Edmund J. “Ed” Coletta Jr. has been a dedicated member of the Kiwanis Club of East Boston for 28 years and a highly respected leader in the community for a period of time even longer than that. Saturday night at Spinelli’s before a large, spirited gathering of family, friends, current and former colleagues, East Boston residents and fellow Kiwanians, Coletta received the 2015 Kiwanian of the Year Award.
The former managing editor and executive editor of the Journal Transcript Newspapers where he built a reputation as a smart, community minded news professional who understood what readers wanted to see in their local newspaper, Coletta recalled that as the editor of the East Boston newspaper, he was invited to be the guest speaker at a Kiwanis Club of East Boston meeting in 1987.
“I guess I did OK because they decided to keep me around,” Coletta said in his award acceptance speech. “Right away I knew it (Kiwanis) was something for me. There was this friendly atmosphere and a collegiality that was there – a genuine community spirit of placing others over self that really attracted me to Kiwanis.”
Twenty-eight years later, Coletta continues to stand tall as one of the organization’s most visible and popular members, devoting many hours to helping others in the community.
The first speaker of the program honoring Ed Coletta was Scott Seiler, a family friend and former colleague at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. Coletta has served as press secretary and director of public affairs at MassDEP since 2001.
“It’s kind of funny how things come full circle in life,” said Seiler. “One of my favorite cookies is Spinelli’s macaroons. I never had macaroons as a Midwesterner. I grew up in Chicago. My first macaroon was when Ed came over to my house. To this day, they’re my favorite cookie on earth and all because Ed came over to my house with a platter of Spinellli’s cookies.”
Turning to a more serious tone, Seiler told the gathering, “It’s nice and refreshing to know a person like Ed, who has devoted a lot to helping others.”
Recalling how Ed and his wife, Nina, took a group of schoolchildren on an educational trip “to help the students learn and appreciate what they have,” Seiler concluded, “He (Ed) has a consistent and constant passion to serve and help others.”
Paul Coletta, a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy, said his nephew, Ed, was an avid Boston sports fan, holding a passion for sports that was first developed while growing up adjacent to the largest sports complex in his home city of Quincy.
Paul Coletta said after working successfully in the newspaper business, Ed “got a call to government where he has put to use all the public relations and press knowledge to put a good face on the Department of Environmental Protection.”
Phil Freehan, chairman of the East Boston K-Trust Scholarship Fund, praised Ed for his commitment to the K-Trust and his leadership in the Kiwanis Club. He presented an award on behalf of the K-Trust to Coletta.
“Ed has served our organization as a board member, as a sitting president for the Kiwanis Club of East Boston, and very, very importantly, he has given his time and effort on an annual basis, sometimes accompanied by his lovely wife, Nina, to interview the students who are prospective scholarship recipients from the K-Trust of East Boston. Ed does an outstanding job. He does it the way he approaches most everything in life – with sincerity, with commitment. He leads by example. He is a man who makes a commitment and that’s why we are here to honor him tonight.”
Dr. Matt Mallen, master of ceremonies, read a letter of congratulations from DEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg.
“Ed, we have known you for years as a great public servant at MassDEP. You have helped tell the story of environmental protection in the Commonwealth in a way that everyone can relate. You are someone that everyone loves to work with. We are therefore not surprised to learn that you demonstrate that same spirit of service, friendship, and community away from the office as well.
“I have seen the list of organizational activities with which you have been involved – and it is quite an impressive list. This award is well deserved recognition for a good man who is always pitching to help out.”
Longtime Kiwanis members Marisa DiPietro and Buddy Mangini presented Coletta the “red jacket” that represents Kiwanis Club’s contribution toward the Kiwanis Pediatric Institute in Boston.
“This gentleman, for all he has done for the community and for Kiwanis in general, well deserves it,” said Mangini.
Kiwanis Club President Clark Moulaison made the official presentation of the Kiwanian of the Year Award to Coletta.
“On behalf of the membership, the board of directors, and the officers of Kiwanis Club of East Boston, it is my honor and pleasure to present you with this plaque as the 2015 Kiwanian of the Year,” said Moulaison.
Coletta accepted the award to the accompaniment of a warm, standing ovation.
“Thank you very much,” began Coletta.
The honoree said it’s been a great year for the Coletta family, noting the birth of his grandson, Alessandro to his son, Christopher and daughter-in-law, Mavis, in June; the prestigious internship served by his daughter Gabriela (Gigi), in Washington, D.C., with U.S. Sen. Edward J. Markey, and the marriage of his daughter, Angela, to Richard Acevedo, during a beautiful wedding ceremony in August on the Amalfi coast in Italy.
“And now this – the East Boston Kiwanian of the Year,” said Coletta. “I am truly blessed and humbled that all of you are here to celebrate this with me.”
He thanked his proud family for their support, including his mother, Helen, who was in attendance.
Holding back tears, Ed Coletta made special mention of his wife, Nina (Gaeta), “And last but not least I have to give a big hug and a big thank you to my best friend and the love of my life for 37 years. I love you.”
Coletta singled out his mentors in Kiwanis. “In those early years I learned from some of the best – Judge [Joseph] Ferrino, who I consider a mentor, Maria DiLibero, Angela Fiantaca, Dr. Matt Mallen, Phil Freehan – just great people to learn from – and later on, Buddy Mangini and Marisa DiPietro, one of the most dedicated persons to Kiwanis that I know.”
He noted the community wide outreach of Kiwanis and its support of local organizations, sports teams, youth groups, seniors, and high school students.
“We are making a difference here
in East Boston as a club,” said Coletta. “Good job, Kiwanis members.”
Coletta concluded his remarks by asking “the people in this room” to join the Kiwanis Club of East Boston as “we try to, as the Kiwanis motto says, change the world one child and one community at a time.”
One more warm ovation from the audience wrapped up a memorable evening of recognition for Edmund J. “Ed” Coletta.”