Retiree Gets The Picture
By Brett Bennett
Monday, November 2, 2009
FAYETTEVILLE — Fred H. Cusanelli photographs many events in Fayetteville but not for newspapers.
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Cusanelli has volunteered his time as a photographer for Fayetteville for the past six weeks.
“He has done some fabulous work,” Julie McQuade, Fayetteville community outreach coordinator, said. “We’re hoping someone doesn’t steal him away and pay him.”
Cusanelli, whose former jobs include working as a parts runner for the city’s fl eet department, inquired about volunteer opportunities in the city. He was enlisted quickly to begin shooting photos, said the city’s communications director, Lindsley Smith. Smith noticed when she started working for the city a few months ago that its Web site lacked photos and there was no database of images to work from.
Cusanelli mentioned he enjoyed photography when Smith spoke to him about his desire to volunteer.
“He’s 100 percent volunteer. He’s probably taken about 2,000 pictures,” Smith said.
Not all of his photos are used, but Cusanelli said he takes many photos so McQuade and Smith have a variety to choose from.
“I am working now more than when I was employed, and I’m having a ball,” Cusanelli said.
The 64-year-old Cusanelli previously took photos using traditional fi lm cameras. He went to a local camera store to discuss his options for getting a new digital camera and paid $1,200 for a Nikon out of his own pocket.
Since volunteering, he attended a news conference when actor and environmentalist Ed Begley Jr. visited the Fayetteville Public Library last week, and he rode in the B-17 Flying Fortress that stopped in Fayetteville on Wednesday.
One of the best parts of volunteering, he said, is any conflicts one might develop working in an o◊ce go away.
“All you get is self-satisfaction and feeling good,” he said.
Cusanelli has a diverse employment and hobby background and speaks enthusiastically about his past endeavors. One of the rooms in his home features old company awards and letters from past employers, plus trophies from bowling, which is one of his other major hobbies.
A native of Queens, N.Y., Cusanelli took a job with AT&T shortly after high school. Except for a four-year stint in the Air Force during the 1960s, he worked continuously for AT&T in New York until 1991.
The phone company tradition in the family extends to his son, who works for AT&T in Fayetteville. His mother and grandmother also worked for the phone company.
On his wall is a framed letter from one of his former supervisors, thanking him for his efforts on a trans-Atlantic phone cable project. Cusanelli saw many transitions and upgrades in how phone service was delivered to customers.
He also saved a letter from an Air Force superior, Paul Airey.
“He was the first chief master sergeant of the Air Force,” Cusanelli said.
Cusanelli went back to the phone company after getting out of the Air Force. After many years of work, the company o◊ered an early retirement program in 1991, and he accepted it, determining it was time to leave New York.
Cusanelli’s brother had married a woman from Prairie Grove who he met while in the Air Force. They moved back to Prairie Grove and fell in love with Fayetteville while visiting the area.
His mother, Dorothy Cusanelli, also moved to Fayetteville before he did. She works as a switchboard operator for the University of Arkansas.
New York had its drawbacks, he said, as it was very crowded and expensive, even though the potential to make more money existed. Crime was also a major problem. Working nights for the phone company in Queens, Cusanelli said he was robbed going home more than once. He was stabbed three times and was once robbed at gunpoint, he said.
He developed a love for cars and hot rods and owned cars while living in Queens, but thieves kept stealing them, he said. One of his favorite old cars was a 1967 Corvette he bought after coming homefollowing his time in the Air Force.
Cusanelli drives his Buick to many of the events he photographs, but he now has another Corvette, a 1999 model he keeps in the garage and drives when the weather is right.
Upon moving to Fayetteville, he got a job working for two years on the phone lines for the UA. He also worked for the U.S. Postal Service but left after he met the minimum age and years of service requirements to retire.
He also sold alarms for an alarm company, but his favorite job besides the phone company was working as the parts runner for the city’s fleet department. He picked up parts and supplies for the various pieces of equipment and vehicles used by the city. The mechanics in the fleet department keep the city’s vehicles operating.
His son attended Fayetteville High School. They played together on several bowling teams in the 1990s and won many bowling trophies.
“He has had a 300 game,” Cusanelli said of his son’s perfect bowling score.
Cusanelli said he has a bad knee due to an old basketball injury and credits his doctors with keeping him going. He gave one of his doctors a bowling pin for helping him continue to bowl.
His basketball memories include playing on church teams at Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church in Queens as a youth. His teammates called themselves the Woodside Warriors.
include Ronald Grabe, who went on to be an astronaut for NASA, and Terence Reynolds, chairman of the theology department at Georgetown University.
“I’ve been really lucky to have met all these people,” Cusanelli said.