Norwood Matriarch Honored with NYC Street Sign
By David Greene
BRONX– A large crowd turned out on a rainy day for the street renaming to honor a Bronx activist to remember and honor a tireless community activist, Mary Vallati, who passed away a year earlier, from pneumonia, on September 13, at the age of 102.
At the ceremonial dedication of “Mary Vallati Place” along East Mosholu Parkway South at Perry Avenue, held on September 9, residents and friends recalled the Bedford Park resident and member of the Bedford Mosholu Community Association and the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Organization– as a woman leader who helped residents organize and often spoke out about problems in the community.
Through a sea of umbrellas, Councilman Andrew Cohen, who submitted the street renaming proposal to the City Council to honor Vallati, told the crowd, “She was a matriarch in this community and what better fitting way to have a permanent display here for everyone to see.”
NYPD Inspector Kenny McGrath, drew laughter when he told the crowd, “I was the commanding officer here like 20 years ago and Mary, when she was a young puppy of 82, came barging into my office and all the cops came charging, and she said, ‘I know him,’ and she came right in.”
McGrath added, “She was a great lady, God bless and it’s a nice honor for her.”
Friend and fellow community activist Shelia Sanchez noted, “She was the perfect example of a community leader, never asking for the spotlight and always at every single event.”
Feisty until the end, Sanchez recalled, “When we started a fight with the barbecues and she saw me confronting people, because they’re not allowed to barbecue there… she had started to do it herself. A 102-year-old lady who’d go out there and say, ‘you’re not suppose to do that here.’ We don’t have too many ladies like her anymore.”
According to family members, Vallati was born on July 18, 1915 in Collinsville, Illinois, and her family moved to the Belmont section of the Bronx in 1927, when she was just 12 years-old.
Years later Vallati worked as a customer service representative for New York Telephone, Inc., and married her husband Charlie in 1940. They had three children.
In the 1970s Vallati served as a tenant leader of her Decatur Avenue building, before joining the Bedford Mosholu Community Association. She was also a member of the 52nd Precinct Community Council and was also active at the St. Phillip Neri Church.
Vallati joined her first child Richard, who passed away in 1999, and leaves behind her three children: Linda, Dennis and Richard and grandchildren: Jason, Vincent, Aimee and Jamie and one great-grandchild: Evan.