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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