The Valley Stream Republican Club presented its annual Person of the Year award to Jimmy Zabatta, the president of the Valley Stream Lions Club.
Village officials, Republican dignitaries, and Valley Stream residents came out in force, packing American Legion Post 854 to celebrate Zabatta.
“This is incredible. I want to thank you all for being here,” Zabatta said. “I’m also glad that I’m a registered Republican. (Registering) is probably the only thing I did that my father told me to do!”
Zabatta, 69, has been involved with numerous clubs and organizations throughout the village. He has served on the fundraising committee for the Holy Name of Mary Elementary School and taught religious education there. He has served as president, vice president, and treasurer of the Valley Stream Rod and Gun Club, and edited its newsletter. He has also volunteered with Boy Scouts Troop 109, was a member of the Valley Stream Chamber of Commerce, and served on the boards of the Valley Stream Youth Council and the Community Fest and Car Show. Most notable, though, is his involvement with the Lions Club, which he joined in 1986.
“Initially, he joined the Lions Club in 1986 to promote his business,” Sharon Daly, a club member, recalled. “However, when he saw firsthand the good work of the club, he was truly hooked. Our honoree has served as president, vice president, and treasurer of the Valley Stream Lions Club. His dedication and commitment to this organization is beyond measure. His enthusiasm is contagious, and it’s mostly because of him that all these programs sponsored by the Valley Stream Lions Club were so successful. He just doesn’t quit.”
Zabatta attended and graduated from Holy Name of Mary Elementary School, Valley Stream Central High School, Nassau Community College and Adelphi University.
He met his wife, Cheryl, at a pub in Valley Stream, and the two were married on May 27, 1978. They have three children — Venessa, James and Miranda — and still live in the village.
“Growing up in Valley Stream was the best,” Zabatta said. “We had the best childhood. It was the best place to grow up . . . We have nice, warm friends who are here tonight, and Cheryl and I are so glad we chose to stay here in Valley Stream. It’s the best place to live in New York.”
Zabatta’s family history dates back nearly 80 years in the village. His parents, Canio and Anne, moved to the village in 1948 from Mount Vernon. Daly explained that then, his father and his uncle Frank opened a dry cleaner and shoe repair business on Merrick Road right across the street from where the Valley Stream pool stands today. After a short while, they ventured out on their own, and his father opened his own shoe repair business on Mineola Avenue in the village. His uncle opened one in Malverne. Both were named Geronimo Shoe Repair.
Zabatta’s father’s shop was connected to the front of their home. He was raised there alongside his five siblings known as the “Five J’s”: Joe, Judy, John, James, and Joanne.
“Our honoree was a typical Valley Stream kid growing up in the’60s,” Daly said. “He played baseball for the VFW Bombers, he was in a bowling league, was a member of the Valley Stream Sea Rangers, and has fond memories of that youth organization.”
He worked with his brother, Joe, at a record store called American Vinyl for about 11 years before eventually deciding to go his own way. He opened up a custom car interior shop in Franklin Square called Phoenix Upholstery, which he has run for the last 39 years.
“He, like his dad, is great in his trade, is such a pleasant man, and always greets you with a big smile,” Daly said. “Our honoree has a genuine love for our Valley Stream community and has been actively involved throughout the years.”
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