Vol. 28 | No. 1
AFANY Newsleter Spring 2021
Frank J. Russo Jr., Founder and President of the American Family Association of New York, Retires After 32 Years of Dedicated Service
It is difficult to overstate the incredibly positive impact Frank J. Russo had on the lives of New Yorkers over the last three decades. In 1989, after a talk given at Molloy College by Don Wildmon, President of the American Family Association, Fr. James Lisante asked Frank Russo to head up a Long Island chapter of the AFA. Frank was still working as a Director at NYNEX, and he agreed to do so on a part-time basis. But after retiring in 1994, Frank jumped in with both feet and created one of the most effective organizations in defense of the family that New York State has ever seen.
Frank’s stated purpose of the American Family Association of New York (AFA-NY) was to educate its members and the general public on matters pertaining to the family. He was determined to highlight those issues which affected the family in both positive and negative ways, but was driven to strongly encourage those actions conducive to building morally strong and effective families.
In 1994 Frank enlarged the AFA-NY organization to encompass the entire state of New York with the heartfelt gratitude of Don Wildmon. Frank started producing and airing the AFA-NY weekly public access television programs. The first programs were taped in Frank’s living room with the help of a devoted group of family and friends whom he recruited. But soon thereafter they began taping in the professionally equipped Cablevision television studios. Frank also began publishing an AFA-NY Newsletter, which came out two or three times each year.
After some thirty years Frank’s record of accomplishment is astonishing. The AFA-NY has produced to date some 314 public access television programs, most of which are 30 minutes in length. At its height, the AFA-NY television programs reached about four million cable viewers, some two million on Long Island, and roughly two million more in the Buffalo suburbs, Rockland County, and a part of NYC. The array of guests and topics covered on these programs was remarkable. Below is just a sampling of some of the TV guests over the years:
Dr. Joseph Varacalli, Prof. of Sociology and Dir. of Center for Catholic Studies at Nassau Community College
Chris Ruddy, Newsmax CEO
Denis Dillon, Former District Attorney for Nassau County
Congressman Dan Frisa
Congressman Peter King
Chris Slattery, Head of EMC Front-Line Pregnancy Centers
Malachi Martin, Catholic priest and writer on the Catholic Church
Rick Hinshaw, Dir. of Communications for the Catholic League
Joan and Chris Bell, Founders of Good Counsel Homes
George Marlin, Former CEO of Port Authority of NY and NJ
Dr. Marilyn O’Grady, Ophthalmologist and candidate for US Congress
Dr. Charol Shakeshaft, Educational researcher on sexual abuse
Dr. Herb London, President of the Hudson Institute from 1997 to 2011
Ed Cox, Former chairman of the NY Republican State Committee
Fr. Philip Eichner, Catholic High School President and Chairman of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights
Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League
Mother Agnes Mary, Head of the Sisters of Life
Bruce Barket, Noted Defense Attorney
Dr. Joel Brind, Expert on abortion and breast cancer
Dr. Rick Fitzgibbons, Psychiatrist and expert on homosexuality issues
Fr. Jim Lloyd, Franciscan Priest
Mike Long, Long time head of NYS Conservative Party
Judge Leo McGinity
NY Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick
In addition to the TV programs and the newsletters, Frank perpetually defended moral values and the family by appearing on dozens of radio, television, and live debate programs. Some of these programs reached a national audience and often took place in hostile environments. He was a spirited but respectful debater, always taking the high road, but never ceding the moral high ground.
Frank is incredibly bright and graduated number one in his class at the highly regarded Bishop Loughlin High School in Brooklyn, New York. He received his BEE from Manhattan College and his MBA from Baruch College. He had an enormously successful professional career and retired as a Division Manager with AT&T and Verizon.
Frank’s second career as a staunch defender of the family would, in itself, be an impressive lifetime body of work for anyone. He was the founder and president of the AFA-NY for 32 years and he served with distinction on the Executive Committee of Long Islanders for Educational Reform for about 10 years. But Frank would be the first to tell you that his ultimate lifetime achievement is his miraculous family. Frank is the single greatest example of a man who practices exactly what he preaches. His entire family is a monument to Christian values lived every day and in every way.
