It started 28 years ago when John R. Padula, of Franklin, wanted to make sure the folks at Central Park Terrace Franklin, where his mother and sister lived, were taken care of. And what says love and caring better than food? This year’s Pasta Supper event, which took place Friday, June 7th, for residents of Central Park Terrace, and other Franklin seniors, was the first one John has not attended. He died May 21 of this year, but the tradition continues. It was sponsored, as always, by Franklin’s Rotary Club International.
Rotary Club member Dan Gentile took over the cooking responsibilities from John for last year’s supper and continued with the most recent meal. But the event’s founder’s memory was felt throughout the evening. Gentile noted, “I have a checklist I got from John, and his recipes as well.” He admits to tweaking John’s meatball and sauce recipe “only a little,” which every cook is likely to do.
John’s daughter, Diane Padula, recalls that “My uncle, Charlie Padula, (stage name, Tony Dale) stepped in and took over the musical entertainment after my cousin Dominic Padula, who had originally DJ’d the event, suddenly passed away.” She continued, “Although my uncle did most of the entertaining, my dad would also put on different hats from his ‘bag of tricks’ and dress up and sing like Jimmy Durante to entertain folks. ‘Anything to make the crowd happy’ was the unwritten rule. Also, if you are related and could sing, you were pulled up in front of the guests and would sing a few tunes, too! I sang, and it was so sweet when I would be asked ‘Diane, are you going to sing tonight?’ This happened at every Pasta Supper, ever since I started helping out. It’s fun and so nice to be appreciated!”
Rotary Club members pitch in to make sure the supper tradition continues, and met beforehand at Gentile’s house to get the meatballs and sauce prepared for the meal. When John ran the event, everyone gathered at his house to prepare the food. It’s a big commitment, but the smiles on everyone’s faces said the work was worthwhile.
Approximately 80 seniors attended the supper, and multiple volunteers, both Rotary Club members and Dean Bank staff, took on the responsibility of making sure everyone was fed. Franklin resident Mimi Arnaudo smiled at the familiar faces at the supper and noted, “I’ve been coming here for 20 years!”
When asked what brings him back every year, Franklin resident Dan Holland quickly replied, “The food brings me back. It’s good!”
Diane recalled not only how much the event her father created has meant to her. It has also had an impact on her life. “I have made life-long friends through Rotary,” she said. “I think of myself as a life-long Rotarian even though I only officially joined in 2018. My dad was a Rotarian for 60 years, so although I only officially became a member last year, I’ve been doing this with Rotary since I was a kid.”
Gentile volunteered, “John meant the world to me,” his eyes growing moist as he recalled the founder of this tradition. “I love doing this—it’s fun!” And so, the suppers will continue, and the stories will continue to be shared as well.
The Franklin Rotary Club International meets every first and third Thursday of the month at 6 p.m. at The Rome Restaurant, 4 East Central St., Franklin. To find out more, visit https://portal.clubrunner.ca/3689.