Hometown Heroes: The Milani Family – A dedication to a father and family who paved the way for a man who is continuing to pave the way for others.
“My mentor. My friend. My HERO! N.Arch Milani is the one who taught me everything.” – Victor Milani of Nordonia Hills.News
BY: Felicia Naoum
These words don’t float freely and nonchalantly from the man who is speaking them. They come with extreme gratitude, pride, and love that shaped a man into who he is today and what he has given his community and family. A successful man who becomes a successful dad can change a life. This life can then grow up to influence and lead a community – Vice President of Nordonia Hills.News and former Northfield Village Mayor, Victor Milani is proof of this.
The roots were planted in Northfield, Ohio by 93-year-old Purple Heart veteran N. Arch Milani (who goes by Arch), father of Victor F. Milani. Arch’s drive and determination to do well was witnessed by his son, Victor, at a young age. Arch Milani was a Northfield High School II sports star. He worked on a local farm and drove his father to Austin Powder factory every day as he could not drive. Legend has it that Arch was so strong that he could lift horses and cows. Arch was so athletic that the Cleveland Indians drafted him prior to his being drafted into the US. Air Force. It was a dream that would never come true. On his final Air Force mission, Arch was shot down as he lost his foot. Arch never told of his losing a foot as he wore a prosthetic foot. To compensate for the loss, he would walk with a strut. Not many people knew of his handicap. He wanted no sympathy. His hope of playing with the Indians was dashed. Arch returned home to Northfield and never thought what could have been. Instead, he dreamed of what he could be.
Arch (along with Paul McGhee) founded the original Bulletin in Twinsburg during the 1960’s and later became the General Manager of the Sun Newspaper chain. He was also a charter member of the VFW 6768 and past president of the Northfield Historical Society. He held public office in Northfield over 5 decades as mayor, councilman, and clerk of courts intermittently.
On a more personal note, Arch has been married to his wife, Alice, for 60 plus years! Victor smiled as he shared that his mother, Alice, ran the house with a wooden spoon and gave that one look that indicated she meant business to her three daughters: Pam, Kim Monica, and son Victor. With a strong and focused wife running the household, Arch was able to do his craft well and pass it onto his children.
Victor was learning the newspaper trade from his father closely. His father and he assisted his late sister, Kim Milani Masseria, with her creation, The News Leader in Nordonia Hills in the early 1980’s. Kim was the original founder and publisher of The News Leader, while Victor was the Vice President or as he likes to call it, “side-kick”. The brother-sister duo worked as a team years prior to this at the Hudson Hub/Sports Beat Publications for Gregg Keidel. From there they worked for Ron Forgus at The Weekly Homes Guide real estate magazine chain. Kim was proficient in all facets of graphics from layout to typesetting. Victor (Kim’s little brother who was nicknamed “Vinne” by Kim) was a paper folder/bundler, photographer, and darkroom technician.
Unfortunately, Kim became sick with cancer, and the Milani family had to sell the paper that Kim founded, The News Leader, to The Record Publishers of Kent (Dix Corp). Before Kim’s passing, her brother Victor told her that in some form, one day, the Milani family would once again provide news and information to Nordonia Hills. That promise was made and is currently being kept with Nordonia Hills.News and Julie D’Aloiso.
Time has passed, yet a family legacy is continuing to successfully live on. However, even before Victor made the big leagues, he started small. He knew the value of hard work and used it to get to where he is today – bundling papers may not sound as prestigious as his former role of mayor for Northfield Village, or his current role today. But it was that first job of bundling papers that his late sister Kim presented to him that showed him what hard work and paper cuts could do for you.
Another first experience for Victor was photographing the Muhammad Ali-Chuck Wepner fight, which inspired him to become a photographer. Vic’s father Arch, landed the assignment to cover and photograph the fight at the Richfield Coliseum. Son Vic tagged along, met with and got his picture taken with the champ, Ali. It was also the first event young Victor would shoot. The fight was the theme and basis for the Rocky movies with Sylvester Stallone. He was hooked immediately to photography and meeting celebrities. To this day, Victor looks back with awe on the memory of his proud photo of him and Ali.
In addition to the cherished memories and experiences with Ali, Arch and Victor were the Cleveland Cavaliers team photographers during the Miracle Of Richfield years. They would drive together to all the home games. Victor joked, “The Cavs got two for the price of one.” His dad would keep him focused on the game and not the Cav’s cheerleaders’. Victor and his father bonded like glue.
Paying dues and hard work was the foundation for a lifelong, fulfilling career in newspaper publishing, photography and politics for Victor Milani as he took on roles that included: Cleveland Cavaliers Team Photographer and Richfield Coliseum Photographer in the late 1970’s and 1980’s along with covering all Cleveland professional sports teams for Sports Beat Magazine. Victor also contributed to Belkin Productions, a large concert management, and promotions company based in Beachwood, Ohio.
