Carmen Basilio is a name that will always resonate through the Village of Canastota. When the boxing champion died in November, fans grieved across the country and especially in his hometown. Cara Thomas takes us to the memorial service that celebrated the life of the legendary athlete.
CANASTOTA, N.Y. -- More than 60 years ago, from the small Village of Canastota, a young man fought his way to a world championship.
Ed Brophy, Executive Director of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, said, "He was the great star TV favorite of the 1950s, a welterweight, middleweight champion of the world, put Canastota on the boxing map."
And people across the country knew his name.
"When you said you were from Canastota, immediately somebody would say Carmen Basilio and your shoulders would go back and you'd be so proud," said Brophy.
That's because people in Canastota knew Carmen Basilio for the man he was, inside and out. He was a family member, a friend and a hero.
"Not just in the ring, I think what we've all come to know is, Carmen, no matter what he was doing he did it with a big heart," said a friend of Basilio.
Victoria Basilio, Carmen Basilio's niece, said, "My uncle really lived his life in a way that was incredible. He said what he meant, he meant what he said. He did what he said he was going to do. He really was that type of man."
Basilio died back in November at the age of 85. At a memorial service held in his honor, people shared stories of the man who changed their lives forever. They remembered how he gave every last fan a signature, treated anyone as if they were a part of his family and never let fame get to his head.
"I would always wish upon a young boy to live in a small village that had a hero like Carmen Basilio. He was our hero and everybody looked up to him and it meant so much. And it really builds pride within a community," says Brophy.
Family members say Basilio always held a special place in his heart for his hometown. While he moved to Irondequoit in his later years, he always came back to visit family, friends and fans at the International Boxing Hall of Fame, where they say he will forever be their hometown hero.