Bobby Castellanete was a Bronx icon. He served eight borough presidents and was the first recipient of the “Key to The Bronx” from BP Ruben Diaz. Sadly, he passed away May 27.
Castellanete died at the age of 85 from prostate cancer, but had a tremendous impact on the Bronx.
Born in Throggs Neck and raised in Pelham Bay, Castellanete worked in the BP office for 60 years. He served as executive assistant to the borough president, the second highest appointed position in the office behind the deputy borough president. He also worked in the Board of Estimate, where he reviewed, approved or modified contracts between the city and the Bronx.
During that time he met became friends with Morris Park resident Bob Nolan. Nolan worked with Castellanete until 2008 and continued to stay in touch. They had lunch monthly and Nolan couldn’t have asked for a better friend.
“Bobby always made time for everybody,” Nolan said. “You’re never going to find anyone more likeable.”
According to Nolan, very few people spoke bad about Castellanete and he was always someone people went to for advice. Castellanete, who obtained a civil engineering degree from City College of New York, was the first person from his family to graduate college.
He also served in the Marines for three years and had a deep respect for all branches of the military.
Nolan noted that although he is a liberal and Castellanete was a staunch conservative, that never affected their friendship.
“There’s no one in my lifetime who came close to accomplishing what Bobby did,” he stressed.
Castellanete was divorced and never had kids, but a few years ago moved to Connecticut to be near his many nieces and nephews.
Dore Rogers, one of Castellanete’s nieces, was quite close with her uncle. Although he lived in the Bronx most of his life, Castellanete spent every birthday, holiday and wedding with his family.
Rogers, who gave the eulogy at the funeral, said God, country and family were the most important things in Castellanete’s life.
“Uncle Robert was more than just my uncle, he was more like a father figure to me after my own father passed away,” she said in the eulogy. “I admired him. I cherished him. I loved him. He loved three things fiercely-God, family and country. His life revolved around family.”
She recalled how he loved her children, grandchildren and all of his nieces and nephews. He would play hopscotch, blow bubbles, read books with them and never hesitated to get down on the floor to play.
Rogers noted how Castellanete loved to explore his Italian roots. He went there 10 times and was even knighted by the president of Italy for his service to the Italian-American community in New York.
It wasn’t his many years serving in the borough president’s office that made him who he was, she explained. He was humble, polite, kind and always said “I love you.” Rogers spoke to her uncle almost every day and now a huge part of her life is gone.
“He was a wonderful man,” Rogers told the Bronx Times. “I’m very sad and I miss him.”