Catholic Health Dedicates Father Baker Gaslight Park

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October 16, 2008

Though they never knew each other, Father Nelson Baker, founder of Our Lady of Victory Hospital and Baker Victory Services, and Dr. Vincent S. Cotroneo, a Lackawanna physician, shared many similarities and a lifetime of service to the community they loved. On Thursday, October 16, Catholic Health’s Continuing Care Division remembered Father Baker and honored Dr. Cotroneo with the dedication of the new Father Baker Gaslight Park and the Cotroneo Café at the OLV Senior Neighborhood on Melroy at Ridge Road in Lackawanna.

The gaslights, a central focus of the park, surround one of Father Baker’s historic gas wells drilled in 1891, which continues to provide natural gas to portions of the Baker Victory campus. Considered by many to be a miracle on Father Baker’s road to Sainthood, historical accounts tell of him pleading with church leaders for money to drill on the site following a sign he received from Our Lady of Victory that there was natural gas buried on the OLV property.

“Father Baker and Dr. Cotroneo shared a deep faith, along with a love of Lackawanna, a love of Our Lady of Victory, and certainly a love of children,” said Aimeé Gomlak, Vice President of Strategic Redevelopment for Catholic Health. “We could think of no better way to recognize their contributions to our community and this important project than to dedicate these two special parts of the campus in their name.”

The park and café are the latest additions to the Senior Neighborhood complex which includes the Victory Ridge Apartments and the Mercy Nursing Facility at OLV. When first envisioned, one of the key components of the $27.9 project to revitalize the former hospital campus, was to create a one-of-a-kind senior living community where seniors could “age in place” with needed support and community services close at hand.

The Gaslight Park and lighted walking trail along the newly rebuilt Baker Alley, which runs from Melroy to South Park, connects the OLV campus to the nearby Botanical Gardens, creating an important link between the two local landmarks. Funded by the New York State Department of Transportation, the City of Lackawanna, the Lackawanna Community Development Corporation, and the OLV Renaissance Corporation, the Gaslight Park creates new outdoor green space to be enjoyed by the campus residents, as well as friends and neighbors throughout the local community.

Cotroneo Café, the first “tenant” of the Senior Neighborhood’s “Main Street” concourse, pays tribute to Dr. Cotroneo, a family physician who served on the medical staff at Our Lady of Victory Hospital for six decades and delivered more than 5,000 babies throughout his medical career. Today, at 91 years-young, Dr. Cotroneo, still keeps in touch with many of his patients and remains one of the Senior Neighborhood’s most loyal supporters.

Celebrating Dr. Cotroneo’s love of home cooking, the café will serve light breakfasts, lunches and dinners in newly remodeled space once housing the former hospital cafeteria. Catholic Health hopes to begin construction of the remaining pieces of the “Main Street” project, which includes a chapel, barber/beauty shop, gift shop, lab collection site, and history museum, early next year. The PACE adult day program, the remaining anchor of the senior living community, is expected to open next April.