Man of the Year

Model Citizens 2021 Man of the Year Rosario Salvatore Cassata

Rosario S Cassata, Trustee of “The Cassata Foundation”, A charitable Not For Profit 501(C) which opens their hearts to help those in need and our local heroes.

John Dowling: Good morning.

Rosario S. Cassata:: Hey John, how are you?     

John Dowling: I’m doing well. Thank you. How are you?

Rosario S. Cassata: I am good thanks.

John Dowling: Good to hear it. I want to let you know that you have officially been nominated as Model Citizens Magazine Man of the Year for 2021!

Rosario S. Cassata: This is a great honor. I appreciate that, it’s very humbly.

John Dowling: You’ve done a lot for so many not to mention Model Citizens Magazine itself and it means so much. I think sharing your story is going to inspire a lot of people and that’s part of the hope of this interview is that we inspire a lot of people to actually get involved and to do more for our community.

Rosario S. Cassata: I do hope so. The Cassata Foundation is just one aspect of what we do. I’ve been very fortunate in life and feel it is my way of giving back.

John Dowling: Well, our readers and your fans would like to hear more about that, so let’s get into this interview.

Rosario S. Cassata: All right. Well, I’ve been blessed not only with three amazing girls and their husbands, Alyssa and Eric and Nicole and Michael and Gianna and Keith. But I’ve also been blessed with some amazing grandchildren.

John Dowling: It’s hard to believe, the last time I saw you in your Facebook albums you were surrounded by children and grandchildren.

Rosario S. Cassata: Oh yes. So, blessed.

John Dowling: Oh my God.

Rosario S. Cassata: Yeah. So, I have “six” beautiful grandchildren, Amelia, Hudson, Lincoln, Lily, Charlotte, and Lainey. I’ve been blessed with three amazing kids in my family, along with three amazing kids in Carolyn’s family Joseph, Gina, and Lisa. And they all have great partners. 

John Dowling: I’m still waiting, I never thought I’d see my own children, never mind being here to see my grandchildren. So, I’m very fortunate myself too.

Rosario S. Cassata: I have also been blessed with a beautiful partner, my wife, Carolyn. This year it is 10 years since I met this amazing woman and she has been my best friend ever since.

John Dowling: It’s amazing how many people actually know you guys.

Rosario S. Cassata: Well, we tend to get involved quite a bit.

John Dowling: Because when the initial nomination and story came out in the first article about your philanthropy, I was getting tons of phone calls, how do you know Rosario? I just told people I stalked you as I do with many potential model citizens and you were definitely a true candidate.

Rosario S. Cassata: Thank you.

John Dowling: And I heard one story after the other and it was just heartwarming. And I do follow you on social media, so to see all these wonderful posts with grandchildren, I might even go as far as saying, I’m not even just envious I’m jealous.

Rosario S. Cassata: No reason to be jealous. Everybody’s blessed in different ways.

John Dowling: Yeah, but I can’t wait to have babies running around the house from my own children!

Rosario S. Cassata: I know, I can share mine if you like, I got a bunch. Lol.

John Dowling: I’ve helped raise my three nieces, my two nephews, and my own two children.

Rosario S. Cassata: That’s great, family’s so important, it is that loving and support for one another that helps you in becoming the best person that you can become. And this is not only in the family but with people in general. It is this that becomes so heartwarming to be able to help, support, and inspire their dreams.

John Dowling: Yeah, I wouldn’t be here without them. On another note, I gather most people know about your love for Coca-Cola.

Rosario S. Cassata: Yes.

John Dowling: As I’ve now learned. It is probably the most distinct and unique Coca-Cola collection, maybe in the world.

Rosario S. Cassata: I don’t know about the world but I do try to make mine special in that it’s authentic and it’s the real old stuff.  So, there is not a lot of the newer Coca-Cola things that you can buy. I’m into the old fifties and sixties machines and collectibles.

John Dowling: You’re going to get a kick out of this. My next-door neighbor had a Coca-Cola route at one point he had a working antique coca cola machine that we could put a nickel in and get sodas in his garage. And I’m looking through my father’s old pictures from the fifties and I’m seeing a lot of the things that are in your collection in those pictures.

