By DANIELLE S. TEPPER
It’s hard not to notice pink ribbons lining the streets of the borough of Bath recently. In conjunction with breast cancer awareness month, Turn Bath Pink is officially underway. The massive volunteer-driven fundraiser is being spearheaded by a woman with her own breast cancer story—and big ties to Bath.
Mayor Fiorella Reginelli-Mirabito (or ‘Fi,’ as she’s affectionately known by just about everyone) didn’t set out to get into politics. In fact, call her a politician to her face and a little bit of her Italian fire comes out—Fi was born in Teramo, Italy [right]. She moved to America with her parents in 1968 and has lived in Bath ever since.
“I entered first grade at George Wolf School that year. I didn’t speak a word of English, but they embraced me and by second grade, I was fluent,” she explained. “You know, when you’re a child, you absorb like a sponge and there was also my willingness to want to learn and want to become a part of America.”
She also happened to live next door to then Mayor Archie Leigh: “I was in awe of all the things he showed me, all the places he went to, all the people he met, and I said to him, ‘Archie, one day I want to be the Mayor of Bath,’ and he said, ‘I would be so very proud if you did that.’ I was just the little girl with the bike, seven or eight years old, but as I got older, the more I thought, wow, that’s really cool.”
Fi considered attending NCC for their travel and tourism program upon her high school graduation, but she opted for some on-the-job training with her relatives at Mary Fashion Travel instead. She was a travel agent for 17 years, then became a medical assistant for almost 10 years.
Towards the end of 2010, she received some unfortunate medical news: she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
At that point in time, their business of now 26 years (My Place Pizza Restaurant, run by her husband, Emanuel “Manny”) was doing well. “My husband said, you know what, let’s just worry about Fi right now,” she said. “I owe a lot to my husband. He was my guiding force, my pillar of strength. I don’t know where I would have been through all that without him. One thing you need to know about me, my family comes first in all things. They’re the life and air I breathe.”
Fi came through her diagnosis with her health and positivity intact. Not long after, the mayoral opportunity arose. “Everyone was like, ‘Fi, you’re already the mayor, you just don’t have the title,’” she laughed. So she decided to go for the title.
Fi took her oath of office in January of 2014. “My parents are very proud that I came here from Italy, a little girl, not a citizen, and made it this far. I became a U.S. citizen June 2, 1998. And I cried. I did. Because people here in America don’t know what they have. This is the greatest nation on earth. I hate to see flags burning, because this place gave me my life.”
She continued, “If I was still in Italy, I don’t know where we’d be. My parents had nothing. I just came back from Italy a few weeks ago. My heart is in Italy, because my family is still there. My parents are retired now. They just built a new home over there, so they live in Italy for six months and they live with me for six months. I’m the only child. My father says he came here to make a better life for his daughter, and he did. I owe a lot of it to Bath; this is where my parents made their money, this is where I grew up, this is where I became involved with Girl Scouts and the choir. And when you go through something like breast cancer, everything changes, especially what you’re thankful for. I’m thankful for this. I’m thankful for my business, that I’ve raised two sons here. I am eternally forever grateful for this place.”
That gratitude is what fuels her fire to give back to the community that has given her so much, starting with her first big project as mayor, Turn Bath Pink. Planning stages began in February of 2014.
“It’s not just for breast cancer,” said Fi. “All proceeds will go to the American Cancer Society for research of all cancers. I’m doing Turn Bath Pink because of my own issue, but I’m not stopping at breast cancer. We’re asking everybody to take part and they can wear all different colors for different cancers, not just pink.”
The events kicked off on Bath Community Day, Oct. 4, with the Pink Heals fire truck [left], a blood drive, and a pet parade. Saturday, Oct. 11 was the 5K Run/Walk. This coming Saturday, Oct. 18 will be an aerial photograph of a human cancer ribbon. The month-long activities draw to a close Oct. 25 and 26 with a Pink Auction. Visit www.turnbathpink.com for more information.
“It’s a lot,” Fi admitted. “It’s a big undertaking, but again, I have a lot of positive support and response from the community. If you don’t delegate, you don’t get things done. You can’t do it all yourself.”
The events are 100% funded by donations. “I have expended zero borough funds for this. I promised borough council that I would not spend any money. And it’s going well, really well,” Fi said. “My goal is high; I have very high hopes, but there’s a lot of dedicated people in this town. We have problems like everyone else; we’re not free of any issues. This town gets a lot of negative publicity and I don’t like it. There are a lot of great things here, but if there’s a problem in Bath, it makes the front page. I’m tired of negative. I want positive things for Bath.”
Fi has other plans for the future of Bath while she holds the mayoral title, but she squashes any idea that she has bigger political aspirations: “I’m just not interested, because I’m the type of person where I just shoot from the hip; if I don’t like something, I say it, so I can’t play the political game,” she laughed. “I’m looking no further; I like where I am. I don’t want to get involved in anything bigger; I care about little Bath.”
Mayor Fiorella Reginelli-Mirabito would like to personally thank the following chairpersons for their hard work and dedication to Turn Bath Pink:
Medical Events: Ms. Jamie Keenhold
Pink Pet Parade: Ms. Mary Kositz
Turn Bath Pink 5K Run/Walk: Dana Flynn-Vlasics
Aerial Photo of Human Ribbon: Ms. Michele Ehrgott
Photographer: Ms. Lori Stack
Pilot: Cpt. Ladlo Zamoly
Turn Bath Pink Auction: Ms. Beth Dobis-Beers, Esq.