Service, caring and URI pharmacy bind father, son

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Mario Casinelli imparts lifelong lessons to son Paul

KINGSTON, R.I. – February 29, 2016 – Retired Army Gen. Paul Casinelli vividly remembers taking trips to his father’s drugstore in Cranston as a child. He would stand behind the counter and teach himself how to alphabetize by rearranging the prescriptions that lined the shelves, and watch his father as he spoke with customers and his employees.

“I grew up working in my father’s pharmacy. For 38 years he was the owner of Oaklawn Pharmacy. He taught us how to run a proper business that was customer oriented and caring. Also, how to work with and care for the employees, always teaching and improving skills, both the bosses and the employees. I have tried to carry all of these lessons into my Army and civilian careers,” said Gen. Casinelli.

Like his father, Gen. Casinelli attended the University of Rhode Island and graduated in 1976 with a bachelor of science degree in pharmacy. Mario is a 1953 bachelor of science graduate of the Rhode Island College of Pharmacy and Allied Science, the predecessor to the University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy.

At a young age Paul was inspired by his father’s work ethic and role as a community leader. His parents taught him and his siblings to always be honorable, selfless and hardworking. Most importantly family mattered above all things.

“My dad, Mario, was always involved in community service, and stressed how this was an important part of a responsible person’s life. He has always been a humble man who has been an advocate for giving back to the community since I can remember.”

“Mario is, in fact, one of the most visible and enduring links from the old college of pharmacy to the new. As the owner of an independent pharmacy, he was the very definition of the indispensible family pharmacist. A fixture of the Rhode Island health care community for more than 60 years, Mario has often been referred to as the Dean of Pharmacy in Rhode Island,” Paul Larrat, dean of the College of Pharmacy said.

In 1997 he was honored with the declaration of “Mario Casinelli Day” in Cranston, for his more than three decades as a committed servant leader in the state.

In 1996, Mario was presented with a unique challenge at a time when many professionals would have faded into retirement. In that year, Oaklawn Pharmacy became a part of the CVS Health chain.

“Very quickly, Mario carved a unique niche that highlighted the many professional skills he had developed over the years. Against all odds, he convinced CVS leadership to allow him to serve not behind the pharmacy bench, but in the midst of the individuals who most needed his care,” Larrat said.

He has achieved national recognition for his collaborative professional practice innovation and commitment. He was presented the Daniel B. Smith Award in 1982, by the American Pharmacists Association, its top honor for pharmacy practice performance.

While serving as chair of the Board of Pharmacy for the Rhode Island Department of Health, he fought for regulations that enhanced the care and treatment of patients, lobbied for statewide public health initiatives and safeguarded the health of underserved populations.

Once again, his work received national attention, and he was recognized for his service as honorary president of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy in 1997-1998.

“I didn’t realize how big a deal my dad was when I was younger. He has been everywhere and done everything as far as pharmacy is concerned.”

Mario has carried out his work as a pharmacist for many years now and has taken his skills to the Cranston Senior Citizens Center. There, he collaborates with a variety of colleagues to best care for a vulnerable population.

While Mario was serving the people of Cranston and the state, his son Paul was a student at URI. Paul never thought about enlisting in the military until he joined the University’s rifle team. As he got more involved with the team he met various professors and students in the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps program who encouraged him to enroll in military science courses.

An ROTC member from 1971 through 1976, Paul was recently inducted into the URI ROTC Hall of Fame. He credits his time as an ROTC cadet, his experiences in the military and his father, Mario for his accomplishments.

“For me, all of this is a very humbling experience,” he said of the Hall of Fame honor. “I hope that people will be inspired to work hard and always do their best. Everything that I have done in my life I strongly believe is because the Lord has led me along a certain path. I like to think that all of the ROTC Hall of Fame inductees will be an inspiration to the current cadets.”

After leaving URI as a Distinguished Military Graduate, Paul was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Medical Service Corps. In 1980 he graduated with a medical degree from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences Medical School.

“I have known the Casinelli family for several decades and have been highly impressed with Gen. Casinelli’s dedication to service. Members of the URI College of Pharmacy family are proud to call him a graduate, a pharmacist and a colleague. We greatly appreciate his service in the armed services,” Larrat said.

His service in the active Army included numerous overseas postings, including Germany, Desert Shield/Storm, Bosnia, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. He is the recipient of the Bronze Star and Meritorious Service Medal.

After living in Connecticut for 10 years and working as a National Guard state surgeon, Casinelli moved back to Rhode Island in 2008. He retired in 2009 and was awarded the Legion of Merit for his service and dedication throughout a military career spanning 30 years. He and his wife Susan Elizabeth, a former Army nurse, reside in Westerly. They have two sons and a 13-year-old daughter originally from China.

Both of Paul’s sons graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and are serving as first lieutenants in the Army following their father’s, mother’s, and both grandfathers’ military footsteps. “One is deployed in South Korea as a platoon leader in the 1st Cavalry Division. The other is at Fort Rucker, Ala. in training to be a Blackhawk pilot,” Paul said.

Even though Paul says that his father taught him everything he knows, there is one thing he got to teach his father, and that’s how to fish.

“Dad was and is always encouraging. He became an integral part of most of my activities, Cub Scouts, baseball, hockey.”

Pictured above

Mario, left, and Paul Casinelli, pose for a photo at URI’s College of Pharmacy.

Photo by Nora Lewis

This release was written by Caitlin Musselman, a URI Marketing & Communications intern and a public relations and political science major.