Community’s pride: Cranston Hall of Fame welcomes new inductees

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Almost 250 people packed the Cranston Country Club on Sunday, Oct. 16, to watch the newest class be inducted into the Cranston Hall of Fame.

Founded in 1980, the purpose of the Hall of Fame is to recognize graduates of a Cranston high school who have distinguished themselves on a regional or national level in their chosen field of endeavor and their outreach to their respective communities.

This year’s inductees are Michael Crudale, Cranston West, 1989; Dennis DeJesus, Cranston East, 1974; the late Wanda DeRouin, Cranston East, 1980; Ronald DiOrio, Cranston West, 1971; and Susan Soscia, Cranston West, 1986.

With the latest inductees, the Hall of Fame has grown to 181 members.

The eight members of the Hall’s permanent selection committee include the mayor, the superintendent of Cranston Public Schools, the School Committee chairperson, the two high school principals, a representative of service clubs, member of the Cranston Chamber of Commerce, an alumnus, and when appropriate a previous year’s winner. This year’s inductees were chosen from a field of roughly 20 nominees.

Prior to the start of the induction ceremony, members of the Cranston East JROTC performed the presentation of colors and led the Pledge of Allegiance.

Mayor Allan Fung was the first speaker to offer congratulations.

“It is always an exciting time when we can recognize the fine educational system here in Cranston,” he said. “We have an opportunity to honor five exceptional individuals tonight, and hear about their accomplishments – most importantly, what they have given back not only in their professions but of their time and themselves. They blaze the path for future Cranston generations to succeed.”

Janice Ruggieri, the School Committee’s chair, spoke next, opening with a quote from baseball legend Ernie Banks: “The measure of a man or woman is in the lives they’ve touched. That is the common thread that binds these people. They are caring and compassionate.”

Ruggieri went on to speak of her personal connection and relationship with each inductee.

Superintendent Jeannine Nota-Masse then offered her remarks.

“The people here and who are not here with us have made the lives of others have quality. Tonight’s honorees embody what makes Cranston a wonderful city to live in, to raise a family, and of course, to attend school,” she said. “This spring, as the board reviewed applications, we were so impressed by the hours these honorees have spent quietly giving back to the students, veterans, athletes, and families in Cranston. It was deeply moving to know how dedicated these men and women are to Cranston.”

Nota-Masse related a touching and heartfelt story about DeRoin’s spirit coming through at the Park View Middle School Memorial Day ceremony.

Michael Traficante, former mayor and vice president of the Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors, was the last person to speak.

“These people are giving, caring and sharing. They are worthy to be in the Hall of Fame,” he said.

Fred Vincent, president of the Board of Directors, had all the former inductees present stand to be recognized.

After dinner, the actual induction took place. Each inductee was introduced by a close friend or family member. They also received citations from Fung and House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello.

John Macera, a friend and co-worker of Crudale’s, spoke first. He talked about their 20-year relationship, their landscaping business, and how they started making wine together 14 years ago.

“My kids have learned so many life lessons during those days hanging out with Mike. I also know tonight is very bittersweet for Mike since his dad’s passing a few weeks ago,” he said.

Crudale spoke of the intense work ethic his parents instilled in him. He also gave a wink and a nod to “all things Cranston.”

“When my wife and were house hunting, it wasn’t about the number of bedrooms or bathrooms, but how close we were to her parents and mine,” he said. “We have been blessed to have family all around us while our children are growing.”

DeJesus was introduced by his brother David, who calls him “Denny.”

“Denny sleeps, eats, breaths Cranston. He respects everyone –even those people younger than him,” he said. “No one walks away from talking to Denny without smiling.”

DeJesus recalled his years in Edgewood growing up – his friends, coaches, and the importance of teaching and education. He spoke with kindness and affection for his family and friends.

“I approach every day with purpose, passion, and dedication. My loyalties lie with one school – the green and white. Go ’Bolts,” he said.

DeRouin was inducted posthumously, with her husband Leo speaking on her behalf.

“Wanda was driven to make a difference in people’s lives. She was a member for 40 years of the Rays of Sunshine musical group. She was deeply involved with The Tomorrow Fund. She never spoke of her pain, she made sure her spiritual beliefs showed in her actions,” he said. “She maintained her strong values of family. I would ask that we live our lives like Wanda lived, caring for others, so her kind and loving spirit live forever.”

The room gave him a two-minute standing ovation.

The senior member of the class to be inducted was DiOrio. He was introduced by his best friend of 50 years, Raymond Votto, who is the chief operating officer for Cranston Public Schools.

“I’ve known Ron since we were in junior high together. That’s a long time,” Votto said. “Ron doesn’t like or seek the spotlight. He enjoys the quiet solitude of family and close friends. My parents were very fond of Ron. I know they would have liked to be here this evening.”

DiOrio repeated a line his father used to tell him all the time growing up: “The most important thing you can have in life is your name.”

“My mom said, ‘speak less and listen more.’ I tried to live my life by these rules,” he said. “I thank all my coaches and teachers for their advice guidance and support throughout my life. To my friends I say, we’ve laughed together, we’ve sometimes cried together, but it matters that we were together.”

The last inductee was Soscia. Her father Anthony spoke of all her accomplishments while at Cranston West, Quinnipiac University, and now back home in Cranston.

“It is not often a father gets the opportunity to introduce his daughter at such a prestigious event. She is so dedicated to Cranston and its students that she actually scheduled her wedding around the football season,” he said.

Soscia spoke of her pride in the program she has helped to develop with the sports teams and coaches.

“We have built a great system to keep all the kids safe. I am so thankful for the opportunity to give back to my community,” she said. “My father taught me what public service is and what it means. My mom always told me, ‘you might not live here, but your home is always Cranston.’”

For more information about the Cranston Hall of Fame, or to nominate someone for next year’s class, visit cpsed.net/halloffame.

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