East Boston District Court Chief of Probation Thomas Tassinari, who is set to retire this year after a stellar career, was honored at last Thursday night’s Law Day celebration at the courthouse.
Tassinari, who came over to Eastie’s courthouse from Chelsea’s probation department following the retirement of former Chief of Probation Dave Arinella in 2012, was presented with the Judge Joseph Ferrino Community Service Award.
Tassinari, who helps run Eastie’s Law Day and sits on the committee that selects the recipient of the annual Community Service Award, was under the impression the award was going to substance-abuse recovery coach Katie O’Leary.
However, Judge John McDonald surprised Tassinari as he called in the longtime chief of probation’s friends and family and announced the award was in fact his and not O’Leary.
“I sit on the committee with Tommy (Tassinari) and I’ve been keeping this secret for the better part of two weeks now,” said Judge McDonald. “This year we selected Katie O’Leary (who was in on the ruse), but Katie I have some good news and some bad news for you. The bad news is you are really not getting the award but the good news is you are in the running for next year. The true recipient of the Judge Joseph Ferrino Community Service Award this year is Chief Thomas Tassinari.”
After the announcement the courtroom erupted in thunderous applause.
“We’ve spent the last hour speaking to his friends and family into my Chambers. Thankfully he’s not as smart as I thought,” McDonald joked.
All kidding aside, McDonald said that Tassinari had become one of his closest confidants in the courthouse.
“He has become my best friend, someone that I go to not only for personal but professional advice, someone that I look up to with regard to his commitment and his passion for this community,” said McDonald. “I just want to thank him personally for everything he has done for me, the court and this community.”
Tassinari’s colleague for over 30 years Kim Hanton of North Suffolk Mental Health thanked the Chief of Probation for showing her the ropes when she first started.
“I was naive girl from Revere trying to make a difference on the streets of East Boston,” said Hanton. “Tommy you showed me the way. You are Eastie and Eastie is you, In Tommy’s eyes there was never a person that didn’t deserve attention. He was on the frontline of integrating criminal justice and behavior health. Working with Tommy as a partner on the streets made my job less challenging and provided me with an important partnership to combat the disease of addiction. There was always a twinkle in your eye when developing a plan for an individual or family, but Tommy never let those obstacles interfere with the goal of keeping the community safe one person at a time.”
City Councilor Lydia Edwards said she met Tassinari years before she became involved in politics in Eastie.
“I go to the same church as Tommy and met him there many years ago,” she said. “I just wanted to be here to thank you personally. I had a wonderful conversation with your daughter, Tiana, this morning and what she told me I already knew in my heart that you live, breath and you are East Boston. Tommy began as a teacher, then worked for the Department of of Social Services and then the Probation Department. I hope you can see that his entire life his passion and love was to serve and mentor members of the community. But what I love most about you is your heart and belief in humanity and second chances. Tiana told me she could’t count how many times people have come up to her and told her they wouldn’t be alive if not for her father. It’s that second chance that a lot of people don’t see in the court system. After a judgment it is the job of the Probation Officer to walk with people and guide them so they can come back to society and be a part of it in a meaningful way. So I just want to thank you for your dedication and believing in all of us.”
For his part Tassinari said he was honored and overwhelmed by the honor.
“I want to thank everyone here, but I want to give a special thanks to Judge Joseph Ferrino who told me when I was 14 years old that I had to help the community and that is when I started to do things to help the community,” he said. “I can’t really explain what an honor this is for me tonight. I knew something was up because I ordered the plaque for Katie (O’Leary) and the Judge kept telling me it hadn’t arrived yet.”
In true Tassinari fashion he said he was keeping it brief because the Law Day celebration wasn’t about him but the handwork of the students receiving their awards.