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A Buffalo connection and an upbeat call from the chief justice

When businessman Anthony H. Gioia learned a longtime former employee was seriously ill in a Florida hospice, he hatched a plan that proved surprisingly easy to accomplish.

Gioia, who was once president of Gioia Macaroni and is a former ambassador to Malta, knew that Tom DiPasquale, who worked for more than a quarter century as a Gioia salesman, was godfather to an important government figure who just happened to be part of recent news – Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

Roberts’ father worked as an electrical engineer for Bethlehem Steel in Lackawanna when the future jurist was born in 1955, and family friend DiPasquale participated in the subsequent baptismal ceremony at SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Hamburg.

“The one time I met the chief I mentioned it to him and he called him a ‘great godfather,’ ” Gioia recalled this week.

Upon learning of DiPasquale’s condition, Gioia this week called U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo in Buffalo to see if the connection could be renewed. Gioia said Vilardo replied with a “sure thing,” made the call, and 10 minutes later DiPasquale received an upbeat call from the chief justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Gioia said Vilardo told him in a subsequent email that the chief justice had thanked him for the heads up and reported a good talk with his godfather.

Gioia said his old employee was “just elated.”

“At a time when this country is so polarized, it just seemed so refreshing to me,” the former ambassador said later. “Larry knew what kind of a guy he was and he called. It was exactly right.”

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