stop talking about it it would go away."

Would that it were so. Mind, I am in no way a religious person -- agnostic, thanks -- but on more than one occasion I've heard racism described as our country's 'Original Sin'. I think this is apt: Paradise Lost.

I wish there were a Jesus for it, but there's only time. We have to fix it ourselves.

We have to know one another.

Alecia Kaus
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Brian sounds like your Dad wanted you to assimilate so you would not be labeled like many Italians were for years. Most of Batavia was made up of people with German/English/Dutch ancestry and Italians were not usually welcome in positions that involved politics or power.

They stayed within the confines of the southside. They created clubs and establishments for themselves in their neighborhoods. They mingled with the polish who also lived in a section on the southside.

They worked in service jobs, worked has hired hands on German and English farms and created their own businesses to survive. They had their own churches markets and bake shops.

Today many fourth generation Italians have moved out of the southside and have moved into the melting pot and have assimilated. They hold positions of power and are involved in local politics. Thus you have no need for a St. Nicks Social Club and all the Churches on the southside of the City.

Homes on the southside have mostly turned to rental properties for this reason. Like when the Polish moved out of Buffalo's East side.

So if Batavia Downs would like to celebrate Italian Heritage by honoring someone who makes a difference in our society why not? What skin is it off your back? Brian you are an American, but you also have Italian Heritage that you should not be ashamed of.

Batavia is made up of all kinds. It's all of us that make a community work.

Brian Graz
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I am well aware of the history of the immigrant and 1st generation Italians in this area although I didn't grow up in Batavia, rather Oakfield which also had a "southside" where most of the Italian families resided, however my Dad's family was not one of those. Having a problem of assimilating was never an issue for our family. If it had of been I would guess that changing our last name to something like Graipen would have happened. It didn't and I suspect that it didn't because our family was proud of our Italian hertiage. I still am. But I'm an American.

C. M. Barons
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...Not to denigrate the award, the subject of this article. "Melting Pot" as an analogy for the blend of races and ethnic groups that define our nation is often rationalized to present the image in a more tolerant rendition than it actually bespeaks. A melting pot renders a rigid substance into a fluid, uniform and cast-able medium. We often hear explanations of "melting pot" as if it were some fragrant stew seasoned with many ingredients that add their distinct contribution to the broth. A view of immigration in this country over generations and waves of immigrants tells a violent and intolerant story that is better represented by the flaming casting pot than the bubbling kettle of cassoulet.

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