Two local Catholics have been promoted to the rank of admiral, although neither is a member of the military.
Mary Hannick, a parishioner of St. Anne Parish in Rochester, and Joseph R. Esposito, a parishioner of Holy Apostles in Rochester, were both named admirals in the Navy of the state of Nebraska, an honorary title bestowed upon them by Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman. The gesture was a way for Heineman to honor the two active volunteers, who each celebrated a milestone birthday this past spring: Hannick turned 96 on April 10, and Esposito turned 89 on April 13.
“It was a very nice thing that the governor of Nebraska recognized Mr. Esposito and myself as admirals. We were really surprised,” Hannick said.
“It means something when a person takes the time to recognize you,” Esposito added. “I was flattered, and it showed that the governor had a good sense of humor.”
The honor came about after Christopher Noun of Rochester, international adviser for the Hattie Harris Good Spirits Club International, invited Gov. Heineman to participate in the organization’s annual National Thank You Day for Elected Officials in the United States, which was held this year in Rochester on April 25. During the event, proclamations are presented to governors, mayors and other elected officials from around the country as a way to thank them for their service.
“Saying thank you has long been forgotten, and we’d like to bring that back,” said Esposito who, along with Hannick, is a senior adviser for Hattie Harris.
Noun said he received a call from Stephanie Jenny, who works in Gov. Heineman’s office. Jenny let Noun know that the governor would not be able to attend National Thank You Day. During the conversation, Noun said he mentioned the upcoming birthdays of Hannick and Esposito, and Jenny offered to send them proclamations naming them admirals in the Navy of Nebraska. Noun received the proclamations on April 9, and Hannick and Esposito were presented with them on April 10.
Noun said that Hattie Harris Good Spirits Club International focuses on “encouraging international fellowship and promoting world peace.” The organization also has a goal of creating “unusual friendships with wonderful people,” he said.
“We’ve made a neighborhood out of America in a unique way,” he added.
Both Hannick and Esposito perform volunteer work above and beyond their work with Hattie Harris. Hannick serves on the Social Work Advisory Board at Nazareth College, the board of directors at Rochester’s Catholic Family Center, the board of directors at the Volunteers of America and as an honorary member of the board for the Mary Cariola Center.
Esposito, who said he is fortunate to have such good health at age 89, volunteers three days a week at the Edna Tina Wilson Living Center, which he started doing 10 years ago.
“My wife was there, and after she died, I started volunteering,” he said. “I go every other day. I wake up, and look forward to going. I wouldn’t miss my time there for anything.”