Minerva Citizen of the Year Pat Cuzzacrea and two of her beloved dogs, Nicolina and Bob
The town of Minerva has bestowed with Pat Cuzzacrea its “Citizen of the Year” award.
Cuzzacrea volunteers her time at the Minerva meal site, where she provided freshly prepared food to community members who need it.
The meal site opened in 1985, and Cuzzacrea has been there since its inception. It was not something she originally considered doing. The supervisor at the time, Fred Morse, called her out of the blue to ask if she wanted to help out. Cuzzacrea reluctantly agreed; she was unaware the meal site would become such an important part of her life.
“We’re sort of a family,” she said.
Sometimes there’s frustration or disagreements, but in the end they always remain friends. The meal site isn’t just about food, after all. It’s a close-knit group of individuals that fulfills just as many social needs as it does nutritional ones. For the individuals who no longer have family of their own, it’s become their family away from home. Cuzzacrea embraces the social aspect of her work and organizes meal site events to promote it. Last year she hosted a picnic at the beach with more than 50 people in attendance.
Sometimes things are all fun, however. With a primarily elderly clientele, the meal site has seen many of its patrons pass on. Cuzzacrea isn’t sure how many of the people she’s served have died, but thinks it’s at least 100. She doesn’t want to call that a drawback, though, as much as a sad inevitability. She’s made many fond memories, which she recalled with affectionate laughter. She described one incident when an attractive young police officer came to the town hall during meal time. He was trying to deliver some paperwork. The late Anna Korman stood up with her arms outstretched and shouted — “You can frisk me!” — to the thoroughly embarrassed officer.
Cuzzacrea says she still can’t believe she’s been chosen as the Citizen of the Year. She wasn’t prepared at all for it. She was in the middle of a nighttime meal when Nancy Shaw stopped by to make an announcement, and almost left the room before Shaw pulled her aside and made her stay.
“It was a nice surprise,” Cuzzacrea said.
Prior to her work at the meal site, Cuzzacrea owned and operated the Minerva Hill lodge. She and her husband started the business in 1978, after they moved to Minerva from Lockport. They originally came to the area to visit friends and to buy a dog, and ended up liking it so much that they made Minerva their home.
Dogs are an important part of Cuzzacrea’s life. She breeds Spinoni Italiano, an Italian hunting dog. She currently owns three females — Mia, Lilly, and Nicolina. Cuzzacrea has been breeding them for just about 17 years. She originally chose the breed because of its novelty; at the time there were only 500 Spinoni total in the U.S. They’re a versatile breed, specializing in birds, with the ability to point, retrieve, and swim. Working with the dogs has inspired Cuzzacrea to try a bit of hunting herself.
“Once you see them do what they’re bred to do, it’s so exciting,” she said.
Cuzzacrea and her husband volunteer with youth hunting groups based in Putnam. Her other hobbies include shooting skeet, gardening, and spending time with her three granddaughters.