Anthony “Tony” Albano was an East Boston legend. He could get away with saying and doing things that no one else in the neighborhood could. You could tell immediately when Albano, as he was known in Eastie, entered a room. His boisterous voice, his walk and his personality was unmatched by any other person or peer. He was a larger than life individual who bled blue and gold and was the constant champion of Eastie, its people, its kids, its politicians and its way of life.
His death last week from cancer marked the end of an era in Eastie and left a void that will never be replaced at anytime in any generation that follows his passing.
On Sunday Eastie said good bye to Albano at East Boston High School, a place he worked and loved since the early 1970s.
As Albano lay in state in the school’s auditorium the line to walk past his casket stretched from the stage, out of the auditorium, down the school’s front steps, down White Street to Brooks Street, then down Brooks Street to Condor Street.
People coming to pay their respects to “The Great One”, another well deserved nickname Albano proudly responded to, stood six deep on the sidewalk and patiently waited in line for up to three hours.
The crowd outside the school represented the sea of humanity that Albano helped throughout his life. Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, male, female, old and young stood arm in arm and represented not only the diversity of the neighborhood but the diversity of Albano’s life.
“Anthony was one of those special individuals that dedicated himself to all things East Boston,” said former Mayor Thomas Menino, a close personal friend of Albano. “He could work with lawyers, judges, troubled kids, politicians and while he was no Rhodes Scholar he knew people and how to handle them and they loved him for it. I loved him for it.”
Menino said his relationship with Albano was based on a personal friendship and not on politics although Albano was a early Menino supporter.
“Ours was not a political relationship but a personal one because he had the same passions as I did,” said Menino. “He cared about the kids in East Boston, people that needed housing, the elderly…you name it. He was a Boston legend and no one knew more about the neighborhood and how to navigate it than Albano.”
Menino said he kept a picture of Albano on his desk throughout his mayorship. The picture, a photo of Albano standing in front of a huge inflatable rat. Menino’s nickname for Albano was ‘The Rat”, a reference to Albano’s self deprecating humor of saying time and again, “What do I know? I’m just a Project Rat”, when people disagreed with him. However, nine out of ten times the guy from the Maverick Projects with unparalleled street smarts knew better and was usually right in the end said Menino.
It was Albano’s hard knock upbringing and street smarts that made him the go-to-guy for politicians looking to get elected to office. In an era when political battles were street fights with sign wars and ground battles, Albano was the master. He could hold court with governors, senators and mayors and they would all listen to his strategy for winning a race.
“My Family and I are devastated by the loss of Anthony Albano,” said Senator Anthony Petruccelli. “Albano was so full of life, always looking out for the little guy and always wearing the blue and gold. There was nobody prouder to be from East Boston. There was nobody prouder to be a graduate and employee of East Boston High School. If there was anyone who best exemplified the phrase “one of a kind”, it was indisputably the Great Albano. My family and I will be forever grateful for the support he gave me my entire political career. He can never be replaced. We love Albano and we will miss him beyond words can describe.”
City Councilor Sal LaMattina said he knew Albano since he was a little kid.
“I remember watching him playing softball or basketball when I was a kid and when I was a freshman at East Boston High School in 1974 it was the year he started working at the high school,” said LaMattina. “He was a friend since day one and helped me start Eastie Pride Day and was the first person I went to when I decided to run for City Council.”
LaMattina said it was his work at the high school that really impressed him.
“He bled blue and gold,” said LaMattina. “He helped so many kids stay in school. He’d give kids money so they could buy their prom dresses or rent tuxedos. He call me all the time on behalf of student that needed help. He was a great man and his death is a great loss for East Boston.”
One kid that crossed Albano’s path that he helped when he hit a rough spot in life was Joe Maraio.
“I owe him more than I could have ever repaid him with my time here on this Earth. He was the only person who believed in me when everyone else gave up, everyone,” said Maraio. “My life is the way it is today because of him. He left a lifetime of memories in all of our hearts. I know he knew how much I loved him and I also knew how much he loved and believed in me. I used to smile just hearing him talk when I was 15. He made everyone smile. I’m gonna miss him.”
Of the outpouring of support Sunday at Albano’s wake former City Councilor John Nucci said, “I’ve been around this city for a long time and I honestly can’t think of a single person that would attract the type of crowd that gathered at east Boston high school for that type of send-off. The Great One was truly a legend and it’s not likely that we will ever see the likes of him again.”
He was the husband of Diane (Galvin) Albano. Father of Andrea Hallahan and her husband, Tim, Anthony Albano Jr., and his wife, Kelly, and Bianca Albano, all of East Boston and Antoinette Lefevre and husband, Matt, of Chelsea. Dear brother of Theresa Clayburn, Barbara Meola, Peter and Joseph Fagone and Jady Rich all of East Boston, Lorraine Brown of Saugus, Annmarie Sacco of Chelsea, John Fagone of Revere and Errol Fagone of Medfield.
A Funeral Mass was held at St. Anthony’s Church in Revere on Monday, October 6.