A Gentleman and An Inspiration
-By Cary Shuman
Friends and family members paid tribute to Anthony F. “Lefty” DeFelice at a visitation Sunday at Caggiano and Son Funeral Home and a funeral Mass Monday at St. John the Evangelist Church.
Mr. DeFelice, a well-known and admired resident of Winthrop for many years, died on December 30. He was in his 100th year.
Susan DeFelice, Mr. DeFelice’s daughter, delivered the eulogy on behalf of the family including her brothers Robert and Frank, and the seven grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren that Mr. DeFelice so loved and treasured during his life.
Ms. DeFelice’s warm remembrances of this beloved husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather summed up the life of “an extraordinary man.”
“The past few days have been a true celebration of his life for me,” said DeFelice. “Consistent comments from both young and old are the words ‘inspiration’ and ‘gentleman.’’’
Susan DeFelice said that Mr. DeFelice was born in East Boston in 1911. He grew up in “a humble and happy home” with his five brothers and sister and he had tons of sports-minded friends.
Mr. DeFelice’s first job was at the age of five where he set up bowling pins. He shined shoes at the age of nine on the East Boston Ferry. In his teen years, he was a “runner” for the Record American newspaper and he read the newspaper from cover to cover each night.
“He told me that’s why he did so well in school,” said Ms. DeFelice. “He received two double promotions and graduated at the age of 15.”
Mr. DeFelice loved history and wanted to attend college to become a history teacher. He went into the printing profession and worked in the newspaper business for 50 years. He married “the love of his life,” Eleanor, and remained devoted to her for the next 66 ½ years, taking wonderful care of her at the end of her life.
“My father loved sports, especially baseball,” Ms. DeFelice said. “He was a left-handed first baseman and outfielder and the teammates dubbed him the name, “Lefty,” very early on in his childhood.”
Mr. DeFelice attended as many Red Sox games as he could and even had the opportunity to sit in the Yankees dugout at Fenway Park and talk with the legendary Babe Ruth.
“Babe put his arms around my father, tussled his hair, called him, Sonny,’ and sat down beside him. My father was thrilled and said he walked on air after that,” Ms. DeFelice said.
Ms. DeFelice said her father was devoted to God and family and he delighted in caring for, teaching, and being with his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
“Lefty was one in a million – modest, kind, and a generous guiding spirit, a loyal friend, a good neighbor and good person, and above all, a loving husband, a loving father, grandfather and great-grandfather who weaved faith, principles, integrity, hope, and humor into the framework of his family. We all love him dearly.”
Ms. DeFelice said she wanted to leave the people assembled at the Mass with “three nuggets of Lefty’s advice: go slow, never tell people about the good deeds you’ve done – if you do, they cease to be good deeds; and love one another always.”
Ms. DeFelice said her father told her in his final year, “Susan, I’ve had a wonderful life, oh boy have I ever.”