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We regret to share that Stephen Evangelista passed away on the morning of December 15, 2022, after a short battle with cancer at the age of 75. He was surrounded by his family. He is survived by his wife Arlene Tedesco Evangelista, his daughter Dina Needham, his sons Stephen Evangelista and David Evangelista, his stepson Christopher Clancy, and his eight grandchildren. Stephen was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Evangelista of Johnston, Rhode Island.


A Johnston native, Stephen graduated from Roger Williams College with a degree in Psychology and Education, and received a Master’s degree in Educational Administration from Rhode Island College. He spent 10 years as a special education teacher in the Burrillville school system. He also assumed responsibility as a federal Title 1 coordinator in 1974. Stephen served as an instructor at the Brown University Learning Community, teaching marketing to non-profit organizations. In 1977, Stephen was the Founder and first Executive Director of Special Olympics Rhode Island, one of the first state organizations of the global movement and one of the most recognized, where he continued to serve as a fundraising consultant to Special Olympics International. He then became Vice President of Financial Management for the Dole Foundation, leading inclusive employment for people with disabilities in Washington, DC. He returned to Rhode Island to facilitate the development of the Rhode Island Boys Town project, sponsored by Women and Infants Hospital in Providence. Upon completion of the project, he became President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Kidney Foundation of New England and New York, where he led key health care initiatives and raised important awareness.


Stephen moved on to become Chief Executive Officer of the Arthritis Foundation of Northern and Southern New England, supporting the lives of individuals living with arthritis. He was bestowed the 2005 Clifford M. Clarke Award for Outstanding Leadership, the highest distinction afforded a staff member at the Arthritis Foundation.


His career in advocacy continued through his work as President of the Institute for Pediatric Innovation, supporting the use of technology and science to provide better health and well-being through healthcare innovation for children.


Stephen moved permanently to Bonita Springs, Florida in 2017, where he was active in his community. Following the 2017 Hurricane Irma, Stephen created the Vasari Cares Foundation in Bonita Springs, Florida to support at – risk individuals affected by the storm. The Vasari Cares Foundation now supports three charities each year and continues to grow.


Stephen has received many awards and honors over the years for his work, including President Reagan’s Private Sector Initiatives Award in 1981. He also received the annual award from the Down Syndrome Society of Rhode Island for his efforts in improving public awareness for individuals with Down Syndrome. He was a member of the Knights of Columbus, United Commercial Travelers and Warwick Rotary Club. He was also a member of the Washington Board of Trade, the Rhode Island Society, and served as a consultant to the Marketing Department to the University of Maryland. He was a member of the Rhode Island Commodores, an active group of prominent business and civic leaders dedicated to assisting the economic development efforts of Rhode Island. His involvement in community and civic activities was extensive. He was invited to join the Leadership Rhode Island Program. He was a member of the community of the Rhode Island Foundation and others.


He was an avid golfer and was a member of the Quidnessett Country Club in Rhode Island for over 3 decades. He was a loving husband, a dedicated father, and a generous and engaging grandfather. He served as a mentor and guide to countless family, professionals and friends over the course of his life. Stephen will be remembered for his many amazing quotes, his sense of humor, his consummate professionalism, his faith, and his relentless pursuit to better the lives of others less fortunate.


In lieu of flowers, donations are appreciated and can be sent to the Vasari Cares Foundation at 11250 Via de Vasari Drive, Bonita Springs, Florida. There will be a funeral mass on December 27, 2022 at 1:00 pm at St. Agnus Church at 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road in Naples, Florida.


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