Locate Finger Lakes Business Journal

MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Fran Barbieri wins 17th annual George Bailey Award

SENECA FALLS — In a private ceremony kept simple due to COVID-19 restrictions, Frances “Fran” Barbieri was presented the 17th annual George Bailey Award recently.

The full ceremony was videotaped and will be shown at 11 a.m. Saturday during the “It’s A Wonderful Life” virtual festival. Visit the It’s A Wonderful Life Museum website to view the presentation, to see a detailed program for the Festival, and to find information on free registration.

Barbieri, who works at the Seneca Falls Historical Society and is the Seneca Falls historian, was honored for a long history of promoting and helping her hometown, just as George Bailey did in the 1946 Frank Capra film. Many feel the movie’s fictional community of Bedford Falls was based on Seneca Falls.

Fran Barbieri

This year’s George Bailey Award recipient, Fran Barbieri, is flanked by her sisters, Deb (left) and Pat. Deb received the award in 2015.

“You spent your entire life helping this community in so many ways, very often behind the scenes, and isn’t that what George Bailey did?” said the first George Bailey Award recipient, Bob McKeveny, who presented Barbieri with the award in a surprise ceremony with her sisters, Pat and Deb, present; Deb won the award in 2015.

“I’ve known you for more than 50 years. No one’s life emulates George Bailey more than you,” said 2018 George Bailey Award recipient Fred Capozzi. “You do so much for the quality of life of our community.”

Barbieri received messages from former state Sen. Mike Nozzolio, a Seneca Falls native, and Karolyn Grimes, the actor who played Zuzu Bailey in the movie and who visits Seneca Falls every year for the It’s A Wonderful Life Festival.

“Fran has touched everyone’s life. She’s touched my life,” Grimes said. “She is an angel in real life. Thanks Fran for being who you are.”

“Through your lifetime, you’ve made our hometown of Seneca Falls a better place,” Nozzolio said.

In accepting the award, Barbieri commented on the importance of the message in the movie.

“You need something for your soul, and this movie takes care of your soul,” Barbieri said.

The George Bailey Award was created in 2004 by the IDEA Center for the Voices of Humanity to honor an individual who embodies the spirit of George Bailey by consistently contributing to the lives of his or her neighbors, and without whom Seneca Falls would be a very different place. The IDEA Center also runs the It’s A Wonderful Life Museum at 32 Fall St.

Chairman’s Note:

LOCATE Finger Lakes is pleased to congratulate Fran Barbieri as the recipient of this year’s George Bailey award. The award, an important component of the annual “It’s a Wonderful Life” holiday celebration in Seneca Falls, recognizes an individual who best reflects George Bailey’s lifelong contributions to their community. Fran unquestionably epitomizes those qualities. Fran has worked tirelessly on behalf of the community and I have been my honored by her friendship through the years from the time of our school days in Seneca Falls. Congratulations Fran, very well deserved!

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