Remembering Helen Mazzoli

The Mazzoli family at Romano Mazzoli’s swearing in to the Kentucky State Senate, 1968 (Kentucky Dept. of Public Information photo)

On June 18, 2012, Louisville lost a particularly wonderful citizen: Helen Mazzoli. I had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Mazzoli as the University Archives & Records Center worked with her husband, Congressman Romano (Ron) Mazzoli, to process his papers and renovate our reading room in his honor. She was the kind of woman you meet and think, “Wow. I want to be like her when I grow up” — even if you are, technically, already well past that mark.

As part of the Mazzoli Papers Project, we conducted a series of oral history interviews with the Congressman’s staff and colleagues, as well as with his family. I had the privilege of interviewing Mrs. Mazzoli in January 2011. She deserved a far better interviewer, but she was a very gracious interviewee. While I enjoyed hearing about her work on Congressman Mazzoli’s campaigns, their life together while he was in Congress, and their time at Harvard after he left politics, my favorite story concerned her going to Hollywood at the age of three to audition for the movies. I won’t relate the entire story, as her interview is now available online, so you can hear her tell the story herself.

That is one of the beauties of oral history: hearing her tell her own story is far better than reading my words. And her voice, her inflection, her way of telling that story, is captured forever in this recording. Knowing that I’m helping to preserve this memory – and making it available to the public – is one of the best parts of my job as an archivist.

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