Buffalo’s wrestling hall of famer Ilio DiPaolo was honored at La Piazza Cavour in an all-day festival in his hometown of Introdacqua in the Abruzzo region of Italy on August 18, 2023. Mayor Christian Colasante and Carle De Benedetto scheduled this day as part of a week-long feast honoring St. Antonio and St. Feliciano. Over 3,000 locals were in attendance to celebrate the legacy of Ilio DiPaolo, Introdacqua’s favorite son and the highly successful American wrestler and community benefactor from the Buffalo, NY area.
In 1997, Introdacqua presented the DiPaolo family with a beautiful bronze bust of Ilio DiPaolo which is now permanently housed in City Hall. A museum in the D’Angelis House honoring Ilio with countless artifacts, posters, pictures, articles, and books was dedicated in 2017. The museum is the work of Panfila Colangelo and Massimo Tardio.
DiPaolo was inducted into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame, Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum, and Canadian Wrestling Hall of Fame. He was a member of the Worldwide Wrestling Association, Midwest Wrestling Association, and Stampede Wrestling Association.
DiPaolo’s community involvement was recognized by outstanding citizen’s awards from many community organizations including Hilbert College, Southdowns’ Rotary Club, Lions Club of Blaisdell, Boys Town of Italy, St. Francis High School, and Western New York Italian-American Association. DiPaolo campaigned vigorously for a variety of causes including the Leukemia Society, Children’s Hospital, Cystic Fibrosis, People Incorporated, and Camp Good Days and Special Times. In 2019, a Scholarship Fund in Ilio’s name was created in Introdacqua. A selection committee consisting of Panfilia Colangelo, Massimo Tardio, Giannina Restano, and Carla De Benedetto put on a marvelous presentation for the students of Introdacqua.
The gala was spectacular and the Abruzzo Centro News was on hand to cover the “Premiazione: Borsa di Studio ‘Ilio DiPaolo’ 2023.” The Abruzzo Centro News affirmed the talents of this year’s scholarship recipient, Cecilia Bonaventura: “She is an extraordinary flutist, a true talent that carries the name of Introdacqua, Citta Musicale, in Italy and in Europe.” Cecilia Bonaventura performed at the Ilio DiPaolo celebration with flutist Micaela Faiella and pianist Frederico Laudadio.
Ten overflowing tables of delicious Italian pasta dishes, meatballs and sausage, assorted salads, Italian pastries and delicacies, and fresh fruit were offered to all in attendance. The memorable event was sponsored by the municipality of Introdacqua as well as Panfilia and Massimo, in conjunction with the D’Angelo House of Introdacqua.
Dennis DiPaolo, Ilio’s eldest son, eloquently addressed the townspeople of Introdacqua in Italian. His message was recorded in the annals and translated into English, “I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Panfilia Colangelo, Massimo Tardio, Giannina Restano, and the entire scholarship committee for their hard work and dedication in making this a wonderful and memorable event. Mayor Christian Colasante and Carla DeBennedito, thank you, for your support and for helping in this week of celebrations. Special thanks to Anna Marie and Carlo DeCellis of Pacento for all you do for our family, and to Ron Corbo, of New York, for his generous donation to help fund the scholarship on behalf of my father, Ilio DiPaolo.”
Dennis DiPaolo continued with the announcement of this year’s scholarship winner, “We are proud to recognize the young people of Introdacqua and support them in their future endeavors. This year’s winner of the Ilio DiPaolo Scholarship Fund is Cecilia Bonaventura, flutist. She began studying the flute at the age of seven and continued to improve at the Luisa D’Annunzio Conservatory of Music in Pescara. We wish her much success in the years to come. On behalf of my Aunt Giovanna, Uncle Tomasso Phelan and our entire family, we will forever be grateful to all of you in Introdacqua.”
A staircase in Introdacqua’s La Piazza Cavour has an Italian inscription describing the magnificence of the great town and mentioning its legendary wrestling hero, “Between two green pine forests, is he hiding in the middle of one? Our beautiful country is in the valley. When you arrive, you see it, and you can’t resist! If you sow onions here, bandits are born! This little village is enchanted, timeless, where fountains gush, and there is excellent wine. As in a fairy tale, the notes fly here, and the bells hang from the twigs. It is a magical village, full of art and love where the poet D’Angelo and the wrestler DiPaolo were born. My Introdacqua, beautiful Introdacqua. ‘Mignorinella’ overlooks the balcony. Splendid country of musicians and choirs. The more you live it, the more you fall in love.”
After DiPaolo’s passing in 1995, friends and family members organized a scholarship fund in his name. It was led by Bud Carpenter, Jim Kelly, and Randy Ribbeck of the Buffalo Bills. Today the fund has awarded close to $1.3 million in scholarships and donations for the less fortunate in the community.
Bud Carpenter, president of the Ilio DiPaolo Scholarship Fund and a member of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame, continues to lead the organization to support such groups as Greater Adaptive Sports and the Center for Handicapped Children, expanding the scholarship to include women’s wrestling as well as Ilio’s hometown in Italy, Introdacqua. The Ilio DiPaolo Scholarship Fund has been honored by the NYS Section VI Hall of Fame, WNY Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame, and numerous other organizations, thanking them for their contributions.
Bravissimo, Ilio DiPaolo, molto ben fatto. Sei un uomo incredibile e sei una borsa robusta di studio in istruzione in America e in Italia.