WOONSOCKET — John R. Dionne of Woonsocket has been selected to be inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame, RIHHF President Dr. Patrick T. Conley and RIHHF board member Albert R. Beauparlant have announced.
Dionne will join several other inductees at its annual ceremony in April.
Beauparlant, who recently served as co-chairman of the 125th celebration of the incorporation of the City of Woonsocket, submitted Dionne’s name as a candidate for induction. Dionne has served the city of Woonsocket for almost 50 years in numerous charitable volunteer endeavors to assist people in need in addition to public service and leadership positions in a multitude of organizations.
“It was my feeling that with the 125th year, it was fitting to submit John for possible induction for this high honor,” says Beauparlant. “For 39 years he gave his life to serving the less fortunate, including 14 years as chairman of the Milk Fund and 25 years as co-chairman, during which every chairman attained his or her goal. The Milk Fund raises funds each December to provide milk to needy children for a year. His contribution of helping people and his love for our city is beyond belief.”
Born in Woonsocket, Dionne is the son of the late Raymond and Elizabeth Dionne. He and his wife, Jeannine, have four children, Michelle Trupke, Elizabeth Rondeau, Catherine Dionne, and John J. Dionne. They have 12 grandchildren.
Dionne served four years of active duty in the U.S. Navy and four years in inactive reserves. He was a member of the U.S. Navy Drum & Bugle Corps at Bainbridge, Maryland, a member of the 10th Naval District Baseball All-Stars from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and a graduate of the Fleet Logistics School at Pawtuxet River, Md. He was awarded an honorable discharge.
A member of the City Council for 10 years, he served as president for six years. He served as the city’s director of public safety for five years; manager of the Board of Canvassers for seven years; and director of human services for one year. He was a member of the Woonsocket Charter Commission, the Woonsocket Centennial Commission, and is a charter and 10-year member of the Autumnfest Steering Committee.
Other membership and positions include commander of the St. Joseph Veterans Association; president of the Woonsocket Jaycees; president of the R.I. Jaycees; national consultant of U.S. Jaycees; vice president of the United Jaycees Senate; Jaycees International; Cercle Laurier; Woonsocket Lodge of Elks #850; Grand Knight of Keough Council Knights of Columbus; General Moylan 4th Degree Knights of Columbus; past member of the Woonsocket Rotary Club; past president of the Woonsocket Lions Club; past board member of the Woonsocket Kiwanis Club; past member of the St. Joseph’s Parish Council; past president of the Catholic Young Adult Council of the Diocese of Providence; and past board member of the Northern R.I. CYO.
Also, past board member of the Girl Scouts of Rhode Island; past board member of United Cerebral Palsy of Rhode Island; past president of Muscular Dystrophy of Rhode Island; past president of the Greater Woonsocket Visiting Nurses Association; past board member of the Greater Woonsocket Chamber of Commerce; past president of the Blackstone Valley for Blind Association; past board member of Woonsocket Family & Child Services (Family Resources); past president of the Young at Heart Seniors Club; past member of the District Committee Boy Scouts of America; past President of Spirit Express (Up with People Scholarships); past board member of the QUINN Foundation for Retarded Citizens (built the Fabian Street center); past president of the Woonsocket Business Associates; past president of RACE (Recreational Activity Center for the Elderly; past president of the U.S. Jaycees Hub; past board member of the Woonsocket Housing Authority; member of the 100 Club of Rhode Island (20 years); and member of Les Dionne d’Amerique (The Dionnes of America).
In 1975, at the Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus, he was praised by the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen for his chairmanship of the Milk Fund, which was cited as the top community fundraising project in the world under sponsorship by Keough Council #5274 Knights of Columbus.
Through a resolution by the City Council, a local track in the city was named the John R. Dionne Track and Field for his total fundraising efforts, which exceeded $1,301,934 between 1969 and 1976. From 1976 to 2008, this total exceeds $3 million.
