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Malden Musings – Alice Spadafora Tribute

Spadora Family
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  The Spadafora family and the Malden community at large lost a very special person recently. If you have not already heard, it is with a heavy heart that I share the news of the loss of Alice Spadafora. Alice was a rare soul, dedicated mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend to many. Alice was a true original, her sensitivity, her sense of empathy and her independent spirit constantly shining – through the best and through the worst of times. Strong willed with a heart of gold, Alice Spadafora spent her 96 years on planet Earth making it a better place for her neighborhood and for the wonderful family she left behind.

  Alice loved reading my column. That made me extremely happy and very proud that the Alice Spadafora would take the time to read this humble column. We will not see the likes of Alice Spadafora “walk through those doors” soon.

  Her first grandson, Councilor-at-Large Craig, is never at a loss for words. Craig put Number 2 pencil to paper and contributed these sweet words to his beloved “Nana:” “Alice Spadafora was a remarkable woman, if ever there was one. An amazing woman actually. A fearless maverick who ruled her roost and brood with the proverbial iron hand, spit fire tongue, wrapped in a velvet glove with the ever-present soft heart. Alice was the complete package of a woman, and a darling loved by all, in spite of her outwardly stern demeanor. She seemed to know everything about everything, had a solution to every problem and was an expert at – well – everything. She had no problem telling you too. Alice did everything one is supposed to and witnessed tremendous change around her in the process. Her life was remarkably ordinary, which, in this day and age, is what made her so extraordinary. She was special, most definitely, but not atypical of her generation. She lived on Emerald Street most of her life, married to Tony, raising her four sons, Albert, Billy, Neal, and Tony Jr. Though she wasn’t particularly political, she had no time for today’s oversensitive nit pickers and their increasing foothold in everyday life. She was unapologetic to all but loved all. She would also be the first one to tell a young Craig to dust myself off and get back up after a fall. Her Edgeworth wit could be deadly. The good news being that most lacked the extensive vocabulary to understand their individual tongue-lashings. Which they, more often than not, deserved. She was a diehard Red Sox fan. Often critical of the how the game has shifted and changed. Things such as the move to coddle players excessively and players taking offence to every pitch, every call, every perceived slight. Alice was a member of what Tom Brokaw famously labelled, the ‘greatest generation.’ It was always amazing to think of the advances in economic opportunity, public safety, and science that were foreign to her parents. I know she never envisioned a time in which speaking about what had always been black-and-white truths was somehow controversial. Knowing I had spent so many years with her and that she would always live inside my heart in this special way helped me grow, become more confident and to take risks. Advice that I will take through my entire life. She will forever be a part of me, and I am grateful my three children were able to know her. Especially the youngest Lilliana who just ‘clicked’ with her. That makes my heart smile. Alice represented a sense of security and safety for my family and me. I’d be remiss not to mention her iconic Christmas Eve’s. Christmas Eve was always her holiday, and we’d gather every year for the most extravagant of Italian American celebrations. She has been with us all our whole lives. When we lost Alice, we lost the matriarch of our family, and nothing can ever replace that. Through the laughter, the stories, and the memories I will continue to reminisce and remember my courageous, passionate, loving grandmother.”

  Picked up pieces while settling in for another episode of “Playhouse 90,” this time starring Malden’s own Jack Albertson…

  • Had the most pleasant conversation (and not because they praised my column) with a couple that walked into my life recently. Elaine (MHS Class of 1970) and Keith (MHS Class of 1972) had some parking-related questions answered before we started getting into who knows who. They praised brother Joe for the good work he does in Malden; we solved a few of Malden’s most perplexing problems, but they saved the highest praise for none other than Bowman Street’s most famous son, their neighbor Kevin Larson. Great meeting you two. Stay well.
  • Just for clarification purposes, Mike McCarthy was (and still is) the face of the Irish American Labor Day Road Race, but new kid on the block, Kevin Killion’s little brother Brian, has been the go-to guy for the past couple of years. Mike and Brian, the dynamic duo! Thank you, guys, for all you do.
  • Rest in peace to the “Dean of Boston Jazz Radio,” Eric Jackson (aka “Eric in the Evening”).
  • Funny Malden Police Commissioner Sal Gennetti story: So, Butch is a rookie on the Malden Police Force (1961, I believe). He’s a raw recruit and the veterans on the force have an initiation for said recruits. He gets a call. There is an armed gunman off Pleasant St at Beebe Jr. High School on Beebe Hill. He’s told to proceed with caution – the man is armed with a rifle. Butchie gets to the location and discovers…he’s been roasted. Standing in front of him is the bronze Spanish War Veterans’ Memorial: armed and not so dangerous.

  As Peter Falk’s iconic TV character “Columbo” would say, “Just one more thing, sir” – Christmas is right around the corner. Not to rush it but this ode to that special day and Craig’s heartfelt comments regarding “Nana,” hits me in the Gulliver every time I read it.

  Craig hit a grand slam a couple years back with this Alice Christmas memory. He encapsulates the holiday season and his love of his “Nana” as well as anybody possibly can. Nana Alice loved it also:

  “My fondest Christmas memories will always be my grandparents’ (Anthony & Alice Spadafora) home on Emerald St., Christmas Eve in particular. As a child with a big extended family, I looked forward to this annual tradition. This night brought myself and my many cousins, aunts, and uncles together under one roof with love, joy, and anticipation on the eve of the most magical day of the year. Each child always received gifts from aunts and uncles chosen at random. It was a house full of laughter, food, and a tree stocked with presents. And now, the food; baked, stuffed, boiled, fried, cured – we had it all. The Christmas season always begins with a baking marathon of delicious Italian cakes and cookies. The aroma fills the home for weeks on end. A few samples of pastries created for the season might include taralli, pizzelle, ciambelle, mostaccioli, biscotti, struffoli, panettone, crostoli, cannoli and so much more. And of course, the simple pasta and fishes on Christmas Eve. Our family enjoyed a gourmet spread of baked, fried, and sautéed aquatic delicacies, known as ‘The Seven Fishes.’ The older I got, the harder it was to leave my grandparents’ house on Christmas Eve, as I quickly realized it was this day that supplied the real holiday magic. Looking back on it now in my adult mind is like watching my favorite Christmas movie. A true classic. My grandparents’ tree couldn’t have been more perfect, my grandmother’s smile more sincere, their house even had the traditional Christmas smell! I am no longer able to create any new Christmas memories with my grandfather ‘Papa Tony,’ but now have had the responsibility bestowed upon me of fathering crucial early holiday memories in my kids’ minds. I am so thankful that I can draw upon my own blessed experiences and realize how important it has been in the development of my character. Thank you, Tony, and Alice for teaching me the true meaning of a Merry Christmas!”

  Postscript 1: Speaking of one of Malden’s favorite sons, Kevin Larson, I’d like to wish him a happy 60th birthday. Many more, my friend. I was overjoyed when I got the invite to the social event of the Malden season (Kevin’s birthday party at Pearl Street Station), but unfortunately a family matter unexpectedly came up. Your graciousness was appreciated, my friend. Stay well and continue staying involved, my friend.

  Postscript 2: A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated this morning, Friday Oct. 21, at 11:30, at Saint Mary’s Church in Melrose.

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