Frank and his wife Bette have been married for 57 years. They are devout Roman Catholics and daily communicants. They have seven children and thirty-five grandchildren, one of whom, Elie, has completed her earthly journey. Every one of their children and grandchildren are testaments to their unassailable biblical values, their love for their fellow man, and their love for, and devotion to, a compassionate and loving God
Behind Every Great Man There is an Even Greater Woman by Liz Gilges
It’s almost impossible to overstate the influence of my mother on my father’s involvement in the American Family Association of New York and in life in general.
My mother’s basic modus operandi is first to pray, second to mortify herself, and very much in third place, to act. In fact, my mother’s temperament is “phlegmatic”, meaning she is calm, peaceful, easygoing, stable and slow to act. God must have known what he was doing when he put my father and mother together!
My father’s temperament is “choleric”, meaning he is extroverted, goal oriented, and ambitious. He enjoys taking up serious controversial causes that most people wouldn’t want to touch with a ten-foot pole! So together they truly complement each other and make a good team. As I see it, my mother would pray and offer up sacrifices for the cause, while my dad would steamroll ahead, write letters to the editor, go on television and participate in debates to defend the American family, our freedoms and our faith.
Together they remind me of swans who mate for life, gracefully floating on a pond yet underneath the surface they are paddling like mad!
The Russo Family Congratulate an Extraordinary Father and Grandfather
Dear Dad, thank you for showing me the importance for standing up for what you believe in. You are a man of convictions. I admire your perseverance in defending the truth about the dignity of human life, the significance of the family and the freedom to practice one’s religion. Of course, mom was the partner par excellence since she managed everything else so you could devote time to AFA! I know that I am the person I am today because of both of your influences. And that is something I will always be grateful for. Love, Liz Gilges
Dear Frank, you have provided a wonderful example of fatherhood and how to bring good humor into all relations. My favorite thing about your home and family is the dinner table and all the laughter. Congratulations on starting something in the AFA that has made a real difference. With love and admiration. Kent Gilges
Dad, Congrats on your well-deserved retirement from AFA! You were president of the NY Chapter almost as long as I’ve been alive. I admire you for fighting for the most important issues of our time and never giving up despite the militant opposition to our deepest held beliefs. You taught me at a young age that strong nuclear families are the key ingredient to a healthy society. But I didn’t fully understand this until I had kids and now see the challenges they face from the barrage of attacks on the unborn, families, and religious freedom. Thank you for inspiring us with your moral courage and perseverance to continue fighting for the traditional American family.
Love, John Russo
Dad, restoring respect for life, marriage, religious education and religious liberty may seem like an uphill battle, but the importance of doing so is abundantly clear. Kudos to you for fighting the good fight. I am grateful that you founded the American Family Association of New York and made it such a strong and influential voice for families trying to raise children with Biblical values in today’s climate. Love, Chris Russo
In the modern world you may not hear anyone wonder out loud, “Quid est veritas?” But this ancient, sardonic question lies at the foundation of most of our modern troubles. My father has dedicated his life to spreading the great truths about faith, family and true freedom. His arenas of choice were the town school board meetings, the public access channel, the AFA newsletters and – back in the day – televised clashes with Phil Donohue and head to head debates with the president of the ACLU. He was motivated only by his tremendous gratitude for the gift of his own faith, his great love for his family, and his concern for the diminishing freedoms caused by the false promises of an omnivorous secular society. He has fought the good fight, and we are all the better for it. Thanks, dad. Frank J. Russo, III
Frank, thank you for teaching my children to stand up for their beliefs and for the most vulnerable. Congratulations on your retirement from AFA! Maureen Russo
Congratulations on retiring after three decades of great work! We Love you! Madeline, Sophia, Kathleen, James, Joseph and Michael Russo
Dear Dad, I am extremely proud to have a father like you, who cares so deeply about moral issues. In particular, your passion for promoting the sanctity of human life, school choice and traditional marriage has made a lasting impression on me. Now that we’re the ones paying for Catholic school for our five kids, we get why this issue matters so much. You have been my greatest example to always stand up for what you believe in. I see one person really CAN make a difference. Love, Tara Sayani
Congratulations Dad on retiring as President of the AFA of New York after more than 30 years of service! I have seen firsthand how much energy and time you devoted to defending what is true, good and beautiful in life. You have fought the good fight. You have cheerfully, eloquently and courageously promoted the right to life, marriage, educational freedom and other noble causes for as long as I can remember. But your example speaks louder than your words. Among your many virtues, I especially appreciate how you adore mom and show her constant affection. Even after more than 50 years of marriage, I get a kick out of how you hold mom’s hand on your daily walks. I also admire how you have always kept your word; I honestly can’t remember a time when you promised you would do something and you didn’t do it. As I grow older, I realize that I really hit the jackpot with you as my father. I love and respect you very much.
