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Announcing the winners of the Antonio Varacalli Prize and Essay Competition

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

The City of Seneca Falls will remember Antonio Varacalli on April 23, 2022 with a ceremony on the Bridge Street Bridge at 11:00 a.m. which will include the Carnegie Medal for Heroism Report, a reading of the Proclamation of the Day of ‘Antonio Varacalli, A Blessing of Heroes by Rev. Leah Ntuala of the First Presbyterian Church and the ringing of Bedford Falls bells.

The directory Antonio Varacalli Hero Award will be presented posthumously to Dave DeLelys of Seneca Falls, who “was a supporter of everything that happened in Seneca Falls,” said Doug Avery, who was one of many candidates for his candidacy. “His involvement in community activities was endless and he was always ready 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 conservationist and his work on village boards and the city.

The 2022 Community Angel Award will be presented to Anna DeJohn of North Seneca Ambulance by Chief Kevin Lightfoote. The Community Angel award is given by organizations to a member who has gone the extra mile to help their organization and community.

Encouraged by principal Amy Hibbard, students from Elizabeth Cady Stanton School participated this year Antonio Varacalli Essay Contest, sponsored by the It’s a Wonderful Life Committee. Invited to write about an immigrant they know and how they have contributed to America and/or their community and how they could be considered a “good citizen”, five students representing the 4and & 5E ratings will receive Good Citizen awards for their essays

The winning essays were written by:

  • Anthony Hernandez, 4 years oldand grade, class of Mrs. Melissa Woodard
  • Grayson Sarratori, 4 years oldand grade, class of Ms. Jennifer Morrel
  • Anthony Brown, 4 years oldand rank, class of Mr. Scott Sciera
  • Grace Hemker, 5 years oldand grade, class of Ms. Melissa Koepke
  • Kaeva Johnston, 5 years oldand rank, class of Mrs. Tricia Goodenough

A sample of this year’s winning essays:

“Over a hundred years ago, Antonia and Antonio Vacca came from Italy on the ship Moltke and landed at Ellis Island. What makes them special is that they are my great-great-grandparents They moved to Seneca Falls and bought buildings on Bridge Street and land on Lower Lake Rd. I asked my grandma and dad about my great-great-grandparents. told me what they had done for Seneca Falls…. –Grayson Sarratori

“This essay is about my grandmother or as I call her my grandmother. My grandmother’s name is Jennyfer and she is Mauritian. She is very meaningful to me. She always takes me on a hike when I stay with her. She loves nature and the outdoors very much. My grandmother contributed to America by volunteering at places like libraries and the Red Cross as a social worker…” – Kaeva Johnston

“Hello, today I’m going to talk about an immigrant I know. Her name is Carmela Kemak. It’s my Nonna. It means grandmother in Italian. When she was eight, she came to America. She was from Italy. She had some difficulties when she moved here. She had to deal with the language barrier…. Anthony Brown

Joining the ceremony this year will be Seneca Falls first responders accompanied by a color guard provided by Girl Scouts and Pathfinders and percussion from the Bedford Falls Mediocre Marching Band. Musical performances provided by the Mynderse Chamber Singers & Janelle Bradshaw and ending with a flower ceremony.

Those wishing to attend must arrive at the Bridge Street Bridge in Seneca Falls by 11:00 a.m. for this hour-long ceremony.


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