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Rita Gross Nelson Honored At Leake & Watts In Yonkers

This is a photo of Rita Gross Nelson, the 2015 Black History Month Wall of Fame honoree. Photo Credit: Pamela Stern
Maria George, daughter of Rita Gross Nelson with Alan Mucatel, executive director, Leake & Watts. Photo Credit: Lynda Shenkman Curtiss
Maria George spoke about her mother, Rita Gross Nelson, at Leake & Watts Black History Wall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Photo Credit: Pamela Stern
Jacob Maldanado, Biondi School student at Leake & Watts, Maria George and Alan Mucatel unveil a photo of Rita Gross Nelson, the 2015 Black History Month Wall of Fame honoree. Photo Credit: Lynda Shenkman Curtiss
Maria George, Rita Gross Nelson's daughter accepts the award in honor of her mother. Photo Credit: Pamela Stern
Rita Gross Nelson’s former colleagues, from left, Detective Vincent Tilson, Yonkers Police Department; First Deputy Chief William Cave, Yonkers Police Department; and Deputy Commissioner H. Gaylord Worrell, Mount Vernon Police Department. Photo Credit: Lynda Shenkman Curtiss
Donald Antonecchia, Superintendent of schools, Leake & Watts; Symra Brandon, director of community affairs, office of Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins; and Alan Mucatel, executive director, Leake & Watts. Photo Credit: Lynda Shenkman Curtiss
Dr. Edwin Quezada, deputy superintendent of Yonkers Public Schools, spoke about Rita Gross Nelson. Photo Credit: Pamela Stern
Biondi Dance Troupe danced to "Break Every Chain" in honor of Rita Gross Nelson. Photo Credit: Pamela Stern
Sgt. Charles Walker of the Yonkers Guardians Association Inc., spoke about Rita Gross Nelson and how she mentored him. Photo Credit: Pamela Stern

YONKERS, N.Y. —  Leake & Watts' Biondi School has inducted Rita Gross Nelson into the Black History Wall of Fame.

Nelson was the first African-American female to join the Yonkers Police Department in 1964. She later was the first female to be promoted to detective. Nelson continued her involvement with the community after she retired from the Yonkers police. Her passion to help children did not stop, as she volunteered in the Yonkers Public Schools and was hired as the first female court liaison. 

Maria George accepted the award in honor of her mother, who died on Jan. 28 at the age of 77. George spoke about her mother's military service, her service in the Yonkers Police Department and her love for helping people, especially children.

Alan Mucatel, executive director of Leake & Watts said, "Rita Gross Nelson cared about her family, she cared that the streets were safe and that kids continued to be educated. She volunteered at numerous places, including at Leake & Watts' own Woodfield Secure Detention facility, touching the lives of multiple individuals and our community as a whole."

Nelson's achievements were addressed by some of her colleagues,First Deputy Chief William Cave of the Yonkers Police Department, Sgt. Charles Walker, president of the Yonkers Guardian Association Inc., and Deputy Superintendent of Yonkers Public Schools Edwin Quezada. 

Walker said, "Rita spoke to me and asked me about my background, and I told her that I was from Yonkers and from the School Street projects. She found out that both of my parents died at a young age, and I was officially one of her 'children.'" 

Walker was like a son to Rita. "She encouraged me to take the police test. The day that I was hired and I didn't know until the last minute, and I forgot to tell Rita, but she was there front and center. I didn't have any family members to pin my shield. Rita let me know that since I didn't have anyone there to pin my shield, she would have pinned my shield for me. She told me that I was never alone and that she would always be there for me."

Leake & Watts' Superintendent Donald Antonecchia said, "The individuals we honor each year, such as Rita Gross Nelson, have led lives of service that reflect the mission and core values of the Leake & Watts Agency. They serve as inspiration not only to our children, but every adult that passes our Wall of Fame."


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