Victor received a call from his Nordonia alumni, Chris Maduri, in 1976 to photograph a band Chris’s dad, Carl Maduri, a Belkin Executive, just signed to their Sweet City label. The band, Wild Cherry, was from Steubenville, Ohio. The hastily called photo session took place in front of Greenwood Village in Sagamore Hills where band members were being housed. The band had the #1 smash hit for “Play That Funky Music” within months of those pictures taken. Milani’s pictures went worldwide of the band. Not bad for a kid just out of high school! Milani went on to shoot other Belkin/Maduri bands such as Donnie Iris, Breathless and Vic’s all time favorite, The Michael Stanley Band. Ironically, Milani would shoot Stanley first in 1977, and then again 38 years later in Vic’s hometown of Northfield Village at the Hard Rock Rocksino. Everything seems to go full circle for Victor. Victor’s diversity in photography continued as he was a Real Estate Photographer for The Weekly Homes Guide Magazine for ten plus years, as well as working the rock and roll circuit. He was living the dream!
Not only did Victor have his father and sister to follow in greatness, but he even had a grandfather who made a pathway that Victor would one day follow exactly – mayor. Having a grandfather who was mayor of Aqilla, Italy can be big shoes to fill – but Victor had no trouble when he was elected Mayor of Northfield from 1999 until 2012. Prior to becoming Mayor, Victor served as the Northfield Village Councilman for 2 years (1997-1999). In addition, Victor’s father Arch, Victor’s Uncle Sylvio, and cousin Kenny Chorba are all legendary members of the Nordonia High School Athletic Hall of Fame. Success has been a consistent trait in Victor’s family and he continues to carry it out. Sometimes, success can come with bumps in the road but Victor doesn’t stop at those bumps because he was taught not to. Victor learned from his dad, “It is not how many times you get knocked down, but it is how many times you get back up.”
Victor openly admitted that Italian politicians have a poor reputation. However, it is what his father taught him that allows Victor to sustain through a challenging career. Victor said, “Dad always advised me to always take the high road in life.” Victor also admitted his father taught him life skills one could never learn in any book or course. Victor joked that he graduated from Nordonia High School and then the University of Life and Hard Knocks!
Not only was the quantity of Victor’s service as mayor long-lived, so was the quality. One of Victor’s main accomplishments was legalizing gaming in Ohio/Northfield Park. Today, the addition of the Hard Rock Rocksino in Northfield attributes to millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs to the local economy. It is Victor’s determination that allowed him (along with Northfield Park CEO Brock Milstein) to be a driving force in the legalization of gaming while operating under a tight budget. Aside from this huge accomplishment, Victor wore many hats as mayor, including safety director; human resource manager; union negotiator; public relations manager and administrator.
The accomplishments didn’t end at the Hard Rock. While Victor was mayor, Northfield Village cultivated its first 24 hour Fire/EMS Service, along with funding and building a new fire station on Route 8. Victor made improvements to road and infrastructure projects such as Hy-Ko Products; The Northfield Village Retirement Community; Handels; Goodyear; The BMV and Pepper’s Market are a few of his business openings. Additional achievements Victor had as mayor include The Filly Lane New Housing Development and the rebirth of various parks as well as forming The Nordonia Hills Soccer Assn with the well-known broadcaster, Allan Fee.
As for today, Victor is the Vice President of Nordonia Hills.News. Victor’s gratitude goes to Julie D’Alosio, President of Nordonia Hills.News for the opportunity to return to his journalistic roots. As Victor said, “Julie is patient in teaching the old paste and copy dog the new social media and computer workings of putting out the news.” This keeps Victor busy, but he still makes time to be a devoted family man. Victor has been married to his wife, Irene, for 30 years. Victor credits his wife to keeping things together: My wife ran the house while I ran the town. He joked that she continues to and always will run the house! “She is very modest and humbling. She keeps me balanced,” added Victor. Together, they have three children: Nick, Sam, and Katie that all keep him busy and grounded, but most importantly, they keep him going. “I live, breathe and die for my kids,” said Victor with immense pride. Another prideful moment for Victor was the wedding bells of his son, Nick, to Nick’s new wife Kayla. The new husband and wife reside in Twinsburg.
With a family he adores, Victor Milani’s career has sustained him as a role model in the community that he is extremely proud to represent. Victor is fulfilled and thankful to several people, including Gregg Keidel; Ron Forgus; The Maduri’s; Brock Milstein; his late sister, Kim and his parents, Alice and Arch Milani who have all instilled work ethics and values that can never be questioned. When asking Victor if he ever wants to take his talents further, he said: “I always liked being the big fish in the little pond.” Clearly, this pond needs him, just like it needed his father and his family that preceded him. Victor closed the interview referencing his father, “I never had to look far when finding my hero. My father was always there in front of me and beside me. He will always be my HERO!”