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Malden today, tomorrow and yesterday – Chris Simonelli fundraiser

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  It is said in Malden today, tomorrow and yesterday…

  Speaking of Chris Simonelli’s April 8 well-attended fundraiser…I saw an amazing cross section of Malden enjoying Albert’s sensational raviolis and listening to some inspiring speakers.

Neal Anderson crushed it! Nearly stole the show. Put a mic in this guy’s hands and watch out! Sparks fly! Great job, Neal.

  Joey Simonelli, Chris’ son, may have more charisma than his pops – a standup guy whose altruism credentials go toe to toe with his Councillor father. Keep up the great work, Joey, and thank you.

  Cathy Leblanc from Ward 5 was in the house. I do not mean to imply this young lady is only about Ward 5. Cathy is Malden. All Malden. Cathy has never held public office, but she cares. A great deal. Cathy is active. Cathy is passionate. Cathy always fights the good fight. Thank you for that, Cathy.

  The kid is popular. Chris drew an atypical, diverse crowd for a fundraiser in April with no election within sight. Who does that?! Who packs a hall with people of all kinds of different ethnic backgrounds? All kinds of disparate political positions? All kinds of different socioeconomic backgrounds? Chris does!

  Chris took center stage and was his usual off the cuff, affable self. First time I heard him talk of the demons that he possessed years ago – how with the help of friends and family (funny son Joey story of tough love), he was able dropkick all that foolishness into the distant past. It’s a great, courageous story. One that should be celebrated. One that I know he is proud of. We are all proud of his story. There are second acts in life for sure. Chris is proof.

  Former MHS Principal Brown is an enthusiastic CS supporter. We miss you, Dana. Please come back. Malden High School needs you, badly.

  Chris talked and talked and talked. I kid. Chris is engaging. Never dull. His actions speak louder than his words, though. His plans to beautify the Ward 7 neighborhood are long overdue. He was the impetus for the skate park years ago. He’s got plans to upgrade the park and make it a showcase on the North Shore – a Resource/Multi-Cultural Center is being planned as we read together. Youth programming and events, road and sidewalk upgrades, upgrades to Lincoln and Kierstead Park! Forgetaboutit! Gonna be a busy summer for Mr. Simonelli.

  Oh yeah, the city plans to name the skate park after Chris. Well deserved.

  Ward 5 Councillor (for life, hopefully) Barbara Murphy looked on with pride as her surrogate son Chris thanked her for her unwavering support through the good, the bad and the ugly. Oh yeah, he also plans on taking on the mess they made of Willow Street. Forgetaboutit!

  Albert Spadafora will soon be inducted into the Malden High School Alumni Hall of Fame – a great day in Malden history. He is being celebrated throughout Malden and his home away from home, Edgeworth. His son, Craig the Councillor, isn’t used to sharing the spotlight. I know my old friend can use some spotlight right about now, although when I saw him at Chris Simonelli’s SRO fundraiser at Anthony’s on Canal Street he looked as happy as a clam – Craig and pops Albert playing host at the old barn to the many friends and family members that filled the upstairs banquet room for Chris. Once again, I had 20 hard-hitting questions for Councillor-at-Large/Council President Spadafora. Never one to back down from a challenge, Crag kindly replied:

  1. My full name is… Craig Alan Spadafora
  2. I am currently… Councillor at Large/Head of Advisory Products.
  3. I am saving up for… a summer home.
  4. My home is in… Ward 3 in Malden.
  5. I love people who… say “please” and “thank you.”
  6. Something I say a lot is… “really?”
  7. I consider myself to be… very lucky in life.
  8. I need to have… coffee.
  9. My favorite movie of all time is… Shawshank Redemption.
  10. My all-time role model is… Bobby Kennedy.
  11. I respect people who… get involved.
  12. The best thing anyone has ever said to me is… “do not ask someone to do something you would never do. “
  13. I am happy when… going to dinner with the kids.
  14. I find *any movie with Will Ferrell* funny/hilarious.
  15. I am named after the actor “Craig Stevens.” (My note: THIS I never knew. Peter Gunn!)
  16. I have three kids… Mariano, Carmella, Liliana. (My note: very adorable kids, by the way!)
  17. The farthest I’ve ever been from home is… Hawaii.
  18. My special talent is… cooking.
  19. I have three pets… fish.
  20. I played sports as a youngster at *Amerige* Park.

