The Rev. Luigi Donanzan, co-founder of the Villa Scalabrini Retirement Center in Sun Valley who also helped build an Italian cultural center in Los Angeles, has died at the retirement center. He was 84.
Donanzan died Tuesday of complications from two strokes he had suffered in recent years, said his brother, the Rev. Emilio Donanzan of Sun Valley.
"He was really a little fireball," Los Angeles City Councilman John Ferraro said. "He did something that no other Italian-American could have done."
Born in Bassano, Italy, Donanzan studied for the priesthood at the Cristoforo Colombo Seminary of the Scalabrini Fathers in Piacenza and was ordained in 1932. A year later, he was assigned to the United States where he served in Italian parishes in Boston, Utica, N.Y., Chicago and Milwaukee. In 1936, he started a weekly radio show in Chicago for Italian-speaking people called "Ora Cattolica Italiana" (Italian Catholic Hour), which he continued until the late 1980s. While in Chicago, he promoted Italian immigration to the United States.
Donanzan came to Los Angeles in 1962 as pastor of St. Peter Italian Catholic Church, reaching out to the Italian community with a newsletter and by increasing the number of Sunday Masses. In 1967, he helped the Order of the Sons of Italy to erect a statue of Christopher Columbus in Los Angeles and later helped found Casa Italiana, a cultural center.
He and his brother were co-founders of the Villa Scalabrini Retirement Center, which opened in 1979 and accommodates 188 seniors. The Rev. Luigi Donanzan lived there since its opening and ran its public relations department until two years ago.
In addition to his brother, Emilio, Donanzan is survived by his brothers the Rev. Ceasar Donanzan of Washington, D.C., and Gildo Donanzan of Bassano, and nine nephews and nieces.
A funeral Mass is planned for 7 tonight at Villa Scalabrini, 10631 Vinedale St. in Sun Valley. A second funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Peter Italian Catholic Church, 1039 N. Broadway in Los Angeles. Burial will follow at San Fernando Mission Cemetery. Utter-McKinley Mortuary in Mission Hills is handling the arrangements. Donations can be made to the Father Luigi Scholarship Fund, c/o St. Charles Residence, 10631 Vinedale St., Sun Valley, 91352.