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Everybody’s Port: September 5, 2013

Enthusiasm Can Be Quite Contagious

Enthusiasm is a gift. More than that, it can be quite contagious. So when you find a person infected by it, you can bet that he or she will be the tribe’s Chief — or at least one of the Chief’s go-to Indians.

The late William F. Buckley was merely brilliant. He was the poster child for classical political conservatism. Always articulate, Bill never lacked enthusiasm for his beliefs. He claimed that on any college campus, only 6 percent of the students cared. “Give me the 6 percent,” he used to say.

Bill Buckley would’ve liked Marianne O’Neill. She could have easily been one of his 6 percent. On the surface, their differences are obvious. But she would’ve been among Buckley’s 6 percent because she “cared.”

Marianne’s childhood is the stuff of novels. Her father, Livio Principe, was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, of Italian parents. When his parents decided the USA was the place to be, Livio came with them. (He had no choice; he was only six months old.) In time, he married Donetta Vitaglione and moved to Oyster Bay where Marianne and her sister, Donna, grew up healthy and happy.

One of the family’s Oyster Bay homes was on Frank Miller Gould’s (grandson of railroad millionaire, Jay Gould) park-like estate. Livio had earned an excellent reputation as a modern-day overseer. In other words, he managed the crew that kept the estate’s grounds in tip-top shape. One of the job’s perks was a cottage on the estate where the Principe family lived comfortably. Since the Goulds had no children, Marianne was treated as a member of the family. Her reminiscences of that time are warm and fuzzy.

There were other fine estates in Marianne’s young life. All smilingly remembered — except one. Livio managed the grounds of the Woodward estate in Oyster Bay Cove. Late one night, Ann Woodward shot and killed her husband, Billy, claiming she had mistaken him for a prowler that had been reported in the area previously. The shocking news became a contentious controversy when ex-chorus girl, Ann, was not charged. Subsequently, the Woodwards’ son committed suicide — a sad act eventually duplicated by his mother.

Fortunately, Marianne’s adult life is another story. She, husband John, daughters Tricia and Robin and son Jody, moved to Port in 1953. Since then, Marianne’s enjoyed successful careers in newspaper advertising, business, and local government while also focusing on activities that have benefited the Port Washington community and beyond.

The late Esther Margolies, then president of the Port Washington Senior Citizens Center in Manorhaven, invited Marianne to join the Center’s Board of Directors. After 20 years on the board, she served as president of the organization for six more years.

For more than two decades, Marianne was active with the Port Washington/Manhasset Chapter of Cancer Care, Inc., especially with the group’s fundraiser, The Red Stocking Revue (a lively show with pop song parodies written and performed by Port people). Marianne didn’t hold back. She even danced in tights in the Radio City Rockettes-inspired kick-line. After Red Stocking’s 10-year hiatus, Cancer Care’s president, Barbara Fatticone asked Marianne and Jo Pawalsky to resurrect the revue, which they co-chaired for two successive years. New editions of the show are now presented annually.

Marianne’s continuing enthusiasm and drive is typified by her long-standing commitment to the John Michael Marino Lodge of the Order of Sons of Italy in America (OSIA). She has gone through the chairs as a State Trustee of the Grand Lodge of OSIA, National Trustee, and was recently one of three persons elected to the OSIA National Foundation. Most of us don’t know about OSIA and its impressive charitable giving.

But this I do know, Marianne Principe O’Neil’s election must be considered a high honor. She is in her seventh year as chair for the New York Grand Lodge’s Gift of Sight program, which includes the Helen Keller Services for the Blind Camp.

At the moment, along with other members of the John Michael Marino Lodge, Marianne’s up to her ears in preparation for the Marino Lodge’s annual Grande Festa Italiana. This year, from September 4 – 8, will be the Feast’s 34th consecutive year at Hempstead Harbor Park. But take my advice, go there hungry.