A.S. A. P. Plumbing and HeatingAbsolute LandscapingBailey's Nanuet RestaurantBeckerle Lumber Supply CompanyEast Coast TowingGerard Damiani Attorney at LawHonda of NanuetHugo Messenger ServiceHyundai of NanuetKids KingdomKoester's Service StationMatthew W. Roth InsuranceMinuteman PressMirro Mechanical Corp.Nanuet Black and Gold ClubNanuet Hotel RestaurantO'Donoghue"s Restaurant and TavernPremier CollisionSpilotras PaintingStephen R. Russo, CPA, P.C.
Inductees - See All

Search by:
Last Name
Induction Year
Graduation Year

John  Panaro John Panaro
Inducted: 2003 - Graduated: 1978

A freeze frame from the John Panaro highlight baseball

reel: A hot smash deep into the shortstop hole. John races

to his right, gloves the ball backhanded on the edge of the

outfield grass, whirls in midair and fires a perfect throw to

second base to get the forceout.

That’s just one snapshot in a collector’s album of gems in

John’s athletic career at Nanuet. A three-year starter, he

was a two-time, first-teamAll-County shortstop,made secondteam

All-County as a sophomore, and culminated his career

by earning a unanimous selection from the Rockland

County coaches as Rockland Player of the Year in 1978.

That year, John batted .526 with 30 hits in 57 at bats; committed

only two errors; and anchored the Nanuet infield

with 39 putouts and 43 assists. He was a New York Daily

News first- team All-Star and led Nanuet to a share of the

only Rockland County championship in program history.

The Golden Knights, Clarkstown South andRamapo each

had 15-5 records.

In 1977, his junior year, John batted .361, drove in 21 runs

and made only one error all season for an uncanny fielding

percentage of .991. The Journal-News called that feat

“great for a major-league shortstop, unheard of for a high school shortstop,” and said of the lone miscue, “that was

on a ball most shortstops would not have reached.” John

also reached base at least 50 percent of the time in each of

his three years on varsity. He helped lead Nanuet to the

Section 9 Class B crown in both 1976 and 1977—the

school’s first two sectional baseball championships.

Teammates, coaches and opponents all held John in the

highest esteem:

• Several of his teammates asked Nanuet coach

Rich Loughlin to retire his uniform No. 15.

• One coach raved, “He’s a hell of a prospect. He’s

a real blue-chipper. He can hit, he’s got speed,

great hands and he makes the double play.”

• Loughlin, Nanuet’s head coach from 1969 to 1981,

offered this glowing testimonial after John’s milestone

1978 season: “We have some fine prospects

coming up, but let’s be honest – there will never be

another John Panaro at Nanuet High School.”

Loughlin is no less effusive today in praise of his former

star: “John was among the best shortstops to ever play in

Rockland County. He was just a great athlete. If he had played tennis or golf or some other sport, he could have

been great at it.”

Baseball was not John’s only sport. He excelled in football,

too. He was the starting quarterback in 1976 and ’77 and

also started at cornerback in 1976 and safety in ’77. John

led the ’77 team to a record of 6 wins, 2 losses and 1 tie, the

bestmark in the program’s history to that point.His athletic

exploits earned him a Jerry Leo Scholarship in 1978.

John went on to play at Eckerd College, an NCAA

Division II school in St. Petersburg, Fla. A right-handed

thrower and left-handed batter, he severely injured his

throwing arm during freshman year but persevered and

became utility first baseman his sophomore year. He

became the starting shortstop midway through his junior

season, remained a starter through his senior year and batted

better than .300 both years. The team was ranked No. 1 in

the nation in NCAA Division II his junior year.

After his collegiate career, John fulfilled an ambition by

playing professional baseball in Italy, the native country of

his father, Donato. Those two years were chock full of

memories and achievements, including a bid that fell just

shy of making the Italian Olympic team.

“It was a great way to see my heritage and get paid while I

was doing it,” John said of his ball-playing odyssey in Italy.

“It was amazing visiting my father’s hometown [Bella] and

seeing the house where he was born. In fact, after my dad

came to America as a kid, he had never been back to Italy

and I remember talking to him on the phone, trying to

explain what everything looked like almost 50 years later.

As it turns out, my father and I returned to his

hometown a few years after I was done playing

ball in Italy and it was one of the most gratifying

experiences of my life – seeing my father back in

the ‘old country’with his family and friends.”

After completing his two-year playing stint in Italy, John

launched his own tour-merchandising company, which

enabled him to travel on world tours with the Irish rock

group U2 and with Amnesty International.

Among the historical sites that John’s tours afforded

him a bird’s-eye view of were Robben Island, the isolated

outpost in South Africa where Nelson Mandela

was imprisoned for 18 years for his political beliefs;

and Sarajevo, the former capital of Yugoslavia, which was

still beset by ethnic strife several years after war in the Bosnian region.

“Seeing places like [these] makes me appreciate what we

have here inAmerica and I’mproud to consider theNanuet

area my home,” says John, who moved to Nanuet from

WashingtonHeights inNewYorkCitywhen hewas an 8-yearold

entering third grade at George W. Miller Elementary

School. He also cherishes the neighborhood friendships he

hasmade inNanuet, citing ongoing “best-friend” relationships

with three classmates from grade school onward—John

Tarasco, Jim Gilheany and Gary Bonomolo. He also says

he feels fortunate that his three siblings (Mary, Danny and

Terri) and father still live within 10 minutes of each other.

“It’s a comfort knowing family and friends are nearby.

That’s what Nanuet is all about—family and friends.”

John, who is 43, now makes his home not far fromNanuet,

in the village of New Hempstead, town of Ramapo. He

met his wife Suzanne in college and they’ve been married

for 15 years. The Panaros have three children: Annabella,

11; Luke, 8; and Suzannah, 6. John is currently the director

of operations at the PNCBankArtsCenter inHolmdel,N.J.