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Champions of History

Military service gave
Vincent Fanelli unique view on life

He will be honored at
History Center Gala in September

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

September 2009 Kentucky Edition Cover

September
2009 Kentucky
Edition Cover

LA GRANGE, Ky. – At a young age, Vincent Fanelli knew he had to be good at something in life but didn’t know what that was until he stepped into the cockpit of an airplane. He ultimately served his country for 17 1/2 years from a plane, and has lived a long, eventful life serving others and preserving history.
After graduating from the University of Kentucky in 1940 with a major in business administration, Fanelli joined the U.S. Army Air Corps. His fraternity brothers tried to encourage Fanelli to enlist before graduating, but he wouldn’t do it, determined to get the degree he had spent four years earning. He knew the United States would soon be entering World War II, and he got his chance to serve in the Air Force during the war.
“I enjoyed flying. I rode in an airplane in Louisville and I liked it,” said Fanelli, 91. He went to Randolph Field and then completed advanced training at Kelly Field.
While in service, Fanelli literally got to see the world. He flew to Canada, Trinidad, Brazil, Cuba, England, Scotland, Iceland, Greenland, North Africa, Algeria, Egypt, Sicily and Italy, just to name a few places. “I covered a lot of territory,” transporting goods and services, he said.
Fanelli served both active and reserve duty. He was commissioned in the reserve because at that time, once an individual graduated from flight school they were commissioned, he said. “I went into it as a career, but things changed.”
Reflecting back over his wartime experiences makes Fanelli realize history’s importance to the current generation. “If we don’t watch it, we’ll be reliving it,” he said. He believes history is something you can’t deny; we live through it for a reason. Fanelli has lived through decades of change and fought hard to preserve what means the most to him.
For his efforts, Fanelli will be receiving the 2009 J. Chilton Barnett “Champion of Oldham County History Award” on Friday, Sept. 25. Presentation of the award will be made during The Golden Anniversary Celebration: 50 Years of Heritage, this year’s Annual Gala for the Oldham County Historical Society.

The Golden Anniversary
Celebration: 50 Years of Heritage

• Friday, Sept. 25 at the Oldham County Historical Society, 106 N. Second Ave., La Grange, Ky.
• Featuring: Reception with an open bar; presentation of the J. Chilton Barnett “Champion of History Award” to Vincent Fanelli; catered sit-down dinner; music by John Manning & The Thrillers; silent auction; live auction with Rick Wardlow, Auctioneer.
• Tickets: $125 per person.
• 2009 Honorary Co-Chairs: Carla Jones and Lee Clore
• Information or to reserve tickets: (502) 222-0826

“The recipient is chosen by nominations through the Annual Gala Committee who then present it to the Board of Directors,” said Nancy Theiss, executive director for the Oldham County History Center in La Grange. The recipient may be a current or former resident of the county, living or deceased, male or female, an individual or group of individuals.
“The recipient must demonstrate or have demonstrated a sincere interest in Oldham County history and a desire and effort to preserve the history for future generations,” said Theiss. “Vince was chosen because of his interest in community preservation.”
Fanelli has donated several train collections to the Historical Society, including the Ott Family Train Collection, as well as horse carriages that were once used in Oldham County. He has also sold his Crestwood property to the city of Crestwood to some day be turned into a park.

Oldham County
"Champions of Oldham County
History" Past Winners

2008: Gene Crady
2007: Joseph and Rose Ethel Hall
2006: Roy Kimberly "Kim" Snell (posthumously)
2005: Bill and Dorothy Lammlein
2004: Carl Klingenfus (posthumously)
2003: Theodore Klein (posthumously)
2002: Milton Carl Stoess

This property is known as The Maples, and had been in his wife’s family since 1908. He has a life-time interest in the 23 1/2 acres that he sold in 2005. Fanelli and his late wife, Mary Louise, had sought for a way to keep the land from being developed so that others could enjoy it.
“The City owns it but he retains all the rights,” said Crestwood Mayor Dennis Deibel of the property that will become The Maples Memorial Park. Deibel has known Fanelli for nearly 50 years.
Amenities to the park will include a walking trail around the perimeter, pavilions and using the existing house as a Town Hall or meeting room space. “There is a lot of potential to it,” said Deibel.
“He’s a super guy and has always been community minded,” Deibel added. Fanelli is dedicated to preserving the property for all future Crestwood citizens.
Fanelli, whose father was from Naples, was born in Anchorage in an apartment above what was at the time the family business, Fanelli Grocery. They later moved to Cox’s Quarry (or Cox’s Lake), which they developed into a popular swim club.
Fanelli married Mary Louise Ott in 1947 and they had four children. After the war was over he returned to his family’s business at Cox’s Quarry for two years until he left for a time to run his own farm, Kentucky Acres, in Crestwood. In 1960 the Fanellis moved to The Maples.

Vincent Fanelli

Photo by Helen McKinney

Vincent Fanelli will
be honored Sept. 25
by the Oldham County
Historical Society during
the "Gala" in La Grange.

The couple raised Polled Herefords, and Fanelli was also part owner of a building supply company known as Waterbury Brothers and ran a hardware business in Middletown as well as returning to work weekends at Cox’s Quarry.
The family lived for a while in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. They liked to travel whenever possible, and Fanelli still enjoys golf and good 1940s music. He is a member of the Crestwood United Methodist Church.
Fanelli believes in giving back to his community through service, contributions and donations. “It’s important. If you take something from them, you own someone,” he said.
He has been a supporter of the Lion’s Club since March 1949. “It’s a good organization,” he said of the club whose main goal is the prevention of blindness.
He’s been involved in many projects over the years while a member of the Lions Club, including the installation of a sidewalk from Crestwood to Pewee Valley and painting windows on local homes. “If you help an organization, you’re helping people,” he said.
Fanelli has been a past president, served on the Board of Directors, and held the position of district governor for the Lions Club. He also helped with the promotion of the Orchard Grass Festival in Crestwood in the 1950s and has been honored with a Melvin Jones Fellowship.
“Working with the Lions Club was important to me,” said Fanelli. “The Orchard Grass Festival was a great thing and I enjoyed working with everyone.”
As if that doesn’t keep Fanelli busy enough in his spare time, he also belongs to the Masons, Scottish Rite and the Shriners. Fellow Mason Gene Crady of Crestwood has known Fanelli ever since he was a child. His father and Fanelli were friends and both families lived in Anchorage before moving to Crestwood.
He is a wonderful contributor to the Masonic organization, said Crady, as well as the Shriners and Kosair Hospitals. Fanelli has been a Mason for 70 years.
“He is a phenomenal person and a wonderful Christian,” said Crady, who was the 2008 recipient of the Champion of History Award.
Fanelli has spent a lifetime serving others. He set up an endowment a few years ago in his wife’s name for Lindsey Wilson College and continues to be involved in the community he calls home.

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