60th birthday party a salute to veterans

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The rather unique two-sided invitation featured a red fireworks explosion, white stars on a dark blue card and read: “Donna is 60! Let’s party!”

Even the flip-side featured a photo surrounded by those same red explosion-like lines and a photo with the words “Fabulous at 60!”

Perhaps that invitation was a sneak preview of what 125 guests actually witnessed last Friday night with a backdrop of red, white and blue for what people called “The birthday bash of the year” which was more of a special salute to veterans rather than Donna Folcarelli’s 60th birthday party.

“I can’t ever remember this place ever being so festive and patriot,” said Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena inside the Santa Maria Di Prata Society hall in Cranston. “This is unbelievable.”

The famous Italian-American club, which is now home to Ralph’s Catering, was a sparkling sea of red, white and blue and featured music played by the Dream Weaver, inflated balloons, three artificial fire crackers for centerpieces, linen napkins and delicious desserts that looked as though they had been prepared by Julia Child of PBS fame instead of Jen Maggiacomo.

Back when Donna Folcarelli and her sister Linda talked about having such a party, they met with their cousin and party planner Jen Maggiacomo about the idea for last Friday’s gala.

Maggiacomo, who is married to Rhode Island College chef Richard Maggiacomo, lives in Johnston and is also well-trained in the food industry having graduated from the Johnson & Wales University with a degree in Culinary, Pastry Arts and Business and worked for 17 years at the once-famed and former Zaccagnini’s Bakery in her native Cranston.

She also told her cousins, who have volunteered a lifetime for veterans organizations like the DAV and VFW, that because of their tireless volunteering for veterans and their auxiliary groups and the time of year it was, the theme could about saluting our veterans.

“Jen did a spectacular job in decorating the room and designing the long dessert table,” Linda Folcarelli said. “She made all the desserts and not one but two birthday cakes – a spectacular three-tier cake for Donna with the number 60 and for eight of our friends who turned sixty this year.”

There were two framed posters featuring pictures of veterans who were on hand last Friday night like Cliff Esposito and Jen’s father Edward “Chuck” Ruggiero.

“We did that to honor our veterans for their service,” Linda Folcarelli said. “Jen even came up with the idea to have a box with tiny soldiers in it and a caption and that read please take a soldier home and place it somewhere that will remind you to pray for our men and women serving our country.”

While the theme was a “Salute to Veterans”, the night showcased the love and caring Donna and Linda Folcarelli have been giving people for nearly a half century.

Donna currently serves as Rhode Island’s DAV (Disable American Veterans) Auxiliary National Executive Committeewoman and her sister Linda is State Commander of the DAV Auxiliary. They’ve worked with other veterans groups, most notably at the VA Medical Center in Providence.

“Donna and Linda’s devotion is inspired by their late father, Louis T. Folcarelli who also volunteered for the DAV,” said the Folcarelli’s cousin Pat Giardina. “They were also inspired by their uncle Giovanni Folcarelli, the former Lt. Governor in the state under John Chafee.”

Louis and Giovanni Folcarelli were veterans who served in World War II. Their father served in the Battle of the Bulge and the DAV group they have been volunteering for years, he Giovanni Folcarelli Chapter One, is named after their uncle.

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