Gaetano Sardella, 'Voice of Italy'

April 05, 1993

Gaetano "Guy" Sardella, "the Voice of Italy" on Baltimore radio stations for more than 40 years, died Friday of cancer at Mercy Medical Center. He was 80.

A leader for Baltimore's Italian-Americans, Mr. Sardella served the community he loved through many ethnic organizations. He gave it a voice on his weekly radio show, "The Guy Sardella Original Italian Hour." He was host of the Sunday morning show for 30 years on AM radio stations WCBM and WBMD, beginning in 1940.

"The Italian-American community will fondly remember this man. He was one of those people you might say was simpatico -- a warm, friendly, charming person," said Samuel A. Culotta, a longtime friend.

Mr. Sardella helped Italian immigrants become acclimated to life in the United States. In the summer of 1944, he helped hundreds of Italian prisoners of war at Fort Meade, organizing a soccer team and assembling a band of musicians among the POWs.

The POWs were returned to Italy at the end of that summer. He recounted an emotional last day with them in a Sun Magazine article in February.

"It was so touching to see all of them, the way they made a speech thanking me for all I did for them, for alleviating their prison life," he said. "The first six or seven years after they left I would get piles of Christmas cards and then it started to dwindle off."

During the war, he taught Italian at the Berlitz School of Languages. In the 1960s, he taught Italian at the Peabody Conservatory of Music and at Baltimore City College.

Before joining WCBM in 1940, he was a radio announcer for WPEN in Philadelphia.

Through his radio program in Baltimore, he raised money for the American Red Cross and American War Bonds.

He was named Baltimore's Italian-American of the year in 1960 and twice was knighted by the Italian government. One of those honors included the Star of Solidarity, presented to him in 1958 by the Republic of Italy.

Mr. Sardella and the former Maria DeLeonardis were married in 1942. The couple worked together at the Roma Travel Agency in Highlandtown, a business Mr. Sardella ran for more than 35 years, until his retirement in 1990. Mrs. Sardella died in 1971.

Born in Baltimore, Mr. Sardella returned to Italy at age 7 and received his education there. He earned a bachelor's degree in art administration from the Convitto Nazionale of Teramo, Italy.

He returned to the United States in 1937, settling in Philadelphia. In 1939, he was elected president of Centro Italo-Americano of Philadelphia.

He was founder and first venerable of Loggia Italia and first vice president of the Italian American Civic Club. He also was vice president of the Appian Society.

He had been the grand secretary of the Grand Lodge of Maryland, Order of the Sons of Italy in America; vice president of the Italian American Organizations of Maryland; and a member of the Knights of Columbus.

Mr. Sardella also was a correspondent for the newspaper Il Progresso Italo-Americano and a freelance writer for several other Italian publications. He served on occasion as a courtroom interpreter.

He is survived by a son, Louis Sardella of Cockeysville; a daughter, Vina Sardella of Baltimore; four sisters, Santina Cortese of Rochester, N.Y., Angela Cellinese of Baltimore, Caroline Yacabucci of Philadelphia and Mary Mortillaro of Rochester, N.Y.; a brother, Robert Sardella of Philadelphia; and several nieces and nephews.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 7 p.m. today at Our Lady of Pompei Roman Catholic Church, Conkling Street and Claremont Avenue.

The family suggested memorial contributions to the Johns Hopkins Hospital Cancer Research Center.

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