In 1980, Ronald Reagan was elected president, “Who Shot J.R.?” from the TV series “Dallas” became the most-asked question of its day, and a new neighborhood group was born in Brooklyn — the 86th Street Bath Beach Kiwanis Club.
Thirty one years later, The Gipper has long passed and “Dallas” has melted into small-screen history, but the Kiwanians are stronger than ever, thanks, in part, to committed members and other working stiffs who were hailed last Tuesday for their service to Bath Beach, Bensonhurst and Dyker Heights — complete with a fete by Miss New York Kaitlin Monte and Miss Brooklyn Christina Moore.
Six urban warriors received awards of recognition at the organization’s inaugural dinner gala at Sirico’s Caterers in Dyker Heights — one of them, posthumously.
The honorees were: Fred Daretta, past president, proclaimed “Kiwanis Laureate”; Eileen LaRuffa, an original member of the Bensonhurst Volunteer Ambulance, and Dyker Heights Civic Association President Fran Vella Marone, both hailed for their “Kiwanian Community Service”; Jerry Albano, a food pantry worker at Reaching-Out Community Services in Bensonhurst, who received the “Outstanding Humanitarian Award”; and veterans’ activist Andy Manicone, who was delivered a true-blue salute as “Outstanding Patriot.”
Longtime club member Marvin Weinberg was also surprised with a community service award for his efforts on behalf of the group.
The man of the hour, however, was late founder and past president Tony Neglia, known as a pillar of the Bensonhurst business community. The enthusiast died of leukemia in 2008 at the age of 80, and in his casket sat a pillow which touchingly pointed to the gladiator’s third love aside from family and community — golf. It read, “If there’s no golf in heaven, I’m not going.”
Neglia, an alum of David A. Boody Junior High School in Gravesend, and Lincoln High School in Coney Island, was also the owner of Al-Brite Paint on 86th Street from the mid-1950s until 1983. He began his community service during that time by establishing the 86th Street Bath Beach Kiwanis, and earning the presidency of the 86th Street Bensonhurst Community Merchants Association.
He was also involved with the Bensonhurst Board of Trade, the Joint Council of Kings County Board of Trade, and the Retail Labor Consumer Federation.
Neglia and the other recipients were honored for being “extraordinary individuals,” according to boardmember and President-elect Tony DeCrescenzo.
“All their activities in various organizations helps to support and enhance the quality of life in our communities,” he said.