A light has gone out in the Pelham Bay community.
Civita ‘Anita’ Valenti, president of the Pelham Bay Taxpayers and Community Association, who helped revitalize the organization in recent years, passed away at the age of 85 on Wednesday, November 26.
The cause was pancreatic cancer, her son Richard said.
Valenti was active in working with youth in St. Theresa Church’s Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) in the 1960s, and a vice-president and founding member of the Pelham Bay Taxpayers and Community Association in the same time period.
After a hiatus from the organization, she returned in 2007 to revitalize the civic group after the passing of its longtime president Michael Crescenzo, and a period during which it was dormant.
“She was just a good person who cared about the Pelham Bay neighborhood,” said Councilman James Vacca, adding, referencing Valenti’s short height, “she was tiny in her size but big in her outlook and always wanting to do so much.”
He remembered that she was not afraid to pick up the phone if something was wrong in the community, and that she cared.
The councilman said that with the passing of Valenti, the Pelham Bay community needs to pull together and make sure that they have a civic organization to serve as the eyes and ears of the community and to assist elected officials like himself.
After 40 years in civic life, what drew Valenti back into the fray in 2007 was a change in the direction of St. Paul Avenue between Pelham Parkway South and East 196th Street that she felt was both unjust and not policy-wise in terms of traffic management.
After what turned out to be a five year battle, the street’s traffic flow reverted to the direction it had been before the change.
“She did what she set out to do,” her son said. “She got the direction of St. Paul Avenue fixed – back to its original direction.”
She had five children: Richard, Karen, and Joseph. She was the grandmother of six.
She met her husband Richard at the Startdust Ballroom on the Grand Concourse, her son said. They were married on September 6, 1951.
Valenti moved to Pelham Bay in 1942 after living around Morris and later Ropes avenues, and attended P.S. 71, said her son, as well as Christopher Columbus High School.
She received awards from Congressman Joseph Crowley, Senator Jeff Klein, Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, and was honored at a 45th Precinct Community Council Breakfast recently.
PBTCA treasurer Joseph Oddo said that in stories she recalled that when she moved to Pelham Bay, it was less like the city and more like the country.
A story that she told many people, said Oddo, was of being a teenager during World War II and waiting with friends for convoys of troops to drive along the Hutchinson River Parkway, which saw very little traffic because of gas rationing during the war.
She and her friends would speak to the troops before they were deployed to fight overseas, and Oddo said that the experience left her with a special fondness for veterans.
He said that she told him on occasions that anything the community could do to help veterans would be appreciated.
Klein said that he was deeply saddened by the loss of Valenti.
“Anita Valenti represented the fighting spirit and vibrancy of the Pelham Bay community,” said the senator, adding “while short in stature, she had a large heart and great warmth.”