Studying and collecting coins and paper money first caught the attention of Gerald D. Vaccarella of Brighton when he was just 9 years old.
His interest grew with his membership in the Rochester Junior Numismatic Association where he shared his appreciation in the designs and history of currency, as well as medals and related objects. He became association president in 1959-60 during his junior year at the former West High School in Rochester.
He later joined the Rochester Numismatic Association, serving in various capacities throughout the years, becoming its 104th president in 2015. In keeping with tradition in honoring its presidents, the associated presented Vaccarella with a beautiful portrait medal during a banquet May 19. The event was attended by members of Vaccarella’s family, including his three children and grandchildren.
The medallion features a likeness of Vaccarella and two small symbols specific to past accomplishments — an Eagle Scout representing his long association with the Boy Scouts of America and a fountain pen with ink as a reflection of his lifelong interest in writing which includes publishing numerous articles on historical topics.
The presidential medals series is a long-running tradition of the Rochester Numismatic Association, founded in 1912 by Dr. George P. French, its first president and medal recipient. Each president since has been honored with a portrait medal, most struck in bronze, but there have been variations in gold, silver, copper and one unique pewter and lead combination. Medals are also commissioned to celebrate RNA milestones.
Vaccarella, a Brighton resident for 44 years, was an elementary school teacher and administrator for the Rochester City School District and an adjunct professor of education at St. John Fisher College. He has also presented several lectures on historical topics.
French graduated in 1988 from Columbia Medical College, interned at St. Mary’s Hospital — now part of the Rochester Regional Health system — and ran a private practice for 24 years, still finding time to collect coins, stamps and curios.
Vaccarella said French’s numismatic speciality was U.S. large cents and his collection was noted for being one of the finest of its kind. French succeeded in getting the Rochester association to be the second branch in the American Numismatic Association, behind only Chicago which founded the ANA in 1891.
Another founder of the RNA, which started with 32 charter members, was John C. Woodbury, who became the ninth president in 1920. Woodbury was the father of Margaret Woodbury Strong, founder of The Strong National Museum of Play.