The city honored veterinarian Dr. Ralph Padilla, the New York-born son of a Puerto Rican family, with its first-ever Hispanic American of the Year award Friday, Oct. 19, in West Haven’s inaugural Hispanic Heritage Celebration.

The celebration outside City Hall’s Main Street entrance, originally planned for last Friday, came four days after the official end of National Hispanic Heritage Month.

“The City of West Haven hearby offers its sincerest congratulations to Dr. Ralph L. Padilla, 2018 Hispanic American of the Year, in recognition of your dedication to enriching the proud legacy and vibrant culture of our Hispanic-American community,” said Mayor Nancy Rossi.

“As a Puerto Rican business owner and resident of West Haven, your remarkable story is treasured by our city,” Rossi said before presenting Padilla, 65, with a Puerto Rican flag and a black embroidered “West Haven Hispanic American of the Year” jacket.

Padilla has owned and operated the West Haven Animal Clinic at 959 Campbell Ave. for the past 33 years.

Padilla was joined by dozens of family, friends and supporters, including his sister, Margarit, and his wife of 34 years, the former Yvette Solomon.

He thanked his wife and his late parents, as well as his siblings, clinic staff and the residents who have brought their pets to be treated by him over the years. He pointed out that he was being honored as West Haven’s first Hispanic American of the Year by the city’s first woman mayor, “so we have something in common.”

“I also want to thank the Hispanic community,” Padilla said, adding. “I am deeply honored for the award.”

Padilla pointed out that “in my yearbook in high school, I wrote down a quote from a Beatle’s song, ‘I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends,’ and I found out all through the stages of my life that it’s been true. You don’t get where you are without a little help along the way from the people who love you.”

Thirty-five years ago, “the city of West Haven took us in and allowed me to take care of their furry friends, and entrusted me with their care, and I’ve tried over the years to live up to that and not betray anybody’s trust,” he said.

Padilla was born in Inwood, N.Y. and graduated from Archbishop Sepinac High School, an all-boys Catholic school in White Plains, N.Y.

He earned an associate degree from State University of New York at Farmingdale, a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and a doctorate in veterinary medicine from the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

After the ceremony, attendees were invited over to the Fellowship Hall at the First Congregational Church of West Haven, opposite City Hall on the Green, for a Latin-flavored lunch catered by students and faculty of the culinary arts program at Gateway Community College.