Naclerio's father, Emil, was a surgeon at a hospital in New York City in the 1950's and 1960's. While Martin Luther King was in New York City years before the "I Have A Dream" speech, a man stabbed King near his heart. Dr. Emil Naclerio was called upon to do the surgery. Emil's skills as a surgeon helped save King's life. Dr. Naclerio was quoted as saying, "if he had sneezed, he could have died..."
"My father was very proud of helping to save Martin Luther King," Naclerio said. "Dr. King sent my father a thank you letter. Dr. King would occasionally keep in touch."
Naclerio still has the letters and the thank you gift from King. He remembers fondly the long distance friendship King and his dad formed. And he understands that if it not for the skills of his father, a big, important piece of American history may not have ever been written.
"My father was a great man and a great dad," said Naclerio. "But what he did he did a lot. He had a very important job and helped many people."
So King's birthday is important to Naclerio for several reasons. It's a time to celebrate one of America's greatest historical figures and a chance for Naclerio to reflect on how special his dad was.
Naclerio has been one of the best high school basketball coaches in the country too. He has helped such talent like Syracuse's James Southerland progress into a division one player.
But he does put his job of coaching one of the best high school basketball teams in New York City in perspective with his father's previous occupation. "It's great to win basketball games," he said. "I want to win all the time. But my father was having wins that were much more important."
And one of the biggest wins by Emil Naclerio helped this country on its way to celebrate a very important birthday every January...
Naclerio will be honored tomorrow with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award given by the Hollywood Full Baptist Cathedral at their annual breakfast in Melville, Long Island.