Valiant Volunteer, Veteran Carmen Valenti
by Cate Murway
Army veteran PFC Carmen Richard Valenti was engaged as an occupation force soldier during the Korean War, stationed in Germany. Carmen worked in the artillery and one of the memories that remain most impactful, was loading the self propelled medium artillery 105mm Howitzer canon gun pieces. “They could have blown up at any time as we jammed them in.”
Carmen returned home after his stint in the service and procured a much safer occupation as spool boy for the yarn spun in the full-service Thomas L. Leedom’s & Company Carpet Mill located on the Northeast Corner of Beaver & Canal Streets.
“We were very poor when I grew up. My mom made pasta and beans and ravioli and gnocchi. She never made desserts. I never even got a Christmas present and we never had a tree.” His best friend was Sam Mosco who still resides in the Borough. Carmen recalls playing marbles on the porch. No bike or skates; and the only toy he ever received was a little toy ambulance that “they gave to the poor people”.
He never wore dungarees or sneakers, just any clothing that was handed down and their neighbors often gave him jackets. He smiled when he recalled, “A neighbor gave me a Bristol High jacket!”
Carmen was actually named Carmine on his birth certificate. He didn’t even have his own name.
The Great Depression was well underway and the Second World War a few years on the horizon when Carmen was born. General Douglas MacArthur was on the TIME Magazine Cover.
Mr. Valenti is afflicted with the slowly progressing Parkinson's disease, a neurodegenerative brain disorder but he exudes contentment with his life and continues to serve the Borough.
The Bristol Borough Council recognized Carmen R. Valenti on Monday, March 13th for his most generous 62 years and his continuing service to the Borough as a longtime volunteer firefighter. Mayor Joe Saxton presented the Firehouse 2nd Lt. Valenti with a plaque, a token of the Borough’s appreciation for his faithful service, always protecting the residents of the Borough from fire. “That’s what you call true dedication,” Mayor Saxton stated. Council President Ralph DiGuiseppe confirmed, “He sacrificed a lot of his life, going into burning buildings and the such for this town and the people of this town.”
He remembers the Leon Plavin’s Auto Boys fire on Mill Street that lasted for 2 days.
Carmen has held many positions in the #2 Firehouse, in his methodical and diligent manner. He was Trustee and acted as Financial Secretary on the Board of Directors. When he first asked to join the firehouse, “They wouldn’t let me. They said I was in the mafia. I had to wait 6 months.”
Carmen retired from his full time position at Rohm and Haas in 1994, after working there for 34 years. He was chosen to assist with writing a training/ procedure manual for the Plant.
Senator Robert M. “Tommy” Tomlinson signed a decree designating 3.16.2005 as “Carmen Valenti Day.”
Carmen Valenti’s name is revered and very well known now in Bristol Borough.
Carmen’s maternal grandmother, Catherine [Lima] was born in Italy but he never really knew his maternal grandfather. He was named after his paternal grandfather, Carmine Valenti. His mother, Jennie [Lima] was born on Cedar Street and moved to 412 Logan Street with her family when she was six years old.
His father, Army veteran James Richard Valenti was born in Italy. “He had a green thumb and grew tomatoes and grapes. He took care of Senator Joseph R. Grundy’s lawn and his property on Radcliffe Street. He was also a construction worker and he worked on Lower Bucks Hospital. He worked another job and rode his bike to Florence, NJ to work in a foundry. My mother worked in Edward Steel’s Wool Company.”
Senator Grundy visited their home and he recalls being in the Grundy home. “We had no money. When my father was ill, Senator Grundy paid the bills.” Both Senator Grundy and his father died in 1961.
“My mom would always wish that someone would write her a check for $1,000.00. When my dad died she received a work severance check for $1,000.00 in the mail, but she couldn’t keep the check since my father had already died.”
His Uncle Joe “Co-Co” owned Joe Valenti’s Hoagie Hut, serving the most delicious hoagies stuffed with varied thicknesses of knife-sliced meats and cheeses at his shop on Washington and Pond Streets.
Lawrence Elmo Daniel married his late sister, Tresina, known as Theresa, and their son is Larry Daniel, a cherished nephew who presented Carmen with a “Fireman’s Prayer” blanket after he received the commendation from the Borough.
His younger brother, Louis R. Valenti still resides in the Borough.
Carmen would have been a graduate of the BHS Class of 1953. Although it was necessary for him to quit school to go to work and help support the family, he earned his GED. He secured a position as stock boy in McCrory’s, walking to work along Lafayette Street, then on to the canal path and then continuing on to Mill Street. He also delivered the Bristol County Courier newspaper in the Borough.Carmen caught a huge carp in the canal one time and their neighbor, Mr. Favata cooked it for them.
“Saturday's child works hard for its living….”
Carmen and Virginia Jane [Hricko] have been married since October 16, 1998. He was a co-worker and friend who also golfed with Virginia’s late husband, George Fetch. He moved from the Borough into Virginia’s home in Bristol Township.
“I always say, ‘when he married me he got a new toy’. He loves working in the yard!”
Virginia was a Delhaas majorette and she proudly shared that her squad captured the Southeastern Scholastic Baton Twirling Championship. According to The Bristol Daily Courier’s High School News “Tiger Talk” on April 5, 1963, written by fellow student, Dick Cavalli, the squad was preparing for the PA State Baton Twirling Championship. She also served as President of the Delhaas High School Band.
Virginia retired from working in sales at both the McCrory’s and Pomeroy’s department stores.
Their shared families include 4 children, Ginny, George, James and Ann Marie, 9 grandchildren and
In his “spare time”, Carmen paints [he does share his birthday with Vincent Willem van Gogh] and builds model ships as well as dabbling in the garden, exercising the green thumb he inherited from his father.
His personal ambitions are maintained in a very positive perspective, never losing sight of an interest in people, and his sympathetic, tolerant, broad-minded and compassionate point of view.
Thank you, Mr. Carmen Valenti, we laud your selfless contributions to historic Bristol on the Delaware.
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