L to R: Minority Leader Margaret Cunzio and Valhalla Fire Commissioner Anthony Ciancio; Kathy & Joseph F. Curto, Jr. and Leg. Ruth Walter

White Plains, NY —  The Westchester County Board of Legislators recognized Italian Heritage Month on Monday, October 4 with a special ceremony and video presentation honoring two prominent community leaders: Valhalla Fire Commissioner Anthony Ciancio and Yonkers Tennis Center owner Joseph F. Curto, Jr.

This year’s theme was to commemorate the 700th birthday of the Italian poet Dante, who unified Italy by writing in the widely understood Florentine vernacular, rather than Latin, and helped establish a national language for the Italian people.

In his opening remarks, Chairman Ben Boykin (D – White Plains, Scarsdale, Harrison) said, “This message -- the importance of communication and being able to understand each other -- is universal and essential to our ability to co-exist in society. But it is also a timely theme to contemplate since we are living in a period of American history when communication and understanding each other seem to be quite challenging.”

“Here in Westchester County, which is home to so many different ethnic groups living closely together, I think we do pretty well understanding each other and part of that is due to the positive influence of our very robust and involved Italian-American community. Over 35 percent of Westchester County residents identify as being of Italian descent, and their invaluable contributions are everywhere…. The belief in family and community that came with those who first settled here has endured, and it has enriched the culture of Westchester immeasurably.”

“Tonight we have the opportunity to recognize two stellar yet humble individuals who have gone above and beyond to assist others, and most impressively, to impact the lives of those in need outside of their own community.”

Legislator Margaret Cunzio (C – Mt. Pleasant, North Castle, Pleasantville) presented the first proclamation, “It is my pleasure to honor a good friend and mentor, Valhalla Fire Commissioner Anthony Ciancio, for his more than 56 years of dedicated service to the department, to the safety of the Valhalla community, and to the cause of protecting animals. In addition, he single-handedly organized relief efforts for Texas and Florida during Hurricanes Irma and Harvey to assist those suffering from the aftermath of the storms. It is a privilege to acknowledge someone who has given so much so humbly and selflessly.”

Commissioner Ciancio thanked Cunzio and the entire Board, “I am very humbled to receive this award. People who know me know that I’m not a man of many words – I let my actions speak for themselves ….I would also like to thank my parents, who came here from Italy, for teaching me the right way to do things, to work hard, to be a good person and to be generous to others.”

Watch the virtual presentation to Commissioner Anthony Ciancio here: https://vimeo.com/620192032

Legislator Ruth Walter (D – Bronxville, Yonkers) presented the second proclamation to Joseph F. Curto, Jr., President and Co-Owner of the Yonkers Tennis Center (YTC). She explained, “Joe’s personal goal when he bought the tennis club was to make tennis accessible to everyone who wants to learn. This is why in 2019, Joe founded the “Coach Pat Project” at YTC which brings tennis to Yonkers public school students. They provide the coaches and the equipment to serve about 300 students per week. This program allows kids who would not otherwise get to play tennis try the sport. Sports like tennis provide valuable skills that kids will use for the rest of their lives, such as teamwork, dedication and perseverance.”

She added, “Coming from an Italian family, Joe grew up valuing honesty, hard work and compassion. His dad would also remind him ‘when your time on this earth ends, all you have left is your reputation and integrity.’ He has always taken this very seriously and it is the driving force behind all of his good works.”

Curto accepted the honor, with his wife, Kathy, by his side, thanking the Board and saying, “My dad, his brother and sister grew up financially poor but spiritually affluent. What has been instilled in me since childhood is the importance of “family” or “La Famiglia.”

“They started a business, Curto’s Appliances, 73 years ago and today is in its third generation of family leadership. Working together, the family expanded and welcomed in many along the way and we later found success in furniture, real estate, theater and where I am, the Yonkers Tennis Center.”

“Through the years I’ve gotten involved in many community activities and served on multiple not-for-profit boards ranging from public education, to veterans issues, to food pantries to the environment. We can and should help, it’s what families do. You don’t need to be blood relatives to be part of a family.”

Watch the virtual presentation to Joseph F. Curto, Jr. here: https://vimeo.com/620192538

Read the program for Monday night’s event here: https://www.westchesterlegislators.com/images/pdf/100421_IHM_Program.pdf

(PICTURED ABOVE L to R: Minority Leader Margaret Cunzio and Valhalla Fire Commissioner Anthony Ciancio; Kathy & Joseph F. Curto, Jr. and Leg. Ruth Walter)