Victoria’s Secrets: A bittersweet season

Geraldo Rivera (center) with Michael Moriarty (far left), William Gault (far right) and the boys of De La Salle School

The past week was stunningly spectacular, filled with very joyous events. I met these extraordinary boys from The De La Salle School, which honored Geraldo Rivera. Then, I celebrated the wedding anniversary of Frank and Joyce Seddio, enjoyed the Mattone family’s holiday party and finally attended the Yuletide Ball in Brooklyn hosted by TD Bank’s New York division president, Peter Meyer.

But that joy was mixed with sadness after hearing of the loss of Connie Maltese, the renowned portrait artist and beloved wife of former state Senator Serphin Maltese.

I was so blessed to have traveled with Connie and Serf to Rome and visit with Pope John Paul II, who received one of Connie’s masterful works of art: a plate series she had created of the great explorers of our world. She used her husband and other local leaders as models for her portraits — the pope had a huge smile on his face when he received them.

When Serf was head of the Conservative Party of New York, he hosted the late President George H.W. Bush, and Connie created a portrait of the 41st president. Copies were given as gifts to donors at the dinner. My friend Todd Shapiro had his autographed by President Bush that he cherishes to this day.

I have to smile when I think of Connie and I performing at a benefit for the Queens Theatre in the Park, posing as “Calendar Girls” before a packed house. Such sweet memories!

All who knew her will miss Connie’s wit, wisdom, talents, charm and beauty; we cherished her friendship and love. I send my deepest sympathy to her family, including Serf and their children and grandchildren.

But life goes on, and in the same week, I was happy to attend a fundraising luncheon honoring Geraldo Rivera by the remarkable De La Salle School in Freeport, Long Island. The middle school offers scholarships to 70 boys from families hovering around the poverty line. They are taught skills that enables the graduates to go on to high school and college. A large proportion of De La Salle students graduate college.

Dressed in baby blue shirts and black pants, the De La Salle students greeted the guests with a strong handshake and direct eye contact.

Geraldo, who grew up in West Babylon, eloquently shared stories of his childhood years and the struggle to stay focused and achieve. He won an Emmy for his coverage of the horrific conditions at Willowbrook State School on Staten Island that ultimately closed. It was in large part to his persistent, passionate and compelling news coverage.

Geraldo shared stories about the many other battles he’s covered over the years, but the main focus of his talk was to thank the donors and volunteers who show acts of kindness to the boys with their financial and volunteer support. The packed dining room at the Engineers Country Club in Roslyn gave him a standing ovation.

Joseph and Mary Ann Mattone with Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and Monsignor Jamie Gigantiello

Acts of kindness seem to be in the blood of dear friends Mary Ann and Joe Mattone. Last week, Mary Ann led Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio’s luncheon at Russo’s on the Bay. Hundreds of guests helped to raise money for the parishes in Queens and Brooklyn.

The Mattones celebrate Christmas at the Columbus Club

Her energy and goodwill created an environment of giving. Monsignor Jamie Gigantiello was on hand on behalf of Futures in Education, another great cause that the Mattones support. What’s better than a great time with wonderful people and an opportunity to give back?

Frank and Joyce Seddio renewing their vows

Then I laughed and cried as Joyce and Frank Seddio renewed their vows with great love and class. Joyce looked like a movie star and Frank glowed looking into her eyes as two judges, Bernard Graham and George Silver, led the ceremony with wit and wisdom. It was a night to remember!

Peter Meyer and Denise Arbesu at the Yuletide Ball

Finally, I was happy to attend the traditional Yuletide Ball benefiting the Brooklyn Kindergarten Society based in Brooklyn Heights. Peter Meyer, president of the New York City Market for TD Bank, led the dinner/dance to raise money to educate children in need. It feels so good to know that, while spending cherished time together with friends, a great cause is benefitting by the many acts of kindness provided by those in attendance.

If you know of any Acts of Kindness, please send them to me by emailing vschneps@gmail.com.

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