Dad, I am very grateful to you for many things. Aside from your love for mom and your dedication to us kids and now to your grandkids as well, I am thankful for your powerful example of what it means to stand up for what one believes. Like Mr. Smith did in Washington, you have proven that one man really can make a difference. Whether it be through your dealings with schools, colleges, newspapers, tv shows, the political arena, churches, bishops, or the public library – you have always lived what you believe. You have instilled this in our family through your unrelenting determination to chip away at injustice and immorality wherever you saw it. I always knew you forged onward in this way in part because your conscience dictated it and also because your vocation called you to do so. Now as a parent myself, however, I see that you were also undoubtedly fighting these threats to moral decency in order to leave a better world for your children and their children. Despite the continuing decay of the current moral ethos in our world, I do not despair thanks to you, Dad. In passing on to me the desire to fight for Truth and Justice, and the belief that indeed one man or woman can make a difference, you have planted in me a virtue that is sadly lacking in much of mankind today – the virtue of hope. If Edmund Burke was correct that “the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing,” then despite the many trials we are currently facing in our nation, I have no doubt that with God on our side, and just a few Frank Russo’s in the world, we truly have nothing to fear! So proud of you, Dad! Love, Kristin Gomez
Dear Papa, I am so grateful that you’re my grandfather. The Lord blessed me with such a wonderful papa. I love you sooooooooo much. Love, Rosie Gomez (age 10)
Congratulations, Papa! I am so happy you can finally retire … again! Love, Matthias Gomez (age 12)
I admire all you do for your family and for all families, Papa! Enjoy your new “retirement”! Love, Philip Gomez (age 14)
Congratulations Papa! We are all so proud of you and grateful for the many lives you have touched through the American Family Association! Love, Paulina Gomez (age 16)
Congratulations Papa! I am so proud of you! You have done a great service for our nation by supporting its cornerstone -the family! Love, Andrew Gomez (age 19)
Congratulations, Papa! So proud of all you have done to promote family values. Love, Patrick and Miranda Gomez (both age 22)
Other Congratulatory Notes to Frank Russo from Those Who Know Him Best
For decades, Frank Russo has been a faithful and tireless champion for biblical truth about the sanctity of human life, human sexuality and gender, and the critical importance of natural marriage and the institution of the family as designed by God. Never afraid to endure the ridicule and hostility of those who trafficked in the lies that hold men and women in bondage, Frank has been an inspiration to more than just a city, but a nation of Christians desperate to see courage reflected on the culture war battlefield. God bless you!
Ed Vitagliano, National AFA Executive Vice President
The first time I encountered the word “ubiquitous,” it was being applied to an ambitious politician who was popping up everywhere on Election Night, anxious to be seen with as many victorious candidates as possible. Frank Russo, in contrast, has been ubiquitous in the most laudatory sense. He “seems to be everywhere” because he has in fact been just about everywhere—writing, speaking, organizing, advocating—defending the sanctity of life, the integrity of the family, traditional morality, parental choice in education, religious liberty. Moreover, busy as he is, he has always been there to support the efforts of others, as I can personally attest. Most impressively, Frank lives the faith and values he defends—as is so evident from the glowing testimonies on these pages from all his children and many other family members. And what a family! Their shared commitment to defending the faith and values he and Bette instilled in them, and passing them on to their own children, is Frank and Bette’s greatest legacy.