Rosario S. Cassata: Oh yeah one of my favorite pieces is the one which looks like in small red barrel, which is actually a Coca-Cola syrup dispenser. Years ago, you would go into your favorite drug store, when they were set up like a luncheonette. They would mix the syrup into the seltzer then stir it and make you a Coca-Cola.  It was made fresh for you right there. Now instead it is already pre-mixed.

John Dowling: When I went to work with my dad, when I was a little kid, it was eight tracks and I think they would, I forget what they would call it, but they put a scoop of vanilla ice cream in it too.

Rosario S. Cassata: Oh yeah. The Coca-Cola float. 

John Dowling: There you go. Yeah. Great memories.  It reminds me of the old 8-Track cassettes for the house and car?

Rosario S. Cassata: Well, that is funny. I do have one of those in the collection. I remember when you pushed the button, it would go clunk, clunk, and then go to the next song clunk clunk. That’s very funny, but I enjoy collecting Coca-Cola memorabilia the most.

It’s a hobby that kind of keeps me challenged and also provides a perspective on things and life.

John Dowling: How about happy?

Rosario S. Cassata: Of course, but keeps me centered.  It is a place I can go and spend some time and look around and of get into southing and calming place.. There’s no pressure and it’s a fun thing to do. Just recently I just added a new Coca-Cola machine that has been on my bucket list. It was a Vendo 44, which was one of the smallest coin-op machines that Coca-Cola made. And of course, we added one of your amazing NFTs to my collection as well.

John Dowling: Well, the photographs we took were like a time warp back to my childhood in your collection suites.

Rosario S. Cassata: Yeah, I really love your style of Art. The Coca-Cola piece you made me, well it just moved me as to how much work goes into the piece along with its beauty.

John Dowling: You also have some life-size Batman figures that I saw in your office on the way in.

Rosario S. Cassata: I do. My hobbies center around both collecting Coca-Cola along with my fascination for Batman.  As a child in the 60’s growing up, I would come home from school and always want to get to the TV to watch the 1966 Batman show.

John Dowling: Bam! Wham!.

Rosario S. Cassata: Kapow! Yeah. If you watch the show now it’s was kind of violent. And kinda corny but at that time, it was a Super Hero to look up to.

John Dowling: When we were watching it, let’s just rephrase that right? Every young boy in the world would run home from school to see it like it was a state-of-the-art, tech-savvy boys club.

Rosario S. Cassata: Yup. And something which is very unique about Batman, and what may be my connection to him, is that he was the only superhero that didn’t have any superpowers. He did everything himself.  And he only had his utility belt. The belt with all those silly gadgets to defeat any villains.

John Dowling: Well, he did have Robin and at times the Cat woman lol. That’s the power of good.

Rosario S. Cassata: Yes. So, the point is that you don’t need anything special as a person, just be yourself. And it is kindness that makes you stand out among other people. It is not about wealth and status. That doesn’t make you make you better than others.  Money is not humbling it is just that act of kindness that does. That’s what is humbling.  Just take the time  to make others feel happy.  It doesn’t take much. It can be just a conversation and sit and listen.

John Dowling: Well, I know that you’ve become a patron of the arts as well.

Rosario S. Cassata: Yes.

John Dowling: And I’m very excited to share with our readers that we are looking forward to co-hosting a beautiful art exhibit over at your Bat Cave featuring my collection of NFT’s and Life-size prints.

John Dowling: We’ll wait for it or whatever works.

Rosario S. Cassata: That would be great.

John Dowling: Yes definitely.

Rosario S. Cassata: I’m so excited for you, I’m intrigued by the art form that you inspired and which is so unique. Your artwork, your photography, and your journalism in Model Citizens Magazine are quite phenomenal.  I’m would be glad to participate with you. 

John Dowling: Well, I didn’t quite realize I had accumulated so many incredible memories and so many incredible photographs of so many incredible people, including you, by the way.

Rosario S. Cassata: Yes.

John Dowling: It was a very unique shoot we did and we’re going to do another one. I’m going to kidnap you to do that.

Rosario S. Cassata: Well not Batman, Lol.  It would be awesome to do something on the grounds and with your collections. And if we ever get all the Cassata family together and the grandkid that would really be something to photograph.

