Canarsie Hall of Fame to induct seven new honorees

The Canarsie Hall of Fame endeavors honor those who genuinely care for the community, according to founder Ramon Martinez
The Canarsie Hall of Fame endeavors honor those who genuinely care for the community, according to founder Ramon Martinez
Photos courtesy of Ramon Martinez/Canarsie Hall of Fame

A pharmacist, a monsignor, and a civil war veteran are among the Canarsie residents, past and present, who are finally getting their dues for their services to the Brooklyn nabe.

The Canarsie Hall of Fame is this year inducting seven community members in recognition of their many contributions to making the neighborhood better through their volunteering and good deeds.

Local historian Ramon Martinez started the Hall, an online project, to honor the Canarsians who were vital in shaping the community in 2019 as a continuation of the Canarsie History Museum, which shuttered its physical space at the American Legion Hall in 2016. 

Utilizing social media, Martinez asks community members to nominate individuals and share stories of the impact they have made in the neighborhood – be it recently or in decades prior.

“These are individuals who have jobs and families but then they took the extra step where they took their free time, they dedicated that time to make the community better in any way they could. These individuals are the people who cared about Canarsie and are being remembered for that,” Martinez said, adding that every neighborhood ought to have a Hall of Fame to honor the regular people who shaped their neighborhoods for the better.

The 2023 inductees include:

Rocco Stella

Stella was born in Brooklyn on June 9, 1935 and joined the Canarsie community when he opened Stella’s Pharmacy in 1961. Rocco ran Stella’s for over 50 years and today his son still runs the iconic pharmacy.

In 1983, he participated in the Cub Scout pack 742 by raising funds for group projects, and sponsored a girls softball team in 1985. In 2017, he received the distinguished practitioners award from St. John’s university college of pharmacy for his many years of service as preceptor for pharmacy students, for whom he provided internships.

As the only living inductee this year, Rocco will be awarded the Canarsie Cup at a ceremony next month in honor of his work in the community.

(L) Inductee Rocco Stella (R) The Canarsie Cup
(L) Inductee Rocco Stella (R) The Canarsie Cup. 

Nicholas Ford

Ford was a civil war veteran who moved to Canarsie in 1845. As a member of the New York 1st Regiment Volunteers, he died on May 31, 1862 at Fair Oaks, Virginia. In 1874, Canarsie established its Grand Army of the Republic Civil War veterans organization in honor of Ford by naming it the N.S. Ford Post #161.

The Long Island Railroad 1900’s Canarsie stop was named “Fords Corners” after Ford, but the service line no longer exists.

Monsignor Vincent O. Genova.

Monsignor Genova was appointed as pastor of Holy Family, Canarsie on October 13, 1935. By 1938, he planned and had constructed a second church: Our Lady of Miracles,757 East 86th.

Through the years he presided over the community “Mayorship”, which encouraged positive leadership in the community, and held an annual memorial mass for the American Legion Post for service members who lost their lives at war.

Between 1949 and 1952 he raised over $250,000 and had Holy Family built into an 800-seat capacity sanctuary that occupies two city blocks.

Even after he retired, he was active, serving as the chairman of the Board of Governors for the Canarsie baseball leagues in 1963. He is also known city-wide for the Catholic Jewish Relations Committee which he formed in 1966 to bring better understanding between members of both faiths in Brooklyn and Queens. He passed at the age of 68 in 1973.

(L) Monsignor Vincent O. Genova. (R) Nicholas Ford
(L) Monsignor Vincent O. Genova. (R) Nicholas Ford.

Dr. Frank Ippolitto

Dr. Ippolitto was a dedicated community contributor who first dipped his toe into community affairs by leading the campaign to build a new Holy Family Church in 1949. He also fought for new stop signs and improved intersections as an officer of Democratic Club.

In 1952, he was elected as “Mayor of Canarsie” for his prominence in civic, communal, his distinguished service and unselfish devotion. In 1954 he was a member of School Board 41, where he fought for the construction of P. S. 272, and in In 1961, as a member of the Canarsie school board, he successfully petitioned and stopped four liquor stores from being opened within blocks of local schools by addressing the NY Supreme Court.

His devotion to Canarsie was unwavering until his death in 1987, according to Martinez.

Barbara Panzer

Panzer is best remembered as an educator and advocate for children in the neighborhood. As a science teacher at IS 211 she initiated awards to outstanding community members geared towards education and led class trips to city hall and science fairs. In 1984 she personally sent letters to parents to have their children’s artwork displayed at BACA – Brooklyn Arts and Culture Association.

In September of 1986 after 31 years of education, she was unanimously named Assistant Principal of PS 279. She was also nominated for organizing the first walkathon for juvenile diabetes.

(L) Barbara Panzer. (R) Dr. Frank Ippolitto
(L) Barbara Panzer. (R) Dr. Frank Ippolitto.

Jim Haver

Haver was known for his participation in community improvement projects and charity work. Among his contributions were the charity drives he ran in aid of disabled children and serving food at Kings County Psychiatric Center to patients.

Haver served as president of volunteer group The Lions Club in 1998, and was honored as a lifelong Canarsians in 2008.

Sal Ruggeri

Ruggeri was best remembered for his work on community projects and as an advocate for senior citizens, according to Martinez. He served as president of the Joint Council of Senior Citizens Clubs of the Borough of Brooklyn, with New York’s Department planning committee for the aging frequently asking Ruggeri to attend conferences at City Hall’s Blue Room as his input was valued.

(L) Sal Ruggeri. (R) Jim Haver Photo: Ramon Martinez/Canarsie Hall of Fame

Also in 1975, Ruggeri spearheaded a campaign for a cleaner Canarsie in the “old tradition of pride and cleanliness”. He was the Grand Marshal of the 1980 Canarsie Memorial Day Parade and passed away later that year. An annual community interest award was awarded in his name beginning in 1982 to residents who were impactful to the community.