Rick Hinshaw, Former Editor, The Long Island Catholic
Frank Russo, for over three decades at the helm of the American Family Association of NY has been a true hero in the fight for the traditional family, choice in education, marriage between a man and a woman, and the defense of the sanctity of unborn life and the infirm. He has with great dedication and skill engaged in letter campaigns, television and radio programing, and direct engagement with the political, education and media establishment. He has used intelligence, good facts, wit, and persuasive dialogue. Always the gentleman, in an age of verbal cross swords, Frank’s voice of sanity will be sorely missed.
Chris Slattery, Director – EMC Front Line Pregnancy Centers/Free Abortion Alternatives
Congratulations Frank for more than 30 years of service in defense of the family through your outstanding leadership of the AFA.As you indicated in your last newsletter, you’ll be passing the torch but we know you will never put out the fire for what you believe. And that is so important as we face the harsh realities of today. Your untiring commitment to the issues of parental school choice, exposing the leftists lobby agenda and your voluminous prolife activities most certainly demonstrate your fervor and dedication to your Catholic faith by your most vocal and visible actions. We sincerely thank you for you sought to convey the truth above all else. You had a great run, took the heat, and stood firm in your beliefs. You are to be commended for all you have accomplished.
We wish you, Betty and family all the best in your future endeavors and may God bless you in all you do.
Rich Caunitz, AFA of NY Board Member
More than 30 years ago, Frank Russo put his remarkable enthusiasm for preserving and defending the family into founding the NY chapter of the American Family Association. Frank dedicated an enormous amount of his time and energy to the AFA of NY, working to educate the public on how various issues impact the family in America. For more than three decades, three of the most important issues Frank advocated for were; the protection of innocent unborn life, the protection of traditional marriage, and the freedom of parents to school choice. Frank, the father of seven children and thirty-five grandchildren, attributes much of the AFA’s success to prayer and the willingness of others to get involved. Whatever the issue, his solid understanding of Catholic teaching was behind everything he did. Frank’s love for, and defense of, the Catholic faith have been a driving force in his tireless work and an inspiration to us all. We thank God for his time, talent, and treasure and pray for more selfless people like him to stand up for family, faith, and freedom.
Patty Knap, AFA of NY Board Member
Frank Russo’s passion has always been grounded in family life. It is said that the family is the basic cell of human social organization. Frank tirelessly sought to promote political and legislative action to safeguard family values especially for the respect of unborn life and to the effective freedom of choice in the education of children. It is in this spirit of continuing the fight for the traditional family that I wholeheartedly congratulate Frank Russo for his 30 + years of service in defense of the family.
Steve Scarallo, AFA of NY Board Member
For decades, Frank has personified the gold standard in his tireless and resourceful efforts to foster the conservative principles necessary for the preservation of our ethical, cultural heritage. In so many ways, Frank’s persistent and inspiring leadership, strong advocacy for morality in media, school choice, pro-life activism, anti-defamation and wholesome family values have immeasurably benefited hundreds of thousands of people. We are all in his great debt and look to further his challenging but very worthwhile work for the benefit of all who continue to support the efforts of the American Family Association of New York. May God continue to bless Frank and his wonderful family!
An AFA of NY Board Member
Abortion – The issue That Will Not Die
Adapted from AFA.net article by Dr. Jerry Newcombe
President Donald Trump and his administration were surprisingly pro-life. In contrast, President Joe Biden, although he is a Catholic, has become so pro-abortion that he believes in abortion for any reason up to the very moment of birth – and that you and I should pay for it. Vice President Kamala Harris is even more radically anti-life.