John Dowling: I would love that.  A fine art-themed shoot and also some fun stuff too.

Rosario S. Cassata: Yes, me too.

John Dowling: So, what is this I hear about a Batman Catwoman Wedding at the Bourne Mansion?  

Rosario S. Cassata: Holy Batrimony!  It was just amazing. Because of my craziness and love for the 1966 Batman Show, we had an amazing Batman Catwoman Wedding with 300 guests at the Bourne Mansion in Sayville, NY.  It was complete with all the villains, the Bat Helicopter, the Bat motorcycle, and an original Batmobile. And it all ended with a spectacular Batman Fireworks Show.

John Dowling: It was epic because everybody in the art community talks about that.

Rosario S. Cassata: Oh my God. Yeah. It was such a great time and we had a blast and it’s nice to hear people say, you know what, I’ve never been to a wedding and had so much fun. So, I’m glad I was able to touch the people that way.

John Dowling: Now my business partner in the long island portfolio magazine, Alex.

Rosario S. Cassata: Yes.

John Dowling: He’s big into cosplay and has all these cosplayers who idolize you if you don’t know that already.

Rosario S. Cassata: I don’t, but that’s awesome.

John Dowling: And they all want to come dressed up as supporting characters like the Joker and the Riddler. Yeah. Now he’s, he’s got about a dozen or more people that are into that, that he’s photographed. I represent Alex as well.

Rosario S. Cassata: Okay.

John Dowling: He’s a great guy and I curate his photo exhibits as well. I do that for a couple of people now.

Rosario S. Cassata: Yeah, I think that would be awesome.

John Dowling: We may have to put you in a costume.

Rosario S. Cassata: Well, let me tell you about the first Batman costume that I ever bought. When I first met Carolyn, we were going to a Halloween party. So, she already had her martini glass costume and I didn’t have anything.  So, we go to the costume store and buy a Batman costume, the last one and its size is Triple X.

John Dowling: Oh, it would fit me.

Rosario S. Cassata: So, I put it on, it was the worst thing I ever saw and she told me, don’t worry I can take care of it. I’ll sew it and make it fit you perfectly. Well, needless to say, that was not the truth.

John Dowling: Okay that must have been hilarious.

Rosario S. Cassata: So, we went to this costume party and it was hideous.  If you saw my pants and they were just hanging on the floor. The costume was over the top of my shoulders and it made my head look so small. It was quite an embarrassment, but it was a great photo.

John Dowling: If you can’t laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at?

Rosario S. Cassata: Oh yeah and that’s what made me love her more because she would do anything she possibly could, even if she couldn’t.

John Dowling: After photographing maybe a hundred thousand or more people over the years you do develop a little bit of an instinct when you look into someone’s eyes. You can see the love. You can see the kindness and I immediately, when I met Carolyn, I was like, she is a wonderful woman. She’s full of love. Look at the love.

Rosario S. Cassata: Oh my God, she is just an amazing woman. You know what? She finds no fault in anyone, Somebody could cut you off on the road and beeps at you and gives you the finger. You know what my response would be?  Her response is well, leave them alone they probably had a terrible day. I would probably give the same thing back.

John Dowling: I got a call yesterday from someone who owes me money and he was yelling and screaming and threatening me and he was a mess. I said to him, you do realize that you owe me, I gave you a credit line, and you’re going off on me because you don’t want to pay the bill, you’re going to do this you’re going to do that if I try to collect. I’ll tell you what, keep it, go see a shrink.

Rosario S. Cassata: Oh my God. Yeah. And I wonder sometimes, you know, it doesn’t take much. To be happy and to be nice is so easy. I think you have to work at being mean and angry. That takes so much effort.

John Dowling: I wrote a novel and I was searching my soul for the meaning of my life and trying to find the meaning of love and all these things. And I really came to the conclusion that if we don’t take care of each other, who’s going to take care of us? No, one’s going to take care of us. We have to take care of each other and there’s always somebody less fortunate. So, you know I have my health challenges, right?

Rosario S. Cassata: Yes, I do.

