Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 15 July 2011 00:00
If you frequent Mineola, you have probably seen him at village hall, the Hampton Street Stadium, the community pool, the Station Plaza Diner and the list goes on. He has met U.S. presidents and has been a fixture on public life for years. His footprint in Mineola has been cemented for decades, and will continue to be so for many years to come.
Mr. Mineola is his name and the village is his playground.
John S. DaVanzo, a lifelong Mineola resident, was selected the third Town of North Hempstead Hometown Hero last week. TNH Clerk Leslie Gross honored DaVanzo at the John S. DaVanzo Community Pool with a certificate of recognition.
“I’m honored, really I am,” he said. “I didn’t even know I was nominated.”
DaVanzo graduated Mineola High School in 1939 and was all-varsity in football, basketball, baseball and track. He married his high school sweetheart Pauline and attended Hofstra University, but left early because he was drafted to fight in World War II.
John served as a radio man on the USS Glennon DD-620. He served in the Navy from Sept. 21, 1943 to Jan. 7 1946.
DaVanzo was out several days at sea, when he succumbed to severe pains in his stomach. He would have his appendix removed a day later.
DaVanzo was aboard the USS Glennon when it struck a mine off the coast of Normandy two days after D-Day. John had to think fast.
“I had to destroy all information and codes before I evacuated the ship to prevent the enemy from gathering information from the ship,” he said.
The ship sank on June 9, 1944.
Commander Manny Grilo of Adolph Block Post 1305 nominated DaVanzo for the award. Grilo said the nomination was a no-brainer.
“He’s been at the forefront of almost every village activity for decades,” Grilo said. “I’m proud to know him.”
Grilo’s father, Manny Sr. was a barber in Mineola and used to cut DaVanzo’s hair.
“That’s how long I’ve known him,” Manny said. “He’s deserving of this award.”
DaVanzo has served as a village trustee twice in 1955 and 1965, deputy mayor for five years from 1955-1960, North Hempstead town councilman from 1965-1974 and town clerk from 1974-1991. He is a 58-year member of the Mineola Fire Department and served as first and second lieutenant, captain, warden and trustee.
DaVanzo was very instrumental in getting the Mineola Pool off the ground over 50 years ago. Hence why his name graces the pool.
The pool first opened in 1961.
He was honored as New York State’s Clerk of the Year in 1986. Furthermore, seventh senate district Senator Jack Martins recently inducted him into the New York State Veterans Hall of Fame.
DaVanzo received a certificate naming him to the Senate Veterans Hall of Fame during a ceremony in the State Legislative Office Building. In addition, a poster containing his photo and biography hangs along with those of the other honorees in the lobby of the State Legislative Office Building.
“When I first started as clerk, everyone asked if I heard of John DaVanzo,” Clerk Leslie Gross said. “He’s echoed throughout the town and this village. He’s a great choice for the Hometown Hero.”