An Oneonta native with a love of old steam engines will be honored Sunday by the Greater Oneonta Historical Society. The organization’s board of trustees has chosen artist Antonio “Tony” Mongillo as the 2013 recipient of its Albert E. Morris Award.
There will be a reception, free and open to the public, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Main Street History Center.
Since 1999, GOHS has recognized contributions to Oneonta history with the award, named for the first mayor of the city of Oneonta. Mongillo was chosen from nominations made by GOHS members for his contributions to Oneonta’s railroad history through his artwork, according to a media release.
Mongillo said he was surprised when he learned of the honor about a month ago.
“I was delighted,” he said.
He was born in 1924, growing up in the Sixth Ward, and graduated from Oneonta High School in 1942. Mongillo began working for the Delaware & Hudson in 1943, served in the US Navy from 1943 to 1946, then returned to the D&H, retiring in 1985.
He said he started drawing as a young boy, working in pencil and pen and ink. He turned his attention to the steam engines when he started to work with them at the Oneonta Roundhouse. The D&H had some of the biggest in the world, he said. But when diesel engines started to come in, their days were numbered.
He drew a few of those, but “they didn’t have the same class,” he said. When you are up close to a steam engine, “they breathe,” he said. “A diesel is like a trolley car with wheels,” he said. But people who worked on them found them cleaner and easier than steam engines.
“It was a sad day” when the last one was sold by the D&H for scrap in the 1950s, he said, but he’s doing his part to keep their charm alive.
He has also used watercolors and acrylics in his works that have included old barns and religious items, all with his same technical style. Having put the original railroad art on his computer, he mostly prints them off now, many for notecards he sends to people he knows, or whose special event catches his eye.
GOHS Executive Director Bob Brzozowski said in the past, the organization’s board of directors decided who would receive the awards. This year, it was opened to the membership. When Mongillo was nominated, the board approved it unanimously, Brzozowski said.
“His artwork celebrates Oneonta’s railroad history,” Brzozowski said.