Sons of Italy may have to completely rebuild generations of heritage

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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- WOWT 6 News has learned a community staple, the Sons of Italy Hall, may not be reopening its doors for many months.

On January 13th emergency crews battled a two-alarm blaze that left extensive damage. No access to the hall has left many without their second home. The organization and the building itself have grown from generation to generation and sadly some of that history is gone forever.

"It feels very disappointing…very empty," said George Grillo the Vice President of the State Lodge.

The barred doors, burnt and tarped roof are not what they’re used to seeing at the often bust building.

"You miss the comradery. There's so much give and take and fun and laughter and it's gone," Grillo told us.

For decades the hall brought hundreds every Thursday for spaghetti dinner. People like Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine have known over the years; it's always been a great place to shake the hands of voters. We interviewed him at the hall back in 2006 when he was running for his position.

"The kitchen is completely devastated," said Grillo.

After towels in their kitchen caught flame, the fire and the smoke destroyed many years of heritage.

"What I'm missing is all the pictures and memorabilia that we had in here."

Rich Mengler had been coming to the hall for decades. "You have a very, very good cross-section of America coming in here."

He says a mural that was a noticeable piece of art in the hall from the old Caniglia's restaurant is just one of the damaged items that may never be the same. "Same as anybody's family house burning down, this was our house."

It’s a second home that many can't wait to get back. "All I can tell them is we will rebuild!" explained Grillo.

The building is well insured so the lodge should be able to budget the repairs. If not they know hosting fundraisers is an option. For now it looks like their doors may not reopen for at least a year especially if they have to bulldoze the existing building.