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Antonio Varacalli award and essay contest winners announced

When Antonio Varacalli, an Italian immigrant working in Seneca Falls, saw a woman drowning in the Cayuga and Seneca Barge Canal one hundred and five years ago on April 12, 1917, he immediately jumped in to rescue her. Although Antonio saved her life, he drowned.

The Town of Seneca Falls will remember Antonio Varacalli on April 23, 2022 with a ceremony on the Bridge Street Bridge at 11 am, which will include the Carnegie Medal for Heroism Report, a reading of the Antonio Varacalli Day Proclamation, a Heroes Blessing by Rev. Leah Ntuala of First Presbyterian Church, and the ringing of The Bells of Bedford Falls. 


The annual Antonio Varacalli Hero Award will be presented posthumously to Dave DeLelys of Seneca Falls, who “was a supporter of all things Seneca Falls,” said Doug Avery who was one of many who nominated him.  “His involvement in Community activities was endless and he was always willing to lend a hand, whatever the need,” shared Steve Churchill, another community member who submitted a nomination for DeLelys.  The award recognizes Dave’s involvement in community activities, his willingness to lend a hand – whatever the need, his love of animals, a defender of the environment and his work on the Village and Town boards.

The 2022 Community Angel award will be presented to Anna DeJohn of North Seneca Ambulance by Chief Kevin Lightfoote.  The Community Angel award is presented by organizations to a member who has gone up and beyond in helping their organization and community.


Encouraged by Principal Amy Hibbard, students from Elizabeth Cady Stanton School participated in this year’s Antonio Varacalli Essay contest, sponsored by the It’s A Wonderful Life Committee.  Asked to write about an immigrant they know of and how they have contributed to America and/or their community and how they might be considered a “good citizen”, five students representing the 4th & 5TH grades will be awarded Good Citizen awards for their essays

The Winning Essays were written by:

  • Anthony Hernandez, 4th grade, Mrs. Melissa Woodard’s class
  • Grayson Sarratori, 4th grade, Mrs. Jennifer Morrel’s class
  • Anthony Brown, 4th grade, Mr. Scott Sciera’s class
  • Grace Hemker, 5th grade, Mrs. Melissa Koepke’s class
  • Kaeva Johnston, 5th grade, Mrs. Tricia Goodenough’s class


A sample of this year’s winning essays:

“Over one hundred years ago Antonia and Antonio Vacca came on the ship Moltke from Italy landing in Ellis Island. What makes them special is they are my great-great grand-parents. The moved to Seneca Falls and bought buildings on Bridge Street and land on Lower Lake Rd. I asked my grandma and pop about my great-great grandparents. They told me what they did for Seneca Falls….” – Grayson Sarratori

“This essay is about my grandma or as I call her my grand-mère. My grand-mère’s name is Jennyfer and she is from Mauritius. She is very meaningful to me. She always takes me on hikes when I have a stay at her house. She loves nature and the outdoors a lot. My grand-mère contributed to America by doing volunteer work at places like libraries, and red cross as a case worker….” – Kaeva Johnston


“Hi, today I will be talking about an immigrant I know. Her name is Carmela Kemak. She is my Nonna. That means Grandma in Italian. When she was eight, She came to America. She came from Italy. She had some difficulties when she moved here. She had to face the language barrier….” Anthony Brown

Joining the ceremony this year will be the Seneca Falls’ First Responders accompanied by a color guard provided by girl scouts and boy scouts and percussion from the Bedford Falls Mediocre Marching Band.  Music performances provided by the Mynderse Chamber Singers & Janelle Bradshaw and ending with a flower ceremony. 

Those wishing to attend should arrive on the Bridge Street bridge in Seneca Falls by 11:00 a.m. for this hour long ceremony.



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