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Malden today, tomorrow and yesterday – Vinnie Straccia remembered

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  Vinnie Straccia had the North End tattooed on his heart. But he was and always will be one of Malden’s most beloved adopted sons. He brought so much joy into so many people’s lives in the past 40 plus years, me included, that he, without a doubt, bypassed all stops and is hanging with his higher power as we read together. I will miss Vinnie the performer. I will miss Vinnie the person. I will miss his outsize personality. I will miss his heart of gold.

  A longtime friend of the Straccias named Natalie left these words as a memorial online, beautifully written, straight from deep inside her heart: “There are no words to express the grief we all have right now. I am proud to have known him and even prouder to say he was a dear friend. As one of the many loyal fans of NSA, I can say it was a blessing to hear him perform over the last 40 something years at so many venues and parties. I am sure his friends and family members are with him in heaven where he and Paul and Bobby C will be singing. I also know that he will always be our guardian angel. I want to thank his immediate family for sharing him with his fans for so many years. He brought so much joy to this world. He will live forever through his recordings, but even more so in our hearts and minds because he created so many precious memories.”

  It is said in Malden today, tomorrow and yesterday…

  SeeClickFix, your call; the good, the bad, and the ugly: a recent post (and I kid you not) – “Bike trail: I put a 6 pack of Sam Adams in the fridge on the bike trail and someone drank it and left the empties! At least recycle them! Hope you enjoyed the free suds.” The call was assigned to the Constituent Services Rep. Not sure how the post was answered but knowing Malden City Hall like I do I guarantee it was answered timely with all the respect it deserved – insert smiley face.

  Sincerest condolences go out to friend Wayne Martineau on the tragic loss of his son, Wayne Jr., age 34.

  Rest in peace, Mark Glen Francis. Mark was born in Malden in 1967, graduated from Malden High in 1986, and is Teri’s brother. Mark shot in the A Division of the Minute Man Dart League (you have to be really good to shoot in the A Division), loved classic cars and once spoke with the Dalai Lama at a job site without knowing who it was. True story.

  Walking across Route 60 last week on the way to Stop & Splurge, I heard Extreme’s “More Than Words” blasting from the open window of an electrical company van (one of those 40-degree days). In the front seat driving was a grizzled middle-aged blue-collar worker screaming out the lyrics to the song (in tune, by the way). No Gary (Cherone) or Nuno (Bettencourt) but he was a pleasure to behold, nonetheless. When told about the incident, Gary “laughed out loud.” True story.

  Michael Czechowski passed away in January of 2020 at age 91, right before COVID-19 took control of our lives. I did not know Michael, but I knew his son, Paul – both sons of Edgeworth. Paul was one of the younger guys that hung around Devir Park during the most glorious days of our lives. Actually, the sweetest memories of life were lived during those days, the late 1960s well into the 1970s. Mike was born in Dorchester, was bar manager at Mike’s Café on Highland Avenue and was a past member of the Eagles, the Elks and the Knights of Columbus. I am pretty sure he is Diane and Steve (Wishoski’s) uncle.

  On January 3, the Inaugural Ceremonies of Malden City Government were a low-key affair due to COVID-19 precautions. No tux and top hat for the City Messenger just well-dressed elected officials and their families. Great picture in the paper of Ryan O’Malley standing alongside his extremely proud mom; Craig (Spadafora) pictured with his wife (Saint) Debbie and his three adorable children; Sharyn Zeiberg pictured with her handsome family; Chris Simonelli with his girlfriend and two proud kids. I am looking forward to rocking that (Ronny Cox borrowed) top hat two years from now.

  Rest in peace, Carl Goldman, age 64. Mike’s brother, husband of Laurie, son of the late Ruth and Murray. Loved this in his obit, “Carl was an avid reader and thinker” – “Yehi zichra baruch.”

  This probably isn’t said enough, so I am just throwing it out there to show these four public servants that they are appreciated and thank you for looking out for the good and welfare of all Maldonians. Always fighting the good fight: State Rep. Steve Ultrino, State Rep. Paul Donato, State Rep. Kate Lipper-Garabedian and State Senator Jason Lewis. Thank you for all you do.

  Thumbs up to Bobby Knox and the DPW for battling the Blizzard of ’22 so adeptly. Thumbs down to the keyboard warriors on SeeClickFix whose impatience during the storm took on epic proportions. You’re doing a bang-up job guys – stay focused and ignore the peanut gallery.

  I am still gobsmacked every time I walk into Pisa Pizza and realize Jamie Burns is no longer behind the counter. Where have you gone, Jamie Burns? Malden turns its lonely eyes to you. Seriously Mary, I want my Jamie back!

  Dandea’s Superette on Main Street serves really good coffee (for $1.06 all sizes), has some darn good pizza for sale and has a wicked nice young lady working early mornings. A trifecta in my book!

  Speaking of wicked nice, Lillian Nardone Fitzgerald in the Treasurer’s Office is wicked nice. One of the hardest working gals in show business – Lil and her family’s roots run rampant through Malden soil and in particular (of course) Edgeworth.

  “This is the end, beautiful friend, this is the end, my only friend, the end” – the year is 1987. Ray Bolger, Jackie Gleason and Danny Kaye pass away. Public Enemy, Ice-Tea and Kool Moe Dee ruled the hip hop airwaves. And MJ, Bird, along with Dr. J were rocking our hoop world. But here in 1987 Malden the legend that is Joe Levine was just starting to blossom.

  His impact as an employee of the Malden YMCA as an instructor in the Nautilus room was the impetus for a gushing interview appearing in various “Y” literature at the time. The inimitable Arthur Damon was responsible for the content; he titled it simply, “Malden YMCA employee, Joe Levine, talks about positive impact of the ‘Y.’” Joe states that one of the more important aspects of the “Y” is the chance it gives him to be a positive influence on young people (In 2022, not much has changed).

  Mr. Damon, take it away: “Joe feels that the young people who come to the ‘Y’ are ‘looking for someone’ to emulate and some, in fact, are ‘looking for help’ for one reason or another. Joe has gladly filled that role for many high schoolers during his four years as a ‘Y’ instructor. As Joe says, ‘Nautilus is secondary; the ‘Y’ is about being a good person, living the clean life.’ He laughs at this description, but then, after thinking, agrees that he means just that. Although he believes that most of the young people associated with the ‘Y’ are ‘good kids,’ he feels they are subject to the same dangers, peer pressure, and negative influences as other teens.”

  As I stated earlier, nothing much has changed for Joe over the past 35 years. He went on to mentor countless hundreds of young girls as coach (along with Dana Brown) of the girls’ hoop team at Malden High School. He continues to be a positive role model for young boys and girls alike to this very day as Recreational Director for the City of Malden. A track record not soon to be matched in Malden. All the while (with wife Helen, of course) raising one of the most caring, one of the most generous, one of the loveliest daughters to ever call Edgeworth (I mean Malden) home. I’d just like to add that I would be writing this whether Joe was my brother or not.

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