Joseph Maselli, long-time New Orleans resident and civic leader, is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of one of the largest distributing companies in the New Orleans area. He developed the internationally famous Piazza d’Italia with the City of New Orleans, and is currently working to develop property adjacent to that site. In addition to, and among numerous other business activities, he developed apartment complexes, shopping centers, and created and operated the successful Italian Village of the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition.
As with most successful people, Maselli’s is a long list of accomplishments. Not only was he an Ethnic Affairs Advisor to Presidents Ford, Carter, and Reagan, and advisor to governors and mayors, in 1992, the Governor of Louisiana appointed him chairman of the Louisiana Quincentenary Commission. As chairman, and against tremendous odds, he brought to New Orleans the three famous Spanish Caravels, Las Nina, Piña y Santa Maria, enabling thousands of people, most importantly, the children, to experience the history of a major event of the fifteenth century that changed the world forever.
Maselli has been the catalyst for countless Louisiana Italian-American activities in this community, founding the first state-wide organization of the Italian-Americans that later became known as the American Italian Federation of the Southeast, an umbrella organization with over 9,000 members in five states, namely, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Texas. He is the only Italian American in the United States who has successfully organized Italian clubs statewide. Ten years later, he founded the American Italian Renaissance Foundation, of which the American Italian Museum and Research Library are a part. The research library is the first of its kind in the South and contains over 350 oral tape histories, vertical files on 20,000 individuals, and 3,500 Italian-American books. To honor Louisiana Italian Americans and others who have excelled in athletics and to give scholarships to budding athletes, he founded the Louisiana American Italian Sports Hall of Fame.
Maselli has provided national and international leadership, authored “Italians in New Orleans” (2004) and several articles published in various publications. He is the founder and publisher of the Italian American Digest, which has one of the largest circulations in the South and he works energetically and effectively to accomplish the preservation of immigrant values—hard work, family traditions and education. He served as past vice-chairman of the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF), chairman and organizer of NIAF’s Annual Washington summit, and chaired NIAF’s Conference “The Holocaust in Southern Europe—Italians and Jews: From Persecutions to Rescue and Aid”. He also founded the Jewish-Italian Committee in New Orleans and organized significant responses to several earthquakes in Italy to help with the rebuilding of Venzone’s city Hall, Laviano’s Children’s Medical Center, and assisting victims of earthquakes.
Maselli, recognized by many Italian American organizations in the United States, has served as president of the National Italian American Coordinating Association, a national umbrella organization whose members include the Order of Sons of Italy in America, UNICO, National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame, plus more than fifteen regional, state and local federations of Italian American organizations with individual membership of over two million.
Maselli’s work has not been unnoticed or unappreciated. Nationally, he was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor and, internationally, the University of Naples’ Primo Dorso Award. He was knighted Grande Ufficiale, one of the highest honors of the Italian Government. Among the many awards he has received are the prestigious American Justinian Society of Jurist Amicus Curiae, National Conference of Christian and Jews’ Weiss Award and the Child’s Wish Organization’s Crystal Achievement Award.
Maselli’s business interests have been extensive, and are only exceeded by his civic activities. He founded City Wholesale Liquor Distributors and Louisiana Car Wash Centers, the largest car washes in the South. He founded, with several others, Carrollton Playground, with 1,000-plus children participating in programs and coordinated a fund-raising program for the construction of a new St. Rita’s Grammar School. He continues to sponsor baseball, football and boxing in New Orleans. He was successful in bringing, for the first time, the NAAU Boxing Finals to New Orleans and also accompanied the U.S.A. Amateur Boxing Team to England and Russia.
Maselli has been a member of many civic, academic, and charitable organizations, including the Downtown Development District and the Statue of Liberty Ellis Island Centennial Commission. He served as past vice-chairman of the New Orleans Aviation Board, which oversees the entire operation of the New Orleans International Airport, chairs the Piazza d’Italia Corporation, the Louisiana Italian American Advisory Commission, and as a member of the board of Tulane University School of Medicine (Chancellor’s Council). He is presently a member of Tulane University’s Emeritus Club and the Louisiana Board of Ethics and Metropolitan Crime commission.
Joseph Maselli earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Tulane University in three years while working as a Public Accountant. The sixty-year resident of New Orleans served three years in the United States Army and, in 1946, married Antoinette Cammarata, a New Orleans native. They have three sons, Joe, Jr., a local attorney and partner of Plauché & Maselli Law Firm, Frank, a real estate developer, Michael, managing director and partner of Trimaran Capital Partners, and one daughter, Jan Maselli Mann, First Assistant United States Attorney, and eight grandchildren, all of which he considers his greatest accomplishments.
Joe Maselli, passed away on October 22, 2009, after a brief hospitalization at Ochsner Foundation Hospital in the city of New Orleans.
At Ciao America we extend our deepest sympathy to the Maselli family.
[Joe Maselli"s biography is from the American-Italian Renaissance Foundation]