Street Renaming Honors Neighborhood Matriarch

Street Renaming Honors Neighborhood Matriarch
by David Greene

A large crowd turned out on a rainy day 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.

Local officials, friends and family recall the life of Mary Vallati, who died last year at the age of 102.–Photo by David Greene

At the ceremonial dedication of “Mary Vallati Place” along East Mosholu Parkway South at Perry Avenue, held on Sunday, 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.”

The new street sign honoring Mary Vallati, a tireless activist and longtime Bedford Park resident.–Photo by David Greene

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 its 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.”

For years as a community activist Mary Vallati fought for numerous issues in the Norwood and Bedford Park communities.

Feisty until the end, Sanchez recalled, “When we started a fight with the barbecue’rs and she saw me confronting people, because their not allowed to barbecue there… she had started to do it herself. A 102 year-old lady who’d go out there and say, ‘your 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.

Mary Vallati worked as a customer service rep for New York Telephone, Inc., before becoming a tenant-activist.

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 1970’s 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 joind 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.

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