A labor leader who grew up in Morris Park has been selected as the grand marshal for the 2015 Bronx Columbus Day Parade.
Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO, was selected as the grand marshal of the parade, which will make its way on Morris Park Avenue from White Plains Road to Williamsbridge Road on Sunday, October 11 at noon.
Parade coordinator Tony Signorile said that Cilento was selected because he is an important voice statewide as president of New York’s largest labor federation, representing some 2.5 million members.
“He was not selected because he lived and was raised in Morris Park,” said Signorile. “He was selected for what he does for families.”
For many years, the parade dignitary lived in a building at the corner of Williamsbridge Road and Lydig Avenue, said Cilento.
Being named grand marshal was a surreal moment, and a chance to show his pride in being an Italian American and that the labor movement is part of the larger community, he said.
“I am honored as an Italian American, a labor leader, and as someone who marched in that parade when I was 10 years old,” said Cilento, adding “To lead this parade, all of those years later, is a remarkable honor.”
Being an Italian American plays an important role in his life, said Cilento, explaining that it was important in shaping his thinking, and on placing an emphasis on family and encouraging close communal bonds.
Cilento attended local schools: P.S. 108, I.S. 144, Christopher Columbus High School and Fordham University.
His father, Ray Cilento, was involved in his community and was a long time little league volunteer, the grand marshal said.
The elder Cilento has a street corner near where the family lived at 1144 Lydig Avenue named after him.
The parade committee selected two honorees in addition to Cilento, said Signorile.
It selected Josephine Fanelli, St. Theresa School principal, as its honorary grand marshal. The award usually goes to an educator.
She was selected for her dedication to young people, and also because she helped judge the Miss Columbus entrants for last year’s parade, the coordinator said.
“Josephine goes above and beyond,” said Signorile, adding that many educators are not fully appreciated for all they do on a daily basis to educate and protect children.
Fanelli is the recently-elected president of the Forum of Italian American Educators.
She has 28 years of experience with Archdiocese of New York schools.
“I was delighted and honored to be the honorary grand marshal,” said Fanelli. “I am following the footsteps of my former superintendent, Roseann Carotenuto, who was my mentor and role model for the past eight years that I have been principal.”
For the parade’s business award, Signorile said it would go to Joseph Lucchese of Joseph A. Lucchese Funeral Home at 726 Morris Park Avenue.
“He was chosen because he is a professional and a community-oriented person,” said Signorile of Lucchese. “When I need something, he is always the person who steps forward.”
Signorile added that the parade’s annual dinner dance would be on Sunday, September 27 from 3 to 9 p.m. at Maestro’s Caterers. Tickets for the event are $85.