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Remembering Midge Costanza and her ties to the White House

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — While in Costanza’s in Webster eyeing their signature sausage in the case, one might miss a remarkable signature on the wall.

Hanging there next to a number of photos is a letter from former President Jimmy Carter to Midge Costanza.

Her brother Anthony Costanza proudly displays that letter in the family business eager to tell anyone about his sister’s many accomplishments.

“She loved politics, she loved to do things,” Anthony Costanza said.

Midge Costanza rose in the early 70s to become Rochester’s first female member of city council only to be denied the role of mayor even though that title traditionally went to the candidate with the most votes, which she had.

Costanza’s subsequent congressional run and her work on Jimmy Carter’s campaign caught Carter’s attention earning her a top spot in his administration.

Midge introduces Jimmy Carter during 1976 visit

Her brother remembers entering the White House upon her invitation.

“About 10 minutes later Ted Kennedy comes and sits down right next to us,” Costanza says still in disbelief.

Proof of her impact as Carter’s public liaison is now stored and preserved at the University of Rochester by Autumn Haag and her team.

“(We have) a variety of letters, pins, photographs that she collected over the course of her career,” said Haag, the assistant director of UR’s Rare Books, Special Collections & Preservation.

Haag calls Costanza one of the most interesting women in Rochester’s history adding she carried forth the spirit of Susan B. Anthony.

“Jimmy Carter really relied on her to get that perspective on a variety of different groups, women, certainly different ethnic groups including Italian-Americans and gay and lesbian organizations,” Haag said.

So valued was Costanza by Carter that the former President reached out to her in her final hours.

“Jimmy called her, they put the phone right to her ear,” Anthony Costanza said whil tearing up. “They were always friends and always close in that respect.”

While Costanza was noted for her passion in the White House, her brother most cherishes her warmth at home.

“She was like my second mother, everything she helped me with me,” Costanza said. “I loved her.”

Midge Costanza remained active in politics and an advocate for women’s and LGBTQ rights for decades eventually settling into a professorship in San Diego before her death in 2010.

And it was in San Diego that just last month the Little Italy Association of San Diego unveiled a public piazza in her honor.

Piazza Costanza sits at the corner of Columbia and West Ash streets.

​ ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — While in Costanza’s in Webster eyeing their signature sausage in the case, one might miss a remarkable signature on the wall.

Hanging there next to a number of photos is a letter from former President Jimmy Carter to Midge Costanza.

Her brother Anthony Costanza proudly displays that letter in the family business eager to tell anyone about his sister’s many accomplishments.

“She loved politics, she loved to do things,” Anthony Costanza said.

Midge Costanza rose in the early 70s to become Rochester’s first female member of city council only to be denied the role of mayor even though that title traditionally went to the candidate with the most votes, which she had.

Costanza’s subsequent congressional run and her work on Jimmy Carter’s campaign caught Carter’s attention earning her a top spot in his administration.

Midge introduces Jimmy Carter during 1976 visit

Her brother remembers entering the White House upon her invitation.

“About 10 minutes later Ted Kennedy comes and sits down right next to us,” Costanza says still in disbelief.

Proof of her impact as Carter’s public liaison is now stored and preserved at the University of Rochester by Autumn Haag and her team.

“(We have) a variety of letters, pins, photographs that she collected over the course of her career,” said Haag, the assistant director of UR’s Rare Books, Special Collections & Preservation.

Haag calls Costanza one of the most interesting women in Rochester’s history adding she carried forth the spirit of Susan B. Anthony.

“Jimmy Carter really relied on her to get that perspective on a variety of different groups, women, certainly different ethnic groups including Italian-Americans and gay and lesbian organizations,” Haag said.

So valued was Costanza by Carter that the former President reached out to her in her final hours.

“Jimmy called her, they put the phone right to her ear,” Anthony Costanza said whil tearing up. “They were always friends and always close in that respect.”

While Costanza was noted for her passion in the White House, her brother most cherishes her warmth at home.

“She was like my second mother, everything she helped me with me,” Costanza said. “I loved her.”

Midge Costanza remained active in politics and an advocate for women’s and LGBTQ rights for decades eventually settling into a professorship in San Diego before her death in 2010.

And it was in San Diego that just last month the Little Italy Association of San Diego unveiled a public piazza in her honor.

Piazza Costanza sits at the corner of Columbia and West Ash streets. Read More Local NewsRochesterFirst  

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