By DANIEL KITTREDGE What makes Cranston a special place? Several inductees and dignitaries at the Cranston Hall of Fame's Oct. 15 installation dinner highlighted how hard their own families had worked to make a home in the city - a testament, they said,
What makes Cranston a special place?
Several inductees and dignitaries at the Cranston Hall of Fame’s Oct. 15 installation dinner highlighted how hard their own families had worked to make a home in the city – a testament, they said, to Cranston’s reputation as a desirable destination and a symbol of success for generations of Rhode Islanders.
An even more common thread among the night’s speakers, however, was the influence the city’s public schools have had on countless Cranstonians. The Hall of Fame, after all, honors graduates of the city’s schools, recognizing their achievements at the city, state and even national levels.
Anthony Tomaselli, an accomplished artist and owner of T’s Restaurants, captured the shared sentiment of many of the speakers as he accepted his induction into the Hall of Fame. In part, his reflection on the value of the city’s schools took the form of a challenge.
“Citizens and politicians of Cranston, I challenge you to keep the light shining,” he said. “Keep saying ‘yes’ to our children. Say ‘yes’ to our schools. Say ‘yes’ to our living together as a united community. Yes, Cranston, you were there for me, and I will be there for others. Let us together, each and every one of us, infect our lives with kindness and sincere appreciation.”
Tomaselli joined Doreen Holmes, Jeffrey Lanphear, John Macera and William Stamp as members of this year’s Hall of Fame class. It was the organization’s first induction ceremony since 2019, with last year’s selection process and dinner having been called off – and, in effect, combined with this year’s event – due to the pandemic.
Scores of people attended the ceremony held at the Alpine Country Club, including many past inductees and a number of elected officials.
Former mayor Michael Traficante, vice president of the Hall of Fame Foundation’s Board of Directors, said the inductees have “not only provided exceptional service to their community, their state and their fellow man, but also served with distinction in their respective fields of endeavor.”
Cindy Soccio, who has succeeded Fred Vincent as the board’s president, said the induction of the new class “serves as a reminder to us all of the vital role public education plays in assuring a better life for all members of the Cranston community.”
The inductees, she added, were chosen from among “many worthy names” submitted for consideration. The five people selected this year, she said, are “outstanding examples of the quality of educational services offered by Cranston Public Schools.”
Holmes, a 1971 Cranston High School East graduate, was honored for her volunteerism, including more than 30 years of service at the St. Patrick meal kitchen and food pantry in Providence and her more recent tenure as a volunteer and staff member at In-Sight, and organization that supports the visually impaired. Holmes was diagnosed with macular degeneration in 2008.
Father James Ruggieri, pastor of St. Patrick Church, introduced Holmes, calling her a “wonderful friend” and a dedicated volunteer with a “huge heart.”
“There are many gifted people who help us out … One of Doreen’s gifts is people,” he said. “She’s a wonderful people person.”
During her remarks, Holmes spoke of the important role the late Sister Fran Conway – “an angel who walked on Earth” – played in her life. She also spoke of how she has approached her visual impairment in the last several years.
“I stand here tonight not for what I have done but for what others have done for me … I will forever be grateful. I will never, ever give up. And I will always and forever see with my heart,” she said.
Lanphear, an associate justice of the Rhode Island Superior Court, was introduced by his wife, Kathleen. In addition to his legal career, his community involvement has included chairing the city’s Charter Review Commission, co-chairing the Pawtuxet Village Association and, as commodore, helping the Edgewood Yacht Club rebuild from a devastating fire in 2011.
Lanphear’s remarks focused on Cranston’s decades-long status as a destination for local families seeking a better life, noting how his own parents “worked very hard to find a place” in the city.
“That was a big achievement,” he said.
Listing Cranston’s various neighborhoods and sections, Lanphear called on those present to protect and preserve what has made the city such a draw, particularly its public schools.
“Cranston’s a great city,” he said.
Macera, who has taught physical education at Park View Middle School since 1988, was recognized for his decades as a teacher and the wide range of charitable efforts he has helped to spearhead, from an annual blood driving honoring the late Cranston East student Katie Lavey to the yearly Park View Veterans Day 5K Road Race.
