WALLINGFORD — Local resident Jerry Farrell Jr. was recently knighted by Italian royalty.
Farrell, a former town councilor, was named a Knight Official of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus during a visit to Vatican City earlier this month. The honor was bestowed upon Farrell by Prince Victor Emmanuel IV of Savoy, the head of the Italian royal family, during events Sept. 12-15 in Rome .
Farrell is of Italian-American decent and is the great-grandson of Michael and Emilia Audisio, who settled in Wallingford in 1904. A lawyer by trade, Farrell was named the 2011 Connecticut Italian-American Lawyer of the Year. He was also named Wallingford’s 2003 Italian-American of the Year. But it was Farrell’s work as commissioner of the state Department of Consumer Protection from 2006 to 2011 that brought him before Italian royalty. Farrell was crucial in passing olive oil regulations in 2008. At the time, Connecticut was the first state to regulate the sale of olive oil, and the impact was felt worldwide as international grocery chains began demanding a higher quality product.
“The negative aspect of what was going was that olive oil was being tainted,” Farrell said. “Producers were adding lesser oils, like nut oils.”
These producers were still labeling their product as “extra virgin,” or pure olive oil, even though it wasn’t. This is important, Farrell said, because if someone has allergies, “you could literally die from tainted olive oil.”
Through his work in ensuring the purity of olive oil, Farrell won the respect of the state’s Italian-American community. Contacts in the state introduced Farrell to Emmanuel and the royal family. Along with about 50 other men and women, Farrell was honored at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome this month. Past American recipients of the award include New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
The experience in Italy was “out of a storybook,” Farrell said.
Farrell has visited Italy several times, and he met his wife while traveling the country. This most recent experience was rewarding because of the people he was surrounded by and the historical ties Farrell’s family has in northern Italy.
The order Farrell has joined was created by Pope Gregory XIII in 1572. The pope gave the Savoy family the perpetual ability to create knights. In 1572, the Savoy family ruled over parts of modern-day France, Switzerland and northern Italy.
While in Italy, Farrell participated in celebratory festivals and visited royal homes in Rome that aren’t open to the public, as well as landmarks such as the Pantheon. After celebrations in Rome concluded, Farrell traveled to northern Italy, where he held business meetings with clients of his legal practice, which specializes in state liquor laws and the importation of Italian wines and liquors into the United States.
“It’s very impressive,” Town Council Chairman Bob Parisi said of Farrell’s honor. Parisi is a member of the Libero Pensiero Society, the local Italian-American club, alongside Farrell.
“I’m really proud of him,” Parisi said. “He’s done well. I’m pleased for him and pleased for all Italian-Americans in Wallingford.”