By Rose S. Prinzi
Tom Brokaw coined the phrase “The Greatest Generation” when he penned his book with the same title. In it, he recounted numerous stories about a generation of Americans who came of age during the most turbulent time in the United States’ history. They lived through the Great Depression and the Second World War.
Just like those stories recorded by Mr. Brokaw of Americans from a past era; so, too, does the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation hold in our files stories of many local residents of a period long past. Samuel F. Bonavita, Esq. is one of those individuals.
Prior to his passing, Mr. Bonavita established a designated fund at the Foundation to support an annual lecture series. This lecture series is sponsored by the
Robert H. Jackson Center.
Mr. Bonavita served in the U.S. Army during World War II and received five battle stars for campaigns in Europe achieving rank of First Lieutenant. He was from Warren County. The same county Robert H. Jackson was born in. As circumstances would have it, Bonavita met Jackson while serving as a civilian attorney for the U. S. Military in Bavaria, Germany. At the time, Jackson was the chief prosecutor for the United States at the Nuremberg war crimes trials against Nazi leaders at the concluding of World War II. Bonavita attended the trials.
After acting as the U.S. War Department Claims Commissioner for Austria, Mr. Bonavita returned to Warren County. He was District Attorney for 14 years. In 1969, Governor Raymond Shafer appointed him as Judge of the 37th Judicial District for that year. During his career, he garnered sixty years of legal service to the Warren County area.
According to Greg Peterson, president of the Robert H. Jackson Center, “Sam was always very proud and honored to discuss some brief, but meaningful, interactions he had with Justice Jackson. He recognized the impact Justice Jackson and the Nuremberg Trials had on our world, and it was his desire to help others understand the importance of that impact.”
Therefore, it is no surprise that Mr. Bonavita established a designated fund at the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation. The Robert H. Jackson/Samuel F. Bonavita Lectureship Fund annually commemorates the anniversary of the Nuremberg Trials and honors Justice Jackson. This designated fund perpetuates the words, work and legacy of Robert H. Jackson. The series focuses on International or Constitutional law and is held in the Warren area.
Mr. Bonavita’s life was filled with service to his community, as reflected by the diverse list of memberships and affiliations he maintained. He was a Charter Member of the Jaycees, Life Member of the VFW, American Legion, and the Sons of Italy. He was also solicitor for Pleasant Township, Conewango Township School District, North Warren Water Authority, and Warren Zoning and Planning Commission. He was a member of St. Joseph R.C. Church and the Governor’s Justice Commission.
In keeping with Mr. Bonavita’s wishes, The Robert H. Jackson Center will be hosting Judge Thomas Saylor, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice, on Thursday, Feb. 11th, at 7:00 p.m., at the Warren County Court House.
To learn about contributing or creating your own designated fund, contact the Community Foundation at 661-3390 or go to www.crcfonline.org.