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Morris Park to honor vet at dinner-dance

The Morris Park Community Association will bonor one of its own at its 2010 Annual Dinner Dance Gala, acknowledging the accomplishments of a veteran and long-time Morris Park resident.

Joseph Garofalo, a World War II United States Marine Corps veteran, raised two sons with his wife, Lillian, on Hone Avenue. He’s always attempted to help those in need neighbors included.

A member of the MPCA and the Knights of Columbus, Garofalo has volunteered to help cook at neighborhood events and at churches during holiday season, when those in need are brought in for a warm meal.

But what has really made Garofalo a neighborhood celebrity are his efforts to honor men and women who have served in the Armed Forces by way of a veterans museum.

Garofalo has always liked to collect souvenirs – items that hold memories and bits of the past.

“I was a scavenger all my life,” Garofalo admitted. “Some people would ask what I was doing with all the junk I collected, but I always admired it and it meant something to me. It was my personal museum.”

When Garofalo’s collection became reasonably large, he decided to share his treasures with the public. In 1999, Garofalo began to look for a site to display his military souvenirs, but was turned away again and again. He had almost lost hope when Chris DiCostanzo from Dormi & Sons Funeral Home at 1121 Morris Park Avenue offered Garofalo the funeral home’s lobby.

“We honor our veterans [on holidays] twice a year, but in Dormi they’re honored every day,” Garofalo said.

Garofalo’s museum boasts display cases full of service uniforms, photos, battle items and memorabilia from various wars. According to Garofalo, people who visit the museum often donate their own photos or items; he tries his best to put them all on display.

According to MPCA president Al D’Angelo, the group rarely honors individuals at its Annual Dinner Dance Gala. This will be the first time that a community member, rather than an elected official, will be honored.

“Garofalo has worked so hard at getting the museum going and he does it all from behind the scenes,” D’Angelo said. “He doesn’t act like a big shot. The museum gives our community awareness of the history of our soldiers, a reminder that people have to continue to give to our country.”

Garofalo will be joined by his family for the Annual Dinner Dance Gala on Saturday, March 13.

“I think this is great for him,” Lillian Garofalo said. “He worked hard at this and he deserves a little recognition.”

Reach reporter Amanda Marinaccio at (718) 742-3394 or amarinaccio@cnglocal.com

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