Dorothy Janes on Tuesday received the keys of San Ferdinando and was made an honorary citizen for her efforts to track down her Italian family.
The 73-year-old discovered she had a second family in the southern Italian region of Calabria when she learned the name of her father.
Born in Crawley in 1945, Janes discovered she is the natural daughter of Antonio Mazzitelli, an Italian man who had a relationship with her mother, Joyce Punnel, when he was a POW in England.
During World War II, British authorities had tried to stop and punish relationships between local woman and POWs.
The couple’s love story ended with the war and Mazzitelli returned to Calabria where he married and had three sons.
Janes’ mother also married and had more children.
Janes first learned of her Italian family when she was 52 years old and, in 1997, she visited San Ferdinando for the first time to meet and embrace her three brothers and her father’s wife.
More than a decade later, her efforts to retrace her heritage have been rewarded.
The town’s mayor said the gesture had been an important one to make.
“Gestures of love, gestures like these are important because young people must reflect and become bearers of the values of fraternity,” Andrea Tripodi said.