By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Anthony Pizzolato said he isn’t going to let “a little thing” like Multiple Sclerosis keep him down. “I’m able to get out of bed everyday because God wants me to. And I’ll keep getting out of bed as long as he wants me to,” Pizzolato, 75, said.
Bay Ridge boasts one of the largest senior citizen populations in Brooklyn with over 40,000 people over the age of 65 living in the community. Pizzolato, who lives at Shore Hill, the rent subsidized senior citizen apartment house on Shore Road in Bay Ridge, is typical of many of the older adults in the community – independent and proud.
Pizzolato was diagnosed with M.S. when he was just 19 years old. “I’ve had it for more than 50 years. I can walk because of God. I’ve had a good life, in spite of the M.S. Until recently, I was riding motorcycles. I used to go boating. I skied. I was pretty active. Now, I need a cane to walk. But I can still walk,” he said.
He grew up on Fort Hamilton Parkway and 66th Street and attended Grady High School, a vocational school. “I learned how to be a machinist but I didn’t like it. The oil would spill all over you. I got a machine shop job when I graduated. I wasn’t that great at school, to tell you the truth. My mind wasn’t on school. It was on the streets,” he said.
His buddies called him by his nickname “Pizzy,” a shortened version of his name. No one called him Tony, however. “I was always called Anthony. My mother insisted that I be called by my full name and that’s the way it was,” he said.
All Pizzolato wanted to do was hang out with his buddies on the street corner and make frequent trips to the local candy store, where you could buy a piece of chocolate for two cents. He also loved playing baseball. “For a while, I thought I could be a professional ballplayer. But I realized that I was good, but not outstanding. I played centerfield. I was fast on my feet. I wasn’t scared of playing the outfield. I was scared of coming to bat. We didn’t wear hard batting helmets in those days. I saw guys who were hit with balls and never came back. They never played again,” he said.
“I made sure I graduated high school,” he added.
Pizzolato worked at a variety of jobs throughout the years, including becoming a butcher’s assistant. “I worked in a machine shop. I worked for a guy who made the cornices used to hang drapes,” he recalled.
At the age of 19, he received the devastating news that he had M.S. “My father didn’t even want to tell me. Back then, M.S. was thought of as a death sentence. You were never going to get better. But finally, my father told me. He had to. We knew something was wrong with me. My hands would tremble. When I got the news, I decided to accept it and make the best of it. To this day, I don’t let anything get me down,” he said.
M.S. didn’t stop him from serving his country. In the 1950s, he joined the U.S. Army National Guard. “I drove tanks,” he said.
Pizzolato, who never married, has lived in Shore Hill for 17 years. He lived on 16th Avenue in Bensonhurst prior to moving back to Bay Ridge.
A devout Catholic, Pizzolato attends mass every Sunday at Saint Patrick Church on Fourth Avenue and 95th Street.