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Bruce and Angelo Bonafiglia to receive 2023 George Bailey Award

One of the most heartfelt relationships in “It’s a Wonderful Life” is between George Bailey and his father, Peter Bailey. In selecting the recipients of the 20th Annual George Bailey Award, the names Angelo and Bruce Bonafiglia came to mind as a powerful reflection of this heartfelt relationship between a father and son.

Karolyn “Zuzu” Grimes will honor Angelo and Bruce Bonafiglia with the George Bailey Award at 10:00 am on Saturday, December 9 as part of the 77th Anniversary Celebration of It’s a Wonderful Life. The ceremony will be held at Trinity Episcopal Church, 27 Fall Street, Seneca Falls. Everyone is invited to attend, especially those whose lives have been touched by Angelo and Bruce Bonafiglia.  

Angelo spent time as a bicycle messenger for a dental laboratory when he was a teenager in Philadelphia working to help put food on his family’s table. When a high school friend stationed at Sampson Naval Base asked Angelo to be his best man, Angelo came to Seneca Falls, fell in love with the community’s quiet pace, and decided to establish his roots here.

Angelo, who passed away in 2021 at the age of 93, started his first dental laboratory in downtown Seneca Falls fabricating dentures and partials for local dentists; and so, began BonaDent’s 75-year history. Angelo met the love of his life, Agnes, at the local diner downstairs from the studio apartment that doubled as his dental lab. They raised three children together — Andrea, Bruce, and Curtis.

Bruce Bonafiglia was introduced to the world of dentistry and dental technology at a very early age. He worked summers and holidays for his father throughout his youth, sharpening his skills as an apprentice dental technician, and learning the intricacies of what was then a five-person laboratory. Bruce officially joined BonaDent in 1975 and, building upon the firm foundation established by his father, expanded BonaDent into a high-quality, full-service dental laboratory.

Bruce was named president of BonaDent in 1986 after Angelo “retired.” In the years since, Bruce has steadily charted BonaDent along a course of growth and modernization that has led to the laboratory’s reputation as one of the finest in the dental industry with satellite laboratories in Florida and South Carolina. BonaDent now employs approximately 300 people.

BonaDent and the Bonafiglia Family have shared their success by supporting numerous non-profit organizations and other causes over the years, sometimes enabling them to survive difficult times and flourish. During the scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life” where George and his father are at the dining room table, George says to his father: “I want to do something big and something important.” His father replies: “we are doing something important.”

“It’s a Wonderful Life” has always held a special place in the hearts of the Bonafiglia Family. Angelo was one of the first donors to the It’s a Wonderful Life Museum and Bruce was instrumental in bringing Karolyn Grimes (“Zuzu Bailey”) to Seneca Falls for the first time in 2002. Karolyn recalls: “Bruce’s love for the film and for Seneca Falls is great. ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is part of his life. I wouldn’t have gotten here the first year if it wasn’t for him – he made it all possible.” 

The George Bailey Award was created by the IDEA Center for the Voices of Humanity in 2004 to honor an individual who embodies the spirit of George Bailey by consistently contributing to the lives of his/her neighbors and without whom Seneca Falls would be a very different place. The IDEA Center is currently located within The Seneca Falls It’s a Wonderful Life Museum. For more information call 315-568-5838.