Press Release
June 13, 2024

Falmouth Legislators Honor Residents With Prestigious State House Portuguese Heritage Award

June 13th, 2024 - BOSTON - On Tuesday, State Representatives Dylan Fernandes and David T. Vieira honored Falmouth residents Joe Netto and William “Billy” Robert Valadao with the 2024 Portuguese Heritage Award.

"Falmouth is home to a vibrant Portuguese-American community that continues to celebrate and uplift cultural heritage,” said Rep. Fernandes (D-Woods Hole). “It is an honor to nominate Joe Netto for the Portuguese Heritage award recognizing his leadership in Falmouth as a public servant and the positive impact he has had on the town.”

“I am so proud to nominate Mr. Valadao for the Portuguese Heritage Award this year. Billy’s commitment to preserving our Portuguese traditions and culture, especially his tireless efforts to continue the traditional Festa do Espirito Santo that started in East Falmouth prior to 1900, make him highly worthy of this special recognition,” said Rep. Vieira (R-East Falmouth).

Sponsored by the Portuguese American Legislative Caucus, the Heritage Day of Portugal Awards recognize individuals who give back to their communities and encourage future generations to appreciate and love their heritage. The event coincides with the international "Day of Portugal," a holiday celebrated every year on June 10th in every corner of the Portuguese-speaking world. Officially known as "Dia de Portugal, de Camões e das Comunidades Portuguesas" (Day of Portugal, Camões and the Portuguese Communities), June 10th commemorates the death of the revered Portuguese poet, Luís Vaz de Camões in 1580. Camões is best known for his epic poem, Os Lusíadas, which is a tribute to the golden age of Portugal’s maritime exploration and discoveries.

Joe Netto is a dedicated public servant and longtime resident of Falmouth. He has served as a town meeting member for decades and currently holds the position of Precinct Nine Clerk. Prior to his retirement, Mr. Netto enjoyed a successful career in education, beginning as a teacher and later becoming the Director of Transportation for Wareham Public Schools. He resides in East Falmouth with his wife, Susan Netto.

William Robert Valadao was born and raised in Falmouth. He is a proud Portuguese American of Azorean descent. Billy lives in East Falmouth with his wife Olivia and has been an electrician for the last 42 years. Billy become a member of the Fresh Pond Holy Ghost Society in 1994 and has been the president for the last 26 years. His longest commitment and challenge has been maintaining the original Hall building dated back to 1900 and keeping these longtime traditions alive for generations. These annual religious feasts were brought by Azorean immigrants who settled in the village of Waquoit in Falmouth. He has volunteered and spent endless hours repairing, fixing, building and expanding to make this social club more functional, efficient and welcoming to visitors and supporters. He also organizes and hosts other annual fundraisers such as the Souzapalooza, a charity music festival. In addition, after many years of membership in the organization, Mr. Valadao served as president of the Portuguese American Association of Falmouth from 1996 until 1999. During his leadership, the PAA started serving a monthly breakfast buffet to generate revenue to the association. He made the PAA a welcoming place for families and community members to gather and share and celebrate their Portuguese heritage.