  John Preziosa, they called him the pride of Newall Street (or does he call himself that? I forget). Longtime readers of this column will remember John as a member of the groundbreaking interracial hip-hop group based out of Malden, Top Choice Clique. After TCC, Coach Prez had stints as head men’s hoop coach at Wheelock College, Bunker Hill Community College and Bishop Fenwick with an occasional TCC reunion thrown in. He was also an assistant coach at Salem State University and Melrose High. He is now at Quinsigamond CC.

  I had six questions for my old friend, Prez… growing up Malden was the theme:

  Malden today, tomorrow and yesterday (MTTY): Your favorite restaurant/sub shop/pizza place growing up on Newhall Street?

  Jawn P: Not an easy question. (I had so many of them!) My go-to place for pizza growing up was Sal’s (then Verdone’s). I remember we would get a large cheese every Friday night for years. The big draw was cutting the coupons off the box (10 gets a free pizza!). I continued to go there whenever I visited Malden. Both of our boys (Marino and Gino) have grown up on Pisa Pizza though.

  MTTY: Favorite Malden Fourth of July memory (where and when)?

  JP: Green Street Park (Ward 1). Mr. Hennessy was councillor, and my dad would help. One year (nine or 10 years old) we came up with the idea of using gum to stick the peanuts to the spoon in the spoon race. My old man caught on and disqualified us all from the rest of the day’s events. I couldn’t defend my Free Throw championship!

  MTTY: Favorite spot in Malden Square as a youngster?

  JP: I loved going to A&B Music to browse through their 45s. I remember taking my aunts favorite Cars/J. Geils records and trading them in for Blondie’s “Rapture” record down at Headlines.

  MTTY: Must-see TV growing up?

  JP: Donnie and Marie, The Incredible Hulk, Batman, Happy Days, This Week in Baseball, WWWF Championship wrestling (Bruno Sammartino was a god in our household).

  MTTY: Favorite sports coach as a youngster?

  JP: Paul Russell was my little league coach as a 12-year-old. Coach Russell was the coolest cat in Malden. He would pick me up for practice in a white convertible Cadillac. Kenny Mazonson’s MNBL was big for me as well. Kenny Petraglia gave me my first start coaching at Centre Methodist.

  MTTY: Growing up in Malden, first musical concert you attended?

  JP: A Drum and Bugle competition at Macdonald Stadium was my very first concert, I guess. But my favorite earliest memory of watching a group was Mr. Bob Crowley and Richie Willis in North Shore Acappella at Cricket’s in Faneuil Hall.

  “This is the end, beautiful friend, this is the end, my only friend, the end” – one last word from Prez: “I just completed my first season as Men’s Head Basketball coach at Quinsigamond CC! We finished 7-12 and missed the playoffs by a game. I’m excited to see what the future brings for the program as we have a ton of room to grow. I’ve been coaching for 23 years straight at both the collegiate/high school level. Growing up in Malden the first seeds of coaching were planted by guys like Dana Brown who was the head coach at Mass Bay CC, and John Furlong who played at Salem State U. Being around guys like that showed me that if you work hard enough you can reach any level you wanted. Malden is always a source of inspiration to me on my journey. Guys like Gary Cherone, Gip Nally, Kevin McGlinchy, and Carmine Cappuccio showed me ‘It’s not where you’re from, it’s where you’re at.’ A mentality that has kept me grounded in hope during my own dreams. As far as comparing growing up in Malden to Melrose there is no comparison. Melrose has been good to my family, and my life but if you cut me open, I’d bleed Blue and Gold!”

  Postscript 1: Ed Larson gone eight years this past April 17. As Ed used to say, “No man is a failure who has friends.” Love and miss ya, Eddie.

  Postscript 2: Francis Hart. April 7, 2022; 13 grandchildren tells you all you need to know about the life this wonderful man led. Frank, may the wind be always at your back, my friend. Rest peacefully.

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