South Brooklynites are mourning the death of a beloved local who made a difference to the community in several ways.
Robert Cavaliere, executive director of public relations for Parkville Youth Organization and president of the Kiwanis Club of West End, Marine Park and Dyker Heights, died on Thursday, April 16 at age 74.
Cavaliere, who penned hundreds of articles for the Home Reporter and Brooklyn Spectator recapping Parkville games, lived in Dyker Heights for many years before moving to Staten Island.
Cavaliere started his involvement with the Parkville Youth Organization in 1991.
“I started there as an assistant coach,” he told this paper in 2016, noting that he had been the girls’ softball director. “Back in the day, we had 27 girl softball teams from Marine Park to Red Hook playing.”
Cavaliere’s love for youth sports started due to his daughters.
“I started coaching them at Saint Bernadette,” he said.
Parkville then asked him to coach kids in its league.
“They needed someone to coach and I was worried at first,” Cavaliere said. “I was afraid of kids. I didn’t know how to talk to them.”
He quickly learned how and developed a passion for teaching kids various sports and also how to have fun doing so.
“It was the greatest to get them to play highly competitively and give them confidence. I loved it and couldn’t get enough of it,” he said.
Cavaliere started out as a printer photographer. In 1981, he worked for Brooklyn Union Gas, now known as National Grid, where he stayed until 1993, when he retired.
“I finished as a quality control specialist and I did most of my work out in the field,” he said.
“My dad was the greatest man we will ever know,” wrote his daughter, Jennifer Cavaliere Fegan on Facebook. “He loved us all fiercely, especially my children. My heart breaks for them. My dad touched so many people in his life and because of that there will be a hole missing in so many hearts. We are still trying to figure so much out, the hardest will be trying to live a life without him in it.”
Cavaliere is survived by his three daughters – Jennifer, Jacqueline and Josephine – as well as his grandchildren.
Within minutes of his death being announced, friends and family mourned his passing.
“I loved him,” said Community Board 13 member Mario Caggiano. “He was an inspiration to me and all of the I.S. 303 Kiwanis Builders Club. He was a huge part of Liberty Kiwanis . There is so much he did for the community unconditionally. For instance, he donated over 70 bikes to children in need and thus past Christmas holiday anonymously went to Walmart to pay off 3k of customers' layaway items . He was a true gentleman and such a caring person . He was a proud Kiwanian. He will be truly missed.”
He added that Cavaliere was a IS 303 Kiwanis Builders Club Facilitator & Liberty Kiwanis member.
“I am so saddened by the passing of my high school sports director Mr. Robert Cavaliere,” added Christine Vallaro Patone. “He was loved by all and truly believed in every student on every team and, although I was a cheerleader, he never made us forget that cheerleading was a sport! After I graduated I will never forget the call I got from Mr. Cavaliere asking me to coach the Junior Varsity team. I couldn’t have been more honored and happy to know that he trusted me to lead this team to greatness. Those were the best years and I smile knowing he was part of them.”
She added that, “We just spoke last week through FB and throughout the years we would check in and share pictures of the good old days at Fontbonne. To the kindest, happiest man.”
One of Cavaliere’s prouder moments was when he served as Fontbonne Hall Academy’s athletic director.
“I expanded all the sports programs, such as softball, basketball and soccer,” he said in 2016. “I try to expand sports and get more children to participate. Everyone assigned to a team gets to play.”
“My heart is heavy with the news that we have lost one of the kindest, gentlest souls I've ever had the pleasure to know,” wrote Elizabeth Durante. “Bob, we met in a pizzeria one afternoon nearly 20 years ago and you asked if I wanted to help write some of the Parkville stories for the Home Reporter. I, of course, said yes and you introduced me to the world of editors and deadlines and gave me my first byline. I've pulled some of the articles out today that I've saved, as well as that gift you gave me about seven years ago when I was starting my whole life over again – a little brown leather book and a feathered pen. The pen I've lost, I'm sorry Bob, but I kept the card you gave me, where you wrote, ‘Now you have no excuse – Start writing!’”
She also said, “Everytime we spoke after, you would always ask what have I been writing when you would get to read something of mine and I promised you that you would be the first to know, the first to read it. It breaks my heart that I can't keep that promise to you now. I know I am just one of the many, many, many lives you touched and you will be greatly missed by your friends and family but I do want to say thank you. Thank you Bob for making me sit out in that ice cold tin can on the field so that I could cover a game and get a story in.Thank you for every kind word, simple smile, good natured laugh and heartfelt sentiment. Rest in peace Bob!”
Bay Ridge resident and former Home Reporter Managing Editor Rick Buttacavoli, who worked closely with Cavaliere during his time at this paper as well as the Bay Ridge Eagle, was saddened to hear of his longtime friend’s passing.
“I am so heartbroken to hear this. Bob was one of a kind and the sweetest man. Getting to know him and work with him during my time at the Home Reporter was one of my true privileges. He will he missed,” Buttacavoli wrote on Facebook.
State Senator Andrew Gounardes also expressed his condolences.
"Robert Cavaliere will be greatly missed,” he told this paper. “He epitomized community spirit and giving back. He leaves a legacy of inspiring youth to participate in and love sports. My thoughts are with his family in this difficult time."
“So sorry to hear this about Bob – he was truly a good man with a giant heart,” added Deputy Press Secretary for DeSales Media John Quaglione. He gave his whole self to the Parkville program and family. May he Rest In Peace.
“The first thing that comes to mind is his willingness to invite anyone into his home and make them feel welcome,” said Vito Montalto Jr. “Next I would say seeing him floating in the pool with drink in hand smiling and enjoying life to the fullest. Then the constant vacations and love of food. Next would be the love of coaching kids in Parkville. He was a great man I surely will never forget.”
“Bob took charge of a group of girls young, talented, enthusiastic, strong both mentally and physically, girls with upbringing from all different walks of life,” said Heather Mancini. “He knew the players, he knew the potential. He saw an opportunity to make a difference. We had our strengths and weaknesses. Catching hoppers off the Dust Bowl, he could help with that. Fast runner, slow runner, strong at bat or not. We were a collaboration of young women learning. Win or lose. We were a team. We were in it together every minute of every game. We felt someone else’s error, we celebrated in their success. No one was ever alone. He grounded that feeling in us. We shared a bond. We worked hard on the field and off. Life long friendships were created because of him. I’m so grateful to him for that.”
In 2016, Cavaliere told this paper he used to live in Brooklyn, but then lived with his daughters Josephine and Jacqueline in Staten Island. He also discussed two of his grandchildren, Thomas and Katie, from his daughter Jennifer.
“They make my day,” Cavaliere said in 2016.