by Matthew Duffy
The Niagara Falls Education Foundation Inc. will present Distinguished Alumni Awards for the first time in the history of the Niagara Falls School District to Arthur Elia and Frank Mirabelli, cousins and friends whose families began successful construction related businesses in Niagara Falls.
The awards will be presented Saturday, June 11, at the inaugural Scholarship and Alumni Recognition Dinner at the Como Restaurant, 2220 Pine Ave. A cash bar will begin at 6 p.m., with dinner at 7 p.m.
Elia, a 1946 Niagara Falls High School graduate, worked at his father's company, which was known as Albert Elia Building Company. He and his brothers worked there until they joined as partners with the company in 1940. Arthur Elia married Shirley Knize in 1948 and has three sons and one daughter.
The company is best known as "the contractor that turned off the falls" in 1969. Some of the other notable projects that Elia helped construct around Niagara County included: the Amendola Theater, State Theater and Gratwick schools in North Tonawanda; Our Lady of Lebanon Church, St. Joseph's Convent and the Moses Building in Niagara Falls. From their work with Love Canal, the Elia Company was propelled into the hazardous waste remediation business. From this, they formed Sevenson Environmental Services, which was derived from the sons of the four brothers. Today, the Sevenson Corporation is prominently known and respected coast-to-coast as one of the country's leading environmental cleanup contractors.
At the age of 83, Arthur Elia can be seen at his desk as a consultant to his sons, nephew and grandsons, watching over the company that his father created and has surpassed what he originally may have envisioned.
Frank Mirabelli, a 1947 Niagara Falls High School graduate, joined his father, Rocco, at Mirabelli Plastering Corporation, a business that was started by his father in Niagara Falls. After a few short years in business Mirabelli's father passed away in 1954, leaving him to continue the family operation. During this time, he turned to his cousins, the Elia family, who helped guide him with his newly acquired business. Mirabelli was close with all of them, especially Arthur, who he considers a dear friend to this day.
Over the years, Mirabelli Plastering was involved in various projects, including Trott, the old Niagara Street School, the old Niagara Falls High School (NACC), Niagara University, SUNY College at Geneseo, as well as many churches, schools, colleges and offices throughout the area and state. A very humble man, Mirabelli is extremely grateful to his loving wife Margaret, who has stood by him for 61 years and cared for their three daughters while he was building a successful business.
His pride is evident in his three daughters, all successful in their respective careers, and his four grandchildren, one of whom is an attorney, two are teachers and the youngest is studying to be a physician's assistant. Semi-retired, he enjoys time with his family and is happy that he can "do the work you want to do, and not the work you have to do" when it comes to the business.
The Niagara Falls Education Foundation Inc. was founded in 2002 to support scholarship and educational pursuits within the Niagara Falls School District. The foundation has quietly raised funds over the past several years through a basketball tournament as well as other endeavors. The foundation will also award $6,500 in scholarships at the dinner to six graduating seniors pursuing higher education for the fall 2011 semester within New York state.
The dinner will also see the induction of two new members into the Athletic Hall of Fame Alumni. Faith Thompson, a 2000 graduate of Niagara Falls High School who was a track star standout and set records while in high school, as well as at the University of Buffalo, where they still stand today, will be honored. She also played volleyball and basketball while at Niagara Falls High School. Thompson majored in psychology at UB before earning her master's there in school counseling. She has worked at Global Concepts Charter School in Lackawanna since her graduation from UB in 2006.
The 1987-88 Niagara Falls High School girls' basketball team that won the Section VI championship will also be inducted. The team was led by Coach Beth Bullock, who still coaches at the high school today. The team was the only one to go undefeated in the regular season and win the Class A Sectionals.
Reservations are $50 per person or $90 per couple and can be made by contacting Niagara Falls Education Foundation Executive Director Jill Spira at 341-6247.