Two outstanding individuals were selected for honors during the 2019 Bronx Columbus Day Parade.
Parade organizers and the Morris Park Community Association, which runs the annual community event, selected Frank Vignali, a FDNY Captain as grand marshal and Carol Ann Gilligan, P.S./M.S. 498 principal as honorary grand marshal, said Chris Alessandro, the parade’s coordinator.
Alessandro said that parade this year will take place on Sunday, October 13 on Morris Park Avenue starting at noon.
Vignali, who is third in seniority in the FDNY, has been fighting fires in the borough since 1978, when he started at Engine Company 41 at East 150th Street and Morris Avenue, and later worked for decades at Ladder 51 at Eastchester and Boston roads, he said.
He currently works in the FDNY’s 7th Division, which covers the eastern and northern parts of the borough and part of Manhattan, the grand marshal said.
In addition to his work with the FDNY, Vignali is a dedicated east Bronx activist, who advocated for a traffic light at Pelham Parkway near Narragansett Avenue and against a road narrowing of Pelham Parkway South, in order to enhance public safety, he said.
He is also in his 32nd year as a volunteer with Van Nest Little League and has also volunteered with Astor Little League, said Vignali.
Alessandro said that this year the MPCA was looking for an individual who had supported community endeavors.
“We came up with one name right away, and that was Frank Vignali,” said Alessandro. “He has lived in Morris Park for years and always supported the parade – rain or shine.”
Alessandro added: “He is just an all-around great guy; he is always there for us.”
Vignali distinguished himself on the pile after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and is the father of a FDNY firefighter and a NYPD police officer.
He said he was delighted to raise his sons in the borough and appreciates the tight-knit community of Morris Park.
The decorated firefighter said that he spent 15 years in the St. Francis Xavier Home School Association and was president for three years and treasurer for ten years.
The parade continued its tradition of honoring an educator as its honorary grand marshal by selecting Gilligan.
Gilligan is he founding principal of her school, the Van Nest Academy, and Alessandro said that she does great work with children.
“Since I opened the school in 2010 we have been marching and participating in the parade, and it is an exciting event for our students and their families,” said Gilligan, adding “It will be nice to see our school from a different vantage point and I really appreciate the sentiment, and being chosen and recognized by the MPCA.”
The parade is a chance for all students to celebrate Italian-American heritage, which the school does during October.
“It is a big school spirit for us,” said Gilligan, adding “No matter what ethnicity, they still come out and participate in this community event. Everyone is Italian for a day.”
Gilligan is a vice-president of the Bronx chapter of the Forum of Italian American Educators and has been an educator for 24 years, first in School District 8 and later in District 11.
She added she is proud of her Irish and Italian heritage.