The word hero is tossed around lightly, but on Saturday, April 16, the Bronx honored someone who actually deserved the title.
Lance Corporal Alberto Francesconi was born and raised on East 187th Street, and was killed on New Year’s Day 2009 in Now Zad, Helmand Province, Afghanistan at the age of 21.
Over two years after his death, the corner of his home street and Park Avenue was renamed “Lance Corporal Alberto Francesconi Place.”
Francesconi, a Marine, had two close relatives in the Armed Forces. He had a cousin who was also a Marine and his brother, Robert Rivera is a Boatswain Mate in the Navy.
He had several much older half brothers who all acted as father figures as he was growing up. Rivera, now 42, was one.
“I used to take him to the bases lot,” Rivera said. “I also used to take him out too, so he saw the different lifestyle, the environment. In the city there’s no order. Everyone’s out for themselves. In the military lifestyle it’s like everybody takes care of each other. They look out for each other. He saw that and he loved it.”
Francesconi graduated from Aviation High School in Queens. He endured the long commute each day because he was passionate about airplanes, as well as the school’s ROTC program. To those who knew him, that kind of behavior was typical.
“The kid, he was very ambitious,” Rivera said. “He always wanted to do the best of everything.”
Francesconi went to work at Bank of America after graduating from Aviation, first as a teller and then as a personal banker. However, he aspired for more, and didn’t feel like he was making enough money for college. Against Rivera’s advice, Francesconi decided to enlist in the Marines.
“I tried to tell him go to college first, get your four years then join the military and you can be an officer,” Rivera said. “I said ‘okay, fine if that’s what you want, but you have to do something that’s not going to take a lot of your time and not really high risk.”
Francesconi, however, chose to enlist in the Infantry. He immediately stood out and was chosen for sniper school.
“I said ‘just know you have to be safe out there and protect yourself a lot more,” Rivera said. “He knew the risk.”
Councilman Joel Rivera, who felt that Francesconi should be honored, sponsored the street renaming.
“Alberto’s service to our country should never be forgotten,” Councilman Rivera said in a statement. “He will always be a hero to the people of our community and all the citizens of the United States he protected while overseas.”
Francesconi had another older brother, now 48-year-old Claudio Francesconi, who served as a father figure while he was growing up.
“Honestly, the street renaming is a nice gesture,” he said. “But it won’t bring Al back.”
What the renaming does do, is remind the community of a native who had great ambitions
Claudio said. “And when people see Al’s name, they can see that he left a legacy of heroism.”