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Massimo Bonavita, co-founder of the Italian Cultural Center in downtown Minneapolis and a member of Italy’s Senate for 12 years, died July 2 in his hometown of Cesena, Italy. He was 67.Bonavita moved to Edina about 10 years ago, when he married Anna...

Obituary: Massimo Bonavita, co-founder of Italian Cultural Center in Minneapolis, dies at 67

Massimo Bonavita, co-founder of the Italian Cultural Center in downtown Minneapolis and a member of Italy’s Senate for 12 years, died July 2 in his hometown of Cesena, Italy. He was 67.Bonavita moved to Edina about 10 years ago, when he married Anna...

Obituary: Massimo Bonavita, co-founder of Italian Cultural Center in Minneapolis, dies at 67

Massimo Bonavita, co-founder of the Italian Cultural Center in downtown Minneapolis and a member of Italy’s Senate for 12 years, died July 2 in his hometown of Cesena, Italy. He was 67.

Bonavita moved to Edina about 10 years ago, when he married Anna Chernakova. The couple returned to Italy last year when they learned he had stomach cancer.

Bonavita was a native of Cesena, where his father was a furnituremaker. He graduated from the University of Bologna and worked in the local political arena before he was elected to the first of his three terms in the Italian Senate of the Republic. He retired in 2006.

He and his wife met through mutual friends during one of Chernakova’s trips to Italy. They commuted between the two countries until they were married, then settled in her home in Edina.

Together, they founded the Italian Cultural Center in the Hennepin Center for the Arts. Their goal was “to raise awareness and appreciation of the Italian language and culture in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area,” according to the center’s website.

The center offers language classes for adults and ­children, an annual film festival and seminars. Bonavita was president of its board of directors. He taught language classes and was the expert behind the film festival, said Peggy Hansen, administrative director of the center.

“His passion, expertise, intelligence and positive force extended to every aspect of the organization,” the Italian Cultural Center said in a statement. “Massimo always strove to do his very best, to live life to the fullest, and he understood the importance of kindness and hope even in painful and very difficult circumstances. We mourn his loss, but we celebrate the way he lived his life. Massimo’s spirit will forever be the foundation of the Italian Cultural Center.”

Bonavita and his wife also started and operated Chocolate Bonavita, to introduce Minnesotans to the highest-quality Italian, French and American chocolates.

They offered tasting classes (some with wine pairings), seminars where people could learn about chocolate from the bean to the finished product, and other events.

When Massimo became ill, the couple took their remaining chocolates and held a fundraiser. Proceeds went to a tribe in Ecuador, Hansen said.

Besides his wife, Bonavita is survived by a daughter, Valentina; three granddaughters, and two brothers.

A celebration of his life was held July 22 in Cesena. The Italian Cultural Center plans to hold a party for him in Minneapolis sometime this year.

 

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