Leaving a Legacy – Chuck Gaetano Set the Modern Philanthropic Standard
This week, the Greater Utica area lost a legend. Charles A. Gaetano, otherwise known as Chuck, passed away at the age of 99.
Mr. Gaetano helped set the modern standard for giving back to a person's beloved community, and he always did it with his wife, Connie, by his side, according to a profile done by the Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties.
“I was married 65-and-a-half years,” Gaetano told the Community Foundation. “We were one.”
I was married 65-and-a-half years, We were one.
Gaetano was born in 1923 and was a graduate of T.R. Proctor High School, Class of 1943. Right after graduation, he enlisted in the United States Navy serving as a Seabee during World War II until his honorable discharge in 1946. He was recalled to duty during the Korean Conflict, but served stateside. He married the "love of his life," Connie Nelson, on May 25, 1946. Mrs. Gaetano passed away in 2012.
During his time after WWII and through the 1950s, Gaetano became a successful masonry contractor, a trade which evolved into Gaetano Construction which was established in 1970. Chuck would spend the next 50 years building his "family, business, community, and philanthropy."
"In the mid-1950s, Charles A. Gaetano was a successful and highly regarded masonry contractor operating a small crew in the Utica, NY area.
By 1960, as his business continually improved and word of mouth spread, the scope of Gaetano's projects significantly broadened and the staff was expanded to accommodate this growing need for quality building and contracting services. As a result, the Charles A. Gaetano Construction Corporation was founded." - Gaetano Construction website
Today Gaetano Construction is a second-generation full-service construction firm with annual sales of between $50-60 million, according to their website.
"For decades, in partnership with the Community Foundation, the Charles A. Gaetano Family Fund has been a part of his continuing effort to create positive impact for organizations, institutions, and people in need. From backing the campaign that established cardiac surgical services at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center some 20 years ago to the Gaetano Fund’s more recent support for Mohawk Valley Health System’s downtown Utica project, he has made healthcare one of his top priorities," according to the Community Foundation profile.
“Sister Rose Vincent [the late CEO of St. Elizabeth’s] was a great woman to work with,” Gaetano told John Swann of the Community Foundation. “And I think what’s going on with the downtown hospital project, you’re going to see a big future impact on Utica and the whole community.”
He told Swann during the 2021 interview that the family fund is a living fund that will continue to build over the years, “So, 20 years from now, some of these organizations will be getting what they need to keep doing their work.”
Benefactors of the Gaetano Family Fund include St. Elizabeth's Hospital, Utica Food Bank, Utica College, Evelyn’s House, The House of the Good Shepherd, St. Joseph’s Nursing Home, the Rescue Mission of Utica, Resource Center for Independent Living, YMCA, CNY Veteran's Outreach Center, and so many more.
One of the most visible contributions came on the campus of Utica College, now Utica University, where you'll find the Connie Gaetano Plaza and Charles A. Gaetano Stadium, where many Utica Pioneers athletic events are played, including Utica University Football.
Funeral services will be held for Gaetano on Saturday, October 1, at Mary, Mother of Our Savior Parish, Our Lady of Lourdes Campus on Genesee Street in Utica at 11 a.m..
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in Gaetano's honor can be directed to the Charles and Connie Gaetano Scholarship at Utica University online at https://www.utica.edu/advance/donate.cfm or the Central Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired online at https://www.cabvi.org/#donate.