Photo of Claudia Fortunato-Napolitano, provided by Claudia.
I knew Caitlyn Shea, Executive Director of the Northport Historical Society had been seeking an events coordinator for months. I was delighted to hear she’d found one, and that it was someone wonderful!
Not only was it someone wonderful, it was a wonderful story of triumph:
At 34, Claudia Fortunato-Napolitano was Executive Director of the Huntington Historical Society – a role that seemed a perfect fit. Then, a massive stroke in 2017 disrupted everything.
It was devastating – especially as she was so young! Her right side was significantly impacted, as was her speech. Regaining basic capabilities that most of us take for granted became a full-time job. In addition to so many other things, she had to relearn not only how to move her lips to talk, but how to reroute thoughts to her mouth!
She says she was an “impatient patient” and gives thanks for those who put up with her. It was frustrating! Honestly, though, she was grateful simply to be alive and more than a little terrified that a second stroke might come and end her life before she could recover sufficiently.
Despite tremendous challenges, Claudia realized each moment was a privilege. I imagine this has helped her so consistently seem to give this life her all. Heaven knows, she has persisted ever since!
Making the Most of Things
Ever an enthusiastic doer, and determined to make the most of things, about 18 months after the stroke Claudia took a position with John’s Crazy Socks, which hires many folks with differing abilities. There, in addition to other duties, she shared her story in an amazing series of videos that you can still find on Facebook and YouTube. She traveled as much as she could – London is one of her very favorite places — and took on a dog named after the famous city.
Seven years have passed since that fateful day. People I speak to tell me they’re amazed at what Claudia’s continued to accomplish physically, even just in the last six months. The Event Coordinator position – no small task, especially at that go-getting society – was a huge testament to that.
Alas, It Wasn't Meant to Be
Caitlyn gave a sad face when she reported that Claudia later came and apologized because she couldn’t take the job after all.
“Is it still too much?” I asked? I hadn’t seen Claudia myself since mid-pandemic.
“No!” Caitlyn brightened. “She actually had the best reason ever. She got hired where she should be!”
“She’s the new Executive Director of the Greenlawn/Centerport Historical Association!!!”
“Omigosh. You guys are going to have fun!”
What A Gift -- Thank You Claudia!
…I’ve been meaning to follow up on a hundred things since that talk. I never got to do so with Claudia intentionally. Instead, I came into a lovely, boisterous meeting and saw someone talking animatedly.
Could it? Was it? Omigosh….she looked even better than I’d hoped.
It was so awesome to see Claudia in action. The world was robbed when she was sidelined, even as she’s managed to inspire all around from the moment she simply lived.
Now, she’s back. Like, really. Back. I’m sure she can list things she’s continuing to work on, but, omigosh, I’m so excited for everyone.
I’m grateful Claudia is allowing me to share this story, and for all the work she’s done to have it to tell.
It was so cool to hear what she’s working on in her new role. Stephanie Gotard of the Huntington Historical Society was there, too.
On the whole, we are so blessed to have these dynamic women and others running these organizations. They bring our communities together to preserve and learn from our past, continue to broaden our perspectives, and make it fun for all involved. Sometimes, they make history themselves.
Check ‘em out. Please support them: