New York State Funeral Directors Association

Funeral Director Honored for Meaningful Impact in Community

People often hear about anonymous supporters helping out great causes.

These are often folks who give of themselves to benefit their community - but they stay behind the scenes because they’re not doing it for recognition. Most prefer not to not get any attention at all.

Brooklyn native John D’Arienzo, a third-generation funeral director, is among them.From Left to Right: NYSFDA Executive Director Michael A. Lanotte, MET FDA Vice-President John D'Arienzo, NYSFDA 2017-18 President-Elect Wesley A. “Andy” Powell, CFSP and NYSFDA 2016-17 President Walter J. Kent at a 2017 Meeting of the Metropolitan Funeral Directors Association.

His service includes leadership in his neighborhood church council, the local funeral directors group, a community development organization and a community service group, to name some of them.

He’s been helping his neighborhood’s families in a variety of ways above and beyond his service as a funeral director.

A New York State Funeral Directors Association member, current vice-president and 2013-14 president of the Metropolitan Funeral Directors Association; D’Arienzo is known as one uninterested in recognition.

His identity was learned in early April 2017 after he and longtime friend Andrew Anastasio – also a funeral director – were honored by their local church.

Congregants at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Brooklyn – where D’Arienzo serves on the Pastoral Council – honored both men during a Sunday event.

Facebook photos were posted of the recognition, and people later shared D’Arienzo’s longtime role as a big supporter of organizations and functions that help people in his community.

Friends say he’s a man who volunteers his time, wisdom, resources and moral support to help both young and old in his lifelong home – Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood.

Among the fixtures of this historic locality is the School Settlement Association’s Settlement House at 120 Jackson Street.

Similar to a YMCA, the “Sett,” as it’s affectionately known, is a facility run by the oldest such organization in Brooklyn – perhaps in all of New York – founded in 1901.

The facility – now the focus of a capital building project fundraising campaign – was featured in the book “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by New York novelist Betty Smith who taught immigrant children how to sew there decades ago.

Youngsters participating in after-school programs pose for a picture outside the Settlement House in Brooklyn. Photo provided by Rick Martinez.The School Settlement Association coordinates after school programs for children and families – serving roughly 1,500 people each year – with a mission that includes helping people improve their self-sufficiency.

It’s a site where D’Arienzo spent much of his time during childhood.

He’s now one of the organization’s board members, and he’s considered by some to be one of its driving forces.

It’s not unusual for those who frequented the site as children to remain and offer support as adults, D’Arienzo said.

“Children that go to School Settlement keep affiliated the rest of their lives,” D’Arienzo said.

A man of few words, the longtime funeral director described the School Settlement Association as a “life passion” of his.

With after-school programs, computer labs and classrooms, it’s a place that bestows important community values upon those who go there.

“I believe in it 100 percent,” D’Arienzo said.

It’s clear from those that know him that he also believes in the people of his community.

“John has been a great support for the program,” said Rick Martinez, the School Settlement Association’s Executive Director – another Brooklyn native who frequented the Sett as a child.

“He never likes his name in the spotlight. He’s always helped out. He’s always been there to help with any fundraising that we’ve done,” Martinez said.

Martinez said many of those involved in the School Settlement Association’s programs, himself included, started out as participants as children then rose to become counselors.

In that capacity, D’Arienzo was a great mentor, Martinez said.

“He helped encourage me to go back to school and finish my college. Anything he’s been able to do, he’s gone way beyond and above expectations.”

At events where D’Arienzo does have to speak, he quickly passes the microphone over to the kids and others involved in the programs – those for whom they were developed, Martinez said.

ATYPICAL FRIENDSHIP

Andrew Anastasio, a fourth-generation funeral director, operates a traditional-style funeral home in the Williamsburg neighborhood.Funeral director John D'Arienzo is pictured in this Facebook photo posted April 2 during an event at The Shrine Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

He said his friend John D’Arienzo operates a more contemporary one that might draw the younger generations who move into the neighborhood.

He said D’Arienzo often lends him a hand in technology-related matters.

Atypical, Anastasio said, is the fact that both he and D’Arienzo have become close friends.

The would-be rivals operate the oldest – and only – funeral homes in Williamsburg.

“We’re the only two funeral homes left in the neighborhood, and our past generations were competitors,” Anastasio said.

Anastasio said he often finds himself at wakes and funerals taking place at D’Arienzo’s funeral home – and he’ll frequently see D’Arienzo attending such functions at his funeral home.

He said D’Arienzo encouraged him to join the Metropolitan Funeral Directors Association. He’s gained important insights as a member, and he’s glad he joined.

“It’s a special relationship between two funeral directors doing business in the same area. He’s different than I am, he’s a different funeral director. I’m old-fashioned, John’s up-to-date,” said Anastasio, who describes his friend as a “great guy.”

“He does his profession proud,” Anastasio said.

The School Settlement Association is engaged in a fundraising campaign to provide the neighborhood with an updated facility. You can learn more about their efforts online at schoolsettlement.nyc.