In addition to his role as chairman of the Milk Fund, he also served as co-chairman of the Telstar Drum & Bugle Corps Fund Drive; chairman of Heart Fund Sunday; chairman of Honey Sunday to raise funds for mentally challenged citizens; chairman of the Harold Mathewson Family Fund Drive; chairman of the Thundermist District Boy Scouts Fund Drive; chairman of the Charles Masterson Fund Drive; and chairman of the Rodney St. Sauveur’s Children’s Fund.
He was also northern Rhode Island chairman for the Muscular Dystrophy Jerry Lewis Telethon; chairman of Project Bells, which built the Carillion next to Burger King on Social Street; chairman of the Jerry Lewis Telethon TV-12; co-chairman of the Kevin McMann Fund; co-chairman of the Woonsocket Police Firing Range Fund Drive; chairman of the Alarie Family Fund; co-chairman of the St. Jude Hospital Telethon and lollipop sale; chairman of the “On to Disney for Sue” fund drive, chairman of the Kevin Poisson Fund; chairman of “Tommy’s Dream;” chairman of the Spirit Express to send young adults to “Up with People;” and chairman of the Vietnam Memorial next to the police station to honor men and women who served in The Vietnam War. This monument, a replica of the memorial in Washington, was the first in Rhode Island built on public property, with Dionne calling his project “We Remember.” All funds were generated by the public led by the schoolchildren of Woonsocket. He then deeded the monument to the city for perpetual care. It was dedicated on Nov. 11, 1984.
Dionne also served as chairman of the Tribute to Marine Sgt. Dennis Tellier, who served four years as a POW in Vietnam. Over 700 guests gathered at the Mount St. Charles ice rink for the tribute. He had a head table of 70 people, the largest head table of dignitaries in the history of Rhode Island.
In addition to being treasurer of Better Homes by Woonsocket Jaycees, he served on a committee of eight members which built the 100-unit Waterview Complex for the elderly on Privilege Street in Woonsocket.
On Jan. 1, 1991, the Marquette Credit Union closed, never to open again. Dionne served as senior vice president of marketing and public relations and president of Marquette Travel Services. His marketing and public relations programs were awarded first place for three consecutive years by Credit Union International of the United States and first place for community activities by the Credit Union Executives Society.
He was a 25-year employee of the credit union. His accomplishments were cited in various credit union national publications.
Other involvements and memberships have included: Northern RI Cable Advisory Committee; Post #7 American Legion; Democratic City Committee; Woonsocket Advisory Board; Rhode Island Justice Assistance; East Woonsocket Little League volunteer umpire; FOP Lodge #9 associate; and Architectural Barriers Committee member of Woonsocket.
• Citizen of the Year — Woonsocket Kiwanis Club.
• Outstanding Young Man — Woonsocket Jaycees – 1971.
• One of three Outstanding Young Men of RI — RI Jaycees – 1972.
• One of three Outstanding Young Men of New England – 1972.
• One of 30 Finalists for 10 OYM of America - US Jaycees – 1972.
He received Congressional recognition for his chairmanship of the Dennis Tellier tribute, and in 1983 received the first honorary high school diploma ever awarded in the history of the Wooonsocket School Department.
Dionne, an 11th grade dropout, joined the Navy, receiving his GED from the R.I. Department of Education while in the U.S. Navy. He made appearances at local and other high schools urging students not to drop out of high school.
In 1987 he received the “Spirit of America Award” from the U.S. Air force, the second-highest award presented to a civilian by the USAF.
In 1983 a testimonial was held in his honor, at which 500 citizens attended. He was cited by President Ronald Reagan, Jerry Lewis, and Danny Thomas.
For the past five years he has hosted a weekday talk show on WNRI-1380 AM, discussing politics, trivia, and various issues that affect the people on a local, state and national level.
“He is controversial to say the least, but loves his city, which is experiencing a crisis of great magnitude,” says Beauparlant. “My personal relationship with John dates back many years, when we worked together on the first “First Nighter Celebration” for the City of Woonsocket, with our friendship being as strong today as it was back then. It is my pleasure to share with the people his extraordinary contribution to the people of Woonsocket and the State of Rhode Island.”