Scott Schroeder reports: [27 Feb 1996]
I was the first mission recorder of the Catania Mission. I had been the recorder in Rome for several months when the mission was divided, and was sent to open the new one. President and Sister Kimball visited with us for a few days, and President Leopoldo Larcher was the first president. He was the Rome president before the split. He is Italian, from Brescia.
Byron Beck adds a second witness: [1 April 1996]
President Leopoldo Larcher was the president from the inception of the Italy Catania Mission in (I believe it was April of '77) until President Gambarotto who was called in August of 1978. President Larcher was serving with the rest of us in what was at that time the Italy Rome Mission. It was split in half and the elect were sent to the Catania Mission. I forget when it was but President Kimball also toured the Catania Mission.
James Bickmore tells us more: [10 April 1996]
I believe that after Presidente Gambarotto was President Lahaderne who died in Italy just months after he began his mission. That's all I know.
Stanley D. Reneau's information makes the Presidents page more complete: [25 June 1996]
President Gambarotto finished his mission in 1981 and was succeeded by President Lahaderne. President Lahaderne died while on his mission in 1982. President Gambarotto's name is Lino Pablo Gambarotto. President Lahaderne's name was John.
Mike McBride fills in additional details: [29 January 1997]
Just a note. After President Lahaderne died, on August 31, 1982, Samuel Boren served as acting President until President Turner arrived which was near the first of January 1983. I am not certain of the exact date, but the newspaper article announcing his call, stated January 1, 1983 as the dated he was expected to begin serving as Mission President.
Scott Spendlove shares his memories of serving under President Turner: [10 January 1997]
I remember when President Turner came to our mission as the new president after Lahaderne died. He expressed the same confusion over his assignment to an Italian speaking mission and related this story. President Gordon B. Hinkley of the first presidency was the one who issued the call to President Turner and when Elder Hinkley told President Turner that he had been called to serve as the president of the Italy Catania mission, Bro. Turner said, "Elder Hinkley, there must be some mistake, you've called me to the wrong mission. I speak FRENCH!, not Italian!" To which Elder Hinkley replied, "President Turner, let me tell you two things, first, WE didn't call you to this mission and, second, the Lord doesn't make mistakes -- you're going to Italy!" And for those of us privileged enough to serve with President Turner we know it was no mistake -- what a great mission president!
I remember, too, that President Turner had a funny habit of forming the "cornuto" sign with his hand when he would speak to the members. The cornuto, for those of you who don't remember or don't know what I'm referring to, is made by holding you middle and ring fingers with your thumb and pointing you pointer and pinky fingers straight ahead, like bull horns. It's basically equivelant to "flipping-the-bird" here in the states. When President Turner would speak, he would often use hand gestures to emphasize a point (perfect in Italy, right?). Unforntunately, if he had just two points to make, he would often say, "My first point to day is . . . ." (grabbing his right pinky finger with his left hand) "and my other point to day will be . . ." (grabbing his pointer finger with his left hand, now forming the "cornuto") "and it's these two points that I'd like to focus on . . . " (pointing the "cornuto" at all in attendance). Anyway, I think that only happened a few times early on before the APs would explain why the congregation had such shocked looks on their faces.
Thanks for letting me remember.
David Pimentel on the Gambarotto-Lahaderne-Boren-Turner transition: [10 March 1997]
President John Lahaderne, from South San Francisco, CA, died suddenly in August or September 1982, about 15 months into his mission. Following on the heels of President Gambarotto was difficult. The mission had put up some very impressive baptism statistics during the final months of President Gambarotto's term; it was at the time the second most productive mission in Europe, after Portugal Lisbon. President Lahaderne set high goals to improve on the previous year, increasing the "Standard of Excellence" thresholds. He then agonized as he watched the mission wallow with relatively low numbers throughout most of 1982. He was enormously dedicated, and often said he was there to "build stakes." It appeared to me that he was determined either to succeed or to die trying.
President Lahaderne had a son, also named John, who had served in the mission some time before, and who had ultimately married a Tarantina, as I recall. His wife, Phyllis, a sweet woman who had already suffered too much (having survived chemotherapy) returned to San Francisco. A few of us stayed in touch with her until she passed away a couple of years ago.
Upon news of President Lahaderne's passing, President Gillespie from Rome came down for a week to oversee the funeral. Then he went back north, leaving the mission without a president for what seemed like a long time (probably only a week or two). Then, in late September 1982, President Samuel Boren, a native of South America (Argentina?), who had just completed service as president of the Milano mission (and who had served previously as president of the Mexico City Mission) arrived and presided over the mission until the second week of January 1983, when President Norman Turner arrived.
President Boren was a strong leader, who immediately took control of the mission, shaking up the mission's leadership and recasting a number of mission policies (replacing President Lahaderne's "no-tracting" policy with a minimum hours tracting requirement, for example). Sister Boren was an absolute dynamo who took the mission by storm, playing a significant role in conferences and organizing a large-scale holiday gathering of missionaries in Siracusa. This was a dramatic change of pace from the meek Sister Lahaderne.
A few missionaries, perhaps out of a sense of loyalty to President Lahaderne's memory, found the change in mission culture unsettling. The transitions were hard. A new type of energy was present in the mission, however, and President Boren more than filled the leadership vacuum that President Lahaderne's death left.
Upon his arrive in early 1983, President Turner quickly settled in and won the affection and respect of members and missionaries alike. This closed the chapter on an upsetting and unsettling time for the mission.