The Italian American Society of Jefferson again hosted a successful event when they hosted the Westbank Italian Open and celebrated its 40th anniversary on May 15 at Timberlane Country Club.
The popular golf tournament dates back to 1982. Winners of the 2022 event were Dominic Robert, James Breland, Fred Peer and John Stevens.
Proceeds from the Italian Open went to Café Hope, Café Hope, a restaurant that provides at risk youth a path to self-sufficiency through career training and readiness for job placement.
Proceeds from the Kick off Reception Dinner Roast went to Community Center for Life, a crisis pregnancy center that helps women and families in crisis pregnancies through counseling, education and material help.
“It was 40th year of chairing the Open and Roast. We raised over $400,000 for non-profit organizations over the years. After 40 years of roasting it was my turn in the barrel!” Wayne J. Nocito, the event founder said.
Wayne, the Roastee was leaned on hard by Roasters Royce Blanchard, Mike Hinyub, Larry Dyess, Keith Cheramie, Mike Evans, Jerry Daul and Jake Vicari.
Rev. Francis Carabello, aka “Father Frank,” longtime Chaplain of the Society, offered Opening and Closing Prayers. In honor of Wayne’s Roast, he offered a few words to Wayne about “Roasting.”
“St. Lawrence the Martyr who was being burned on a grill, cheerfully told his executioners, “I’m well done on this side, turn me over!” He asked the roasters to take it easy. It was August 10 in the year 258 when these kinds of things happened. The Martyr was a Deacon (in the Catholic Church) who became the Patron Saint of Cooks, Chefs and Comedians,” Father Frank said.
The roasters did a great job with the roasting of Wayne that had guests in stitches and the 40th Roast was off the grill!
The golf tourney on Sunday was a huge success that ended before the huge thunderstorm drenched everyone at the end! So, it could be said that the Italian Open was over with a thunderous close!
Kidding around or not, Wayne Nocito has quite the personal story to tell. His story was in a Times Picayune article back in 2018. To read the entire interesting story, go to: https://www.nola.com/archive/article_ea6e70a6-a060-55a0-93e0-18533c164161.html
Nocito owned what he called a “mom and pop” operation, Patio Gardens & Landscaping in Marrero that closed after 44 years in June of 2018.
The Nocitos, who are Marrero residents, have a long history in Marrero where his grandparents were truck farmers located from about where West Jefferson Medical Center is and north, to near the Immaculate Conception School campus.
The garden center location was originally the home of the family of Angelo and Mary Nocito. Angelo loved to garden and create beautiful gardens, while his neighbors had little, if any, landscaping like is popular today. It was said in the neighborhood that Angelo had a “botanical garden.”
By 1970, Wayne Nocito was so interested in gardening that he attended what was then USL in Lafayette to become a horticulturist. The plan between the close knit father and son was to open a landscaping business together.
Fate played a terrible trick on the father and son duo on Father’s Day weekend in 1972 when Angelo, who was only 54, was killed in a robbery gone bad where he was working at the National Fence Company on Tchoupitoulas Street in New Orleans.
A devastated Wayne was 19 years-old, a sophomore in college, but knew he had to keep the dream alive. He earned his degree in horticulture in 1975. With the help of his relatives and Angelo looking down from heaven, as planned, Wayne opened Patio Gardens & Landscaping on May 3, 1975.
There was already a small, but thriving business on the location, which was a snowball stand called “Expressway Sno Wiz” that Angelo had opened in 1959. After Angelo was murdered, the family continued the operation of the snowball stand. Wayne paid his way through college by operating the snowball stand during summers and school holidays.
Locals will surely remember the snowball stand. People from all over went for snowballs. It was an amazingly successful business that was forced to close when 20 feet of land was needed to widen the Westbank Expressway.
Wayne was the Jefferson Parish Parkway Director from 1994-2014, so he didn’t work the daily business, but due to his fulltime managers and other employees, the business did very well for a long time. Wayne served as Constable of Jefferson Parish’s 2nd District from 2015 until 2020.
He’s well known in the area for his longtime dedication to the Italian-American Society of Jefferson where he serves on that Board of Directors as well as on the Boards of Cafe Hope’ and Dollars for Scholars.
He was inducted into the Italian-American Hall of Fame in New Orleans, and has been a member of Fore Kids Foundation for 19 years, and the Italian-American Marching Club for 50 years.
He is married to Marilee Martin and they have two children, Ryan Nocito, who is a religion teacher at Brother Martin High School and a daughter, Allison Nocito, a staff accountant at a CPA firm. His one year-old Granddaughter Ella Grace is, of course, the light of his life!