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Seneca Falls honors Antonio Varacalli and local heroes

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  • Staff Report 

Each year, the Town of Seneca Falls commemorates the bravery and selflessness of Antonio Varacalli, an Italian immigrant whose heroic act on April 12, 1917, along the Cayuga and Seneca Barge Canal, remains etched in our collective memory. Witnessing a woman in distress, Antonio fearlessly plunged into the water to rescue her, ultimately sacrificing his own life in the process. His exceptional civilian heroism was posthumously honored with a bronze Carnegie Hero Fund Medal.

This year, on Saturday, April 13, 2024, at 11:00 am, the Town of Seneca Falls will gather to remember Antonio Varacalli as well as celebrate and honor some of our local heroes at the Bridge Street Bridge. The ceremony will commence with a procession featuring members of the police, fire, and sheriff departments, alongside the Bedford Falls Mediocre Marching Band Drummers, leading to the Bridge Street Bridge. The event will include the reading of the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission’s Investigation Report.

DiSanto Propane (Billboard)

Eric Zahren, President and Board Chair of the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, will participate in this year’s ceremony. Mr. Zahren, has served as the Hero Fund’s president since 2017 after joining the Commission in 2015.

Additionally, we are pleased to have Shelley Farrell and Madelyn Justian, great-great nieces of Antonio Varacalli, join us for the ceremony. The Antonio Varacalli Day Proclamation will be read by our Town Supervisor, Frank Schmitter.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s students were tasked with writing essays on the theme “How have you, or might you, be a ‘good citizen’ by making a difference in someone’s life.” After careful consideration, the winners have been selected across different grade levels, and they will be presented with awards during the ceremony.  The year’s winners are:  

5th grade:  1st Place: Molly Voorhies – Melissa Koepke’s class, 2nd Place: Lucas Carnicelli and 3rd Place: Jenna King, both from Tricia Goodenough’s class

4th grade: 1st Place: Fiona Shore – Kelly Grieco’s class, 2nd Place: Nicholas Miller and 3rd Place: Tegan Griffith, both from Lisa Roman’s class

Additionally, Seneca Falls residents were asked to nominate a person perceived by their friends and neighbors to be a “Good Citizen and Hero” to receive the annual Antonio Varacalli Day Award. This year’s winner is Paula Coffey.  

Additional recognition will be given to “Community Angels” which is given to a member of local organizations and charities nominated by their respective organizations. Our “Community Angels” this year will be Catholic Daughters nomination – Rev Roy Kiggens and Rev. James Fennessy, SMS Italian Club Auxiliary – Lucy Liberatore, Convention Days – Mary Perdicho, SF Women’s Coalition – Jan Caraccilo.

The event will continue with musical performances featuring the Mynderse Academy Chamber Singers under the direction of Anna Luis-Ellis, and a trumpet solo performance by Janelle Bradshaw and will end with a flower ceremony.

“We look forward to gathering as a community to honor these local heroes and celebrate their remarkable contributions.” said Haidee Oropallo, President of the It’s A Wonderful Life Festival Committee, “it is important that we pay tribute to their courage, compassion, and unwavering dedication.”