Michael Crudale, a past Hall of Fame inductee and former Park View staff member who serves as chief human resources officer for Cranston Public Schools, introduced Macera and praised his “constant desire to give back to anyone in need.”
“For John to be at Park View for 33 years is a testament to him as a teacher and his dedication to that community,” he said.
Macera, during his remarks, said the “reason I have remained at Park View my entire career is due to the people.” To laughter, he gestured toward a “group of characters” – coworkers past and present – seated around one of the tables.
“You have heard it so many times before that the cornerstone behind any successful person is the people that they surround themselves with. Throughout my life, this has been true,” Macera said.
He concluded his remarks by quoting a friend, who is a retired pastor: “It doesn’t matter how high you jump while you are in church on a Sunday, but what you do once your feet hit the ground for the remainder of the week that makes a difference.”
Stamp, who was honored for his stewardship of Stamp Farms and his decades of advocacy on agricultural issues at the state and national levels, was introduced by one of his grandchildren, Thomas Duncan.
“Mr. Stamp is a great example of how working hard and doing what is right will ultimately lead to success, even if it not the easiest path in life,” Duncan told the audience.
Stamp – who recalled sitting in homeroom with Traficante, one of many personal stories about the former mayor shared throughout the evening – offered a number of stories and reflections during his remarks.
“In my lifetime, I understand what a miracle is, because I’ve had so many happen,” he said, later adding: “There’s so many things in this world that are so complex … If the seeds don’t grow, you have nothing.”
Tomaselli, whose restaurant has locations in Cranston, East Greenwich and Narragansett, was honored for his success in business and his achievements as an artist. T’s, which he and his wife, Tina, began in the early 1980s as a variety store on Budlong Road, has grown into a staple of the local food scene. His artwork, meanwhile, has been featured in dozens of local and regional exhibitions, as well as galleries in Florida.
“We use the word success a lot … Success, as I see it, is sitting at these tables out in front of me,” Tomaselli told the audience. “Success is a soul full of thankfulness and gratitude. Success is the love of others. Success is a shared smile, a handshake, a warm embrace. Success is a shared journey of experiences. Success, as I see it, is sharing your dream with others, giving and receiving simultaneously. Success is not the tangible accumulation of stuff. To me, success is you, all of you, stranger and friend both, and sharing this thing we call life.”
Among the evening’s additional highlights was the announcement of four scholarship recipients.
Sanjana Ananthula from the Cranston Area Career & Technical Center, Xavier Pichardo from the New England Laborers’/Cranston Public Schools Construction & Career Academy, Mikaya Parente from Cranston High School West and Maria Silva from Cranston High School East received an ovation after Cranston Superintendent Jeannine Nota-Masse, the host of the formal program, read a list of their respective accomplishments. Each of the students will receive a $500 scholarship from the Hall of Fame Foundation.
“These past 19 months certainly have been challenging for our young people … and these four students who are here tonight exemplify the spirit of Cranston,” Nota-Masse said. “They have overcome obstacles, maintained strength and integrity, and have risen to be among the best in their class.”
The evening also included a special recognition of Vincent, a 2006 Hall of Fame inductee who spent 10 years as president of the Hall of Fame Foundation’s board before handing over the reins to Soccio, a 2008 inductee. During the course of his career, Vincent, who sits on the city’s Planning Commission, served as Cranston’s planning director and held a number of other roles in state government and the private sector.
“This is quite a surprise … I think the Hall of Fame is one of the finest organizations this city has created,” Vincent said after joining Soccio and Traficante on stage.
Aside from the spouses mentioned earlier, Holmes was joined by her husband, Tom; Macera was joined by his wife, Diana; and Stampe was joined by his wife, Carol.
Other dignitaries on hand included Mayor Ken Hopkins, Ward 2 City Councilwoman Aniece Germain, School Committee Chairman Dan Wall, Ward 4 School Committee representative Ken Mancuso, former mayor John O’Leary, former mayor Allan Fung and state Rep. Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung.
“There is a great value in growing up in a community, learning, growing, and then investing in that same community in your adult life … The people sitting in this room all make Cranston the greatest city to live in America,” Hopkins said during his remarks.
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