John Dowling: But just last week I’m on Facebook. And I’m looking at my friend, Karen, who I know casually and her daughter at 18 years old just has gone back in for her third battle for leukemia. At 18 years old, it’s her third multi-year battle and she may not come out of it. And I say to myself, now that’s the person who I want to put on the cover of the next issue of Model Citizens Magazine. The people who were fighting and struggling. I know what it’s like to fight, but to have to go through chemo as a kid! My father went through chemo, didn’t make it and he said he knew he wasn’t going to make it. He said this is an inhumane way to battle disease. My father was an iron man. So, when I heard Biden last night talking and you know I lean to the right, I don’t hide that. So, when I heard him talking about curing cancer, I was like ‘about time someone said it. I believe in all these social programs or not, or all this spending, if we’re spending to cure cancer, it’s about time. I mean, it’s such an inhumane way to keep people alive it seems.

Rosario S. Cassata:  It’s scary and saddens me deeply. Like I explained to you, I went through having that blood disorder called Hemochromatosis, and the way things were going, I thought I was not going to make it. And it’s not only life-altering and scary but it makes you have a deep appreciation for life because life is so short. Life is so simple and you got to make the best of it. There’s no time to be angry in it. Is it really worth it?

John Dowling: In my previous interview with you I remember you told me about a quote from Abraham Lincoln.

Rosario S. Cassata: Yes, I remember, it is on a sign by the office which I believe was Abraham 

Lincoln.  “No man ever stands so tall as when he stoops down to help a child.”

John Dowling: That has absolutely resonated with me every time I hear it. You said the word Lincoln before it was one of your grandchildren and I went immediately in my mind to that quote.

Rosario S. Cassata: It is a great quote and I believe that with all of my heart.

John Dowling: It’s not only been part of my mantra, but it’s become more of my giving mantra. And I fight my own battles, but like I said, there’s always somebody who’s fighting a harder battle than you are.

Rosario S. Cassata: Yes. I mean, you look at the children, they’re harmless. They have no concept of the world, these are young kids and they’re so precious.  It’s hard to see things happening to them because it shouldn’t but sometimes it does. It brings me back to the time I sponsored a young boy named Vincent. To lose him at such a young age of 16 was tough. It was such a pleasure to work with him and his family. He’s on my mind all the time, you know?

John Dowling: I think about him often since you shared the story of his life and it is motivating. You are a very motivating person, just so you know.

Rosario S. Cassata: Thank you.

John Dowling: So, tell me about some of the charities that you are currently supporting.

Rosario S. Cassata: The two that come to mind are Camp Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck and Sunrise Day Camp. These are camps for kids who can’t afford to go to camp or are ill and have special needs in order to attend.  The Cassata Foundation donates to them, to help these families and their children and siblings have the opportunity to go to these camps for free. 

That’s is what it’s all about.

John Dowling: Wow that is beautiful. Do you have other charities you support to?

Rosario S. Cassata: Thank you. Yes, there are many charities. I support one in Chicago, it’s called Ups for Downs which my Cousins are involved in. It is for kids with Down Syndrome. They put on Car Show and I help them support those children.  I have supported the Make-A-Wish foundation, which was that young man Vincent mentioned. This past year with the pandemic I have been focused on supporting all our local heroes. I’ve donated to the Suffolk County Police Department, the Suffolk County Police Emergency staff that handles all the 911 emergency calls.  I also have provided meals and masks. I have been doing a lot with Northwell Health Huntington Hospital and the staff by donating, providing masks, and meals to just say “Thank You” for all the amazing work they do. I worked along with the Josephine foundation, which is a foundation that helps provide scholarships to young kids who are interested in the arts, whether it be performing, dancing, music, or just arts like you do, artwork. 

John Dowling: Yes, they’re all putting their lives at risk and working around the clock. They’re just amazing as are you. Nothing like supporting so many charities that you cannot remember them all. Well, again I look forward to a safer time when we can do our charity auction together. For those of you who know Rosario S. Cassata: and myself, we will be donating 50% from all of the proceeds of my art that sells at a Rosario S. Cassata: and The Cassata Foundation event at this home to charity. 

Again, Rosario Thank you for this interview and of course for now collecting my fine art composites as well, and all you do for the arts and charity. You are truly worthy of the award Model Citizen Man of The Year.

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