Bensonhurst remembers ‘Chubby’ the Ice Cream Man

It was a street renaming for the books (pink carpet, feather boas and all) on Sunday, October 5 as the Bensonhurst community convened at the corner of 77thStreet and 21st Avenue to remember Angelo “Chubby” Campanella, a local legend who traded in his army uniform for a Good Humor one to become ‘Chubby the Ice Cream Man.’

“Fuggedaboutit,” said Chubby’s daughter, Maria Campanella – also known as Maria the Ice Cream Girl – of an event she said absolutely flawless, down to the last detail. “It not only was a victory – that comes last – it’s prestige. I’m honored to have my father’s name hung high in the community. That pole tells a story, and that story is going to be there for a long time.”

That pole (now ‘Angelo ‘Chubby’ Campanella Way’), she said, was more than five years in the making.

“I was sweating it out,” his daughter explained of the protracted fight with city officials who told Maria – and local electeds advocating for the dedication – that Chubby wasn’t prominent or heroic enough to get a city street named after him.

“Everybody adored him,” said Maria of her father who died in May of 2009 at the age of 83. “He always tried to teach the right thing. He taught me the right thing, and this pole is going to remind others to do the right thing.”

Always taught never to give up, Maria the Ice Cream Girl fought City Hall and won.

“I worked at it because I knew that he deserved it,” she said of her father, a World War II veteran whose greatest achievement was the mark he left on his hometown.

“He saved lives,” Maria remembered, noting not one but three lives her father lent a hand in saving. The first, a newborn baby who had turned blue that Chubby “dropped everything and rushed to the hospital himself.” The second and third, a parent and a child he pulled from a smoking car that had crashed on his corner.

He did it all while serving up sweets from the family’s signature ride.

Today, the legend lives on through his daughter, who learned the tricks of the trade — one ice cream cone at a time – from her father, eventually taking over the family business. Today, Maria continues to sell ice cream along the route, despite growing competition. “My father was the one behind everything I did,” she said. “He encouraged me to do good, because he did good.”

The renaming drew crowds from Bay Ridge to Bensonhurst, with all of Brooklyn able to catch a glimpse of the airplane overhead, proudly displaying a banner with a message from Maria to her father.

“It was one of the most elaborate renamings I’ve ever been to,” raved Community Board 11 District Manager Marnee Elias-Pavia. “It was just wonderful.”

The afternoon affair also marked the 70th anniversary of his business, and raised funds to benefit Saint Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

“It’s kind of like a monument in the neighborhood,” said Maria of the pole, its sign just over one week old. “Just like he was, and still is.”

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.