Forum Photos by Nicole SanPhillipo-Volynsky
Above left: Tracy Catapano-Fox puts on her robes for the first time while sons, Ben and Ethan, husband Charlie waitand Hon. Augustus C. Agagte wait patiently. Top: Judge Tracy Catapano-Fox Below: A mentor swells with pride
By Patricia Adams
“Draw near give your attention and ye shall be heard! ’Cause here comes the judge.” The words that drew the first round of thunderous applause at the induction ceremony of Tracy Catapano-Fox prepared dozens of invited guests for the entrance of justices to the court as the ceremony to install Catapano-Fox to the bench got underway last Wednesday afternoon.
Leading off the ceremony was Fr. Francis Colamaria, pastor of St. Helen’s Church in Catapano-Fox’s native Howard Beach, who was called upon to deliver the invocation for the ceremony. “It gives me great pleasure to do this invocation for Tracy”, said Colamaria, “and the reason why, is that it gives me great pleasure to see that one of the members of Howard Beach is now in this side of the bench.” While Colamaria was the first to set a light-hearted and humorous tone for the event, Justice Jeremy Weinstein added to the mood when he reminded those gathered that there was still time to get into the betting pool for “who cries first today, Tracy’s mom or Judge Agate.”
Hon. Jeremy Weinstein presided over the ceremony, remarking first that the frigid weather didn’t keep the large crowd from braving the cold to honor the most deserving and newest addition to the civil bench. “She’s done everything she could to get here. Working at every possible level within the court system, to arrive at this day.”
Weinstein introduced speaker after speaker who told different stories about Catapano-Fox, sharing personal memories and her praising her accomplishments. But no matter the speaker, their words or the stories, there was an undeniable thread, one that was indelibly etched in every remark. And that thread is woven into a richly embossed tapestry that is the career and the persona of Tracy Catapano-Fox. A tapestry that reveals a life of compassion, integrity, knowledge of the law, fairness, honesty, wisdom, respect, love of community and dedication to family.
But perhaps no one in the room, no one in the world, was prouder in their story telling and reminiscing than the man who is a friend and a mentor, the Hon. Augustus C. Agate. “I promised that I wouldn’t speak too long but I got a note from the caterers that said they needed a little longer to set up. This is a great day. It’s a great day for Tracy, one she will remember for the rest of her life. And as far as who is going to win the crying bet, Linda is going to lose.” As the first judge from Howard Beach, Agate was known to pronounce over and over again that it would be Catapano-Fox who would follow him to the bench.
And then, the time that everyone in the room was waiting for: the swearing in of the Hon. Tracy Catapano-Fox, by Justice Agate.
And when it was over, when the applause died down it was time; time for the judge to speak.
“Wow. God is so good. Thank you all so much for coming here to support me on this incredible day. You know, you have a dream and you dream for a long time and you work hard and you try to make it happen and when it comes true you just can’t believe it. My plan was to thank all of you individually but my son has a swim meet tonight and I gotta’ make this quick,” Catapano-Fox joked.
“For me everything begins and ends with family. That’s how I was raised and that’s what I believe.” She continued on by thanking husband Charlie, “my rock and the love of my life,” and then to her boys, Ben and Ethan, “my boys. The greatest gift God ever gave me was to be your mom. I’m so proud of you both, and you give me joy every single day. I’ve learned more from you than I could ever teach you in this lifetime. Ben you’ve my blessing. You’ve taught me to never stop trying. To never give up…and work hard every single day…you’re strength and determination is so inspiring. I am so proud of your buddy. And Ethan you are my miracle. You’ve taught me that miracles happen. You’ve taught me that in this life you can never give up. You have to believe. No matter how hard the circumstances are…watching you overcome all the challenges and struggles that you have endured in this lifetime and then watching to achieve such success in your life—it’s extraordinary. You have made all the challenges I’ve faced in my life seem silly and I thank you both.”
Catapano-Fox went on to thank her family and many friends in the audience especially her sister Melissa and all the other family members whom she said had “harassed every voter in the district to sign her petitions to get on the ballot.”
Of her father, Fred, Catapano Fox said, “ I am so happy that my Dad is here to seethis. Dad, you’ve taught me that the most important things are family and loyalty, and I would not be who I am without you.”
Speaking of her court experience Catapano Fox said, “it would not have been what it has been without these two pillars of strength next to me. Judge Agate and Judge Weinstein. I am the luckiest person in this world to have these two men in my corner. Judge Agate you are priceless. As a judge there is no one better. I plan to follow in your footsteps on the bench. Thank you for the experience and the opportunity to work for you. It was truly and honor. Judge Weinstein you’ve always pushed me to do better. Even when I was down you never gave up on me. You never stopped believing in me. Everything I have accomplished in the courts is thanks to the opportunities and the doors you opened up for me. I thank you for the example you’ve set in making this dream come true for me.”
And finally, referring to son Ben’s impending swim meet, it was time to wrap things up. And all of a sudden, Justice Agate was not the only one crying. Trying hard to fight back the tears and perhaps displaying one of her only failures in life, Catapano-Fox wept as she began her final words for the evening.
“I’d love to thank everyone of you individually, but Ben has a swim meet. And so I need to end my speech by thanking the one person without whom none of this would ever be possible. My mother, Linda Catapano, is the greatest person who ever lived. She is brilliant. She is beautiful. She is kind and hard working…She grew up in an Italian household where she was told to put her dreams and goals aside and raise her family. And that’s what she did and still does… She raised me and my sister to constantly work harder, She taught us that failure was not an option… She sacrificed everything for us… My mom is my best friend. She is my idol. And everything you guys see good in me is because of her. So today is really for her and I am so blessed to finally be able to say, Hey Mom, we did it!”
And so yes, dreams really do come true.