News about the sudden and unexpected death of one of the city’s most dedicated volunteers to historical and cultural causes hit many friends, colleagues, and family members particularly hard earlier this week.
Ann Fedele, founding member of the Revere Society for Cultural and Historic Preservation (RSCHP) and active and outspoken member on a host of other committees and organizations, died late Sunday night due to complications from a heart aneurysm, according to her friend Len Piazza.
Fedele and other parishioners from the Immaculate Conception Church established the RSCHP in March 1994 in order to restore and leave for posterity the then-dilapidated Church Rectory at 108 Beach Street. “Ann loved the building. It was a huge part of her life,” said Mary Jane Terenzi, current president of the RSCHP. Fedele’s family members were long-time parishioners at Immaculate Conception. Its congregation and buildings were an important part of her life growing up, Terenzi said.
But Fedele loved history as well. And today the restored building houses a museum of historical memorabilia, including Peter McCauley’s collection of Revere Beach items and a room dedicated to Norman Gautreau’s artwork, as well as the Chamber of Commerce. In addition, the historical society’s matriarch wanted the city to be known as “Historic Revere”—a title she wished to have printed on the city’s welcome sign, Terenzi said.
In addition to founding the RSCHP, Fedele served on the executive board and as president of that organization several times.
“Her first love was the historical society. She never forgot about the organization… She really loved it,” Public Library Children’s Services Librarian Lona Frongillo said. And Fedele worked hard to attract new members to the historical society and was always looking for ways to bring in more money, said RSCHP Recording Secretary Alice Gassiraro. “She was proud we got to the point we’re at, but she always wanted more.”
Fedele was also instrumental in establishing a speaker’s series. The RSCHP recently hosted world-ranked fencer Vincent Argenzio.
She was also the driving force behind the RSCHP telethon. Her death came just a week shy of the organization’s latest event, which is set for this Saturday on Revere TV.
“She was a queen running the telethon,” said Gassiraro. Ann came up with “awesome ideas” and “knew what she wanted when she planned something,” Gassiraro noted, recalling the “RSCHP’s Got Talent” event where Fedele urged members to dress as historical figures such as John and Abigail Adams.
During Saturday’s telethon, the RSCHP will hold a special segment dedicated to Fedele, Terenzi said. “It won’t be the same without her,” she added.
Fedele was active and even a leader in a number of other volunteer organizations, and many of her colleagues noted her determined fundraising. “…she got a bee in her bonnet. She was relentless,” said Frongillo, who worked with her on the Rumney Marsh Restoration Committee. Together, the two women developed the Lobster Fest and Chinese Food fundraisers, Frongillo said.
“She would always end up doing things for the committee even when she was too busy [with other work],” said Veterans Agent Nick Bua, who served with Fedele on the Rumney Marsh Burial Grounds Committee. “Everyone on the committee is going to miss her tremendously. . . Every community should have an Ann Fedele.”
Bob Upton, Chamber of Commerce first vice president and author of the historical site RevereBeach.com, said of her passing: “This is a very big loss for the city… She was a good friend to us in the historical community. She had very strong opinions. You may not always [have agreed] with her, but you knew her heart was in the right place… She was a strong advocate for the rich history of Revere Beach and Revere’s history.”
For Frongillo, Fedele was a dear friend and mentor: “Anytime I needed advice she would tell me ‘You can do it!,’” she recalled. “She always had a smile on her face. She was very smart and creative. I think that’s why we worked so well together… I’m really going to miss her.”
Gassiraro and others also noted that Fedele could be quite opinionated when driven. “Sometimes she was difficult to get along with. And when she was making a point she would just continue to talk over you… [But] she really was a nice and generous lady,” Gassiraro said.
Len Piazza, who served on a number of committees with Ann, praised her: “She was someone who would balance multiple activities—the Revere Women’s Club, the Revere Cultural Association, and… the Rumney Marsh Restoration Committee. She was very involved in the preservation of our Rumney Marsh 1693 cemetery. She loved being involved in the RSCHP telethons as the main coordinator. It could have been Dancing with the Stars or directing the skits. She made sure we were all in the skits.”
Piazza recalled a recent gathering where Ann and her lady friends donned old-fashioned bathing suits and headed to Revere Beach: “I was proud to be the chauffer in my old convertible…” He continued: “There will not be another dedicated person, who…could instill and demand that we turn her ideas into a reality. She was a success.” In fond farewell Piazza said, “Goodbye my dear, you will be missed very much.”
By Aaron Keebaugh, Revere Advocate