A major reason controversy over abortion will not die is because it was imposed on the American people by judicial fiat. January 22, 1973, brought us one of the worst decisions of the Supreme Court: Roe v. Wade (allowing abortions in the first trimester, and its companion decision of that same day, Doe v. Bolton – allowing abortions in second and third trimesters, if doctors approve).
Since that dark day, more than 60 million babies have been killed in their mother’s womb. Where’s the most dangerous place to be in America today? In your mother’s womb. It should be the safest.
Perhaps the biggest reason abortion will never die as an issue is because the truth and science are against the “pro-choice” position. It is a baby being killed. And everyone knows it.
Ultrasound images reveal the humanity of the unborn more and more. Generally, the abortion industry tries to keep pregnant women, would-be-clients, from seeing these moving images. Why? Because when the women realize the humanity of the unborn, they tend to not go through with the procedure.
Our founders said in our nation’s birth certificate, the Declaration of Independence (upon which the Constitution is predicated), that the Creator has endowed us with certain inalienable rights. The first one listed is the right to life. If you take away the right to life, as they do in abortion, you effectively remove all the other rights. May God help America to repent from abortion and put this bloody mess behind us.
Joe Biden Places Women and Children in Danger
Adapted from the AFA.net
President Joe Biden has issued an executive order that puts women and children in grave danger. By signing his directive, “Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity,” the president is allowing men to go into women’s restrooms and changing areas on federal property, including any public high school and university that receives federal funding.
This means a man can simply say he “feels like a woman today” and enter the women’s restroom…even if young girls or women are already in there. President Biden’s policy is exactly how sexual predators can get access to their victims. They use these kinds of laws, which are meant to pander to the LGBTQ community, in order to get into striking distance to their victims.
Countless incidents have been recorded in which men have entered women’s areas and committed crimes of voyeurism, assault, and rape. President Biden is ignoring common sense. Retail giant Target implemented this dangerous policy in 2016 and it led to women and children being victimized in their stores.
School Choice Advances in the States
Adapted from a March 29, 2021 WSJ Editorial
An editorial in the Wall Street Journal entitled “School Choice Advances in the States” describes how school shutdowns during the pandemic were a boon to school choice initiatives. The shutdowns, driven mostly by Democrat governors and school labor unions, led to some long overdue reform in many state legislatures. Arizona, Indiana, Missouri, West Virginia, Georgia, South Dakota, Kentucky, and Florida, are just some of the states which passed legislation supporting a wide array of school choice initiatives. Funds have been allocated for: private-school tuition, tutors, state voucher programs, state tax-credit scholarship programs, education savings accounts, and much more. The past year saw thirty states introduce nearly fifty school-choice bills. This surge highlights the desperate and urgent need to break the stranglehold government unions have on education, and for parents to have a wider array of educational opportunities for their children.
Arizona Stops Sexual Predators
Based in Arizona, Operation Broken Hearts succeeded in 37 arrests connected to human trafficking and sex crimes. Phoenix police and other Arizona authorities hosted an undercover sting operation in search of individuals seeking sex with minors. According to police, suspects ages 21 to 66 were arrested on the grounds of “solicited and/or brokered deals for various sex acts.”
Killing Babies Is Not Health Care
Vice President Kamala Harris boasted in a January tweet that the Biden administration would commit itself to abortion and “health care” for all. Tennessee
Gov. Bill Lee (R) quickly corrected the VP’s error in his own tweet: “Abortion isn’t health care.” He followed with another tweet inviting people to join him “in supporting health care for Tennessee women and the unborn by donating $48 to @hopeclinic today.”
American Family Association of NY News
After serving for more than 13 years as Vice President, Connell Friel assumed full operational control of the AFA of New York from Frank Russo in March of 2021.
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Vol. 28 | No. 2 AFANY Newsleter Fall 2021Download the Fall 2021 AFANY NewsletterRelated NewslettersAll...
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in Favor of School Choice, New York is Losing People, Oldest Living Paulist Priest, AFA of NY’s New 2021 President — Connell Friel, Key Moral Topics Discussed at
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