By Dawn M Chiossi
There’s something impressive about being an outstanding citizen, it calls out a passion for community service and a love of people. Livingston’s Brian Boyle has both. He has been named UNICO’s next Citizen of the Year for 2020.
Founded in 1922 by Dr. Anthony Vastola, UNICO National is the largest Italian American Service Organization in the USA. In Italian, UNICO means unique or one of its kind. Its letters stand for Unity, Neighborliness, Integrity, Charity, and Opportunity; UNICO not only enjoys the motto of Service Above Self, it’s one they try to live by. The organization’s mission is to promote the image of Italian Americans (along with Italian heritage and culture) by supporting charitable, scientific, cultural, educational and literary projects.
Boyle is not Italian, nor is he a member of UNICO, but he has the above qualities in spades. “Everyone in Livingston knows Brian Boyle and what he does to enhance our community. He has never stopped his volunteerism here,” UNICO’s Membership Director, Matt Ladolcetta enthuses.
“I love what UNICO stands for,” Brian Boyle adds. “They do so much for people in need, donations, scholarships, they are there to help anyone who needs it.”
When asked what his reaction had been when he had heard the news that he had been honored with the Citizen of the Year award, Boyle’s reaction was purely instinctive. “Why me?”
For this humble, soft-spoken man, it’s not about recognition or awards, it’s all about the deeds involved. No stranger to helping others, Boyle is a Vietnam veteran where he received a bronze star, he is continuously active in town and has kept his hand in many various projects. “I like to keep busy,” he says modestly.
“Keeping busy” for this 35-year Livingston resident and family man means doing all he can. In addition to enjoying his family, (a wife of 46 years, three sons, and two grandchildren with another on the way), this retiree has been a volunteer little league, soccer, and baseball coach. Boyle says that over the years he has volunteered at nursing homes and at schools, interacting with the people.
For this extrovert, it’s not just about socializing or enjoying the company of others. While Boyle says that’s important to him, it’s just a bonus. What is even more important is spreading the deep love he feels for this country around wherever and whenever he can, inspiring others.
As well as being a member of the VFW, Boyle is currently serving as president of Livingston’s Old Guard. Additionally, he joined the Livingston VFW in 1986 and became All-State Post Commander in 2006. When there is celebrating to do on patriotic holidays, Boyle is front and center. From Independence Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Flag Day, Pearl Harbor Day, D-Day, Vietnam Veterans Day, Boyle enjoys it all. He even celebrates the lesser-known ones such as Loyalty Day on May 1st. For Boyle anytime is a great time to promote patriotism, as well as his pride and gratitude for his country.
Boyle explains that each February he participates in the Four Chaplin’s Ceremony. The ceremony is not something that only embraces patriotism, it also embodies altruism and generosity in its purest form, guaranteed to touch even the most stoic of hearts. Boyle explains that during World War II, four chaplains of various faiths gave up their lifejackets when the USS Dorchester was sunk by a German U Boat. Their actions were instinctive, giving up their own life-saving jackets so that others could live instead. “It is very moving,” he says.
When asked what his favorite community service activity might be, Boyle shares that he loves to speak to the students at the various schools about being a Vietnam Vet. Knowing that the school curriculum is vastly different for students nowadays, Boyle along with other veterans from World War II, Korea, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afganistan visit schools with each veteran speaking about their respective wars, so that students may learn about them.
“The students love hearing these guys speak. Their hands shoot up asking questions, and they are so interested to learn more.” Boyle enthuses. “Did you know that before I spoke, that many students didn’t even know where Vietnam was? They have no idea of the history of the Vietnam War. Hearing our experiences is a type of history lesson for the students. They love to learn about what Democracy actually is, what it stands for. It inspires them. It’s something I really enjoy,” Boyle continues. “It gives me such a meaningful purpose to inform, promote patriotism, and inspire others about our history, especially when our own history is so uncertain.”
When asked what his family thinks about his Citizen of the Year Award, Boyle is pragmatic. “They love it,” he says. “They actually think it is funny, but they are happy and excited too.” He was particularly excited about his son’s reaction who is now serving in the Army.
“My son put it on Facebook, and right away it got two hundred likes,” he quips.
Boyle was honored at UNICO’s 65th annual Citizens of the Year Awards Brunch. The celebration was held on Sunday, April 19, at the Hanover Manor in East Hanover.