According to sources, employees of Centro Latino had an outing to celebrate their successful move from their long-time headquarters on Broadway to their new building at the former Cataldo Ambulance building on Hawthorne Street.
After several months of hard work in making that move, a pot luck celebration to bring about a new start for the organization – which was looking for a new executive director – seemed appropriate.
On Monday, quite suddenly, the celebration came to a halt as those same employees and administrators were told by the Board of Centro Latino that, as of that day, they were all laid off and the organization was going to shutter its doors after 26 years of providing educational services and Citizenship classes to the Latino population in Chelsea and surrounding communities.
The story has reverberated throughout the community over the last few days, with many in the non-profit world of Chelsea being shocked by the way that the organization closed up – with little notice to employees or clients, they said.
Chelsea City Manager Thomas G. Ambrosino said, “I’m very sad to hear about the closing of Centro Latino. This organization did outstanding work in the City of Chelsea for many years. The City will work with existing Community Based Organizations in Chelsea to ensure that the critical programming previously provided by Centro Latino continues in some form or fashion.”
Chelsea Collaborative Director Gladys Vega said Centro’s board indicated it had reached out to local organizations to help with the sudden closure.
“I haven’t gotten any calls,” she said. “They haven’t reached out to us. I found out when the employees found out, which was Monday. I’ve had employees there calling me in tears. I am appalled and can’t believe it. The audacity to have an outing showing gratitude and appreciation for the staff on Friday and then fire them on Monday – that’s absurd…It also shows a lack of thought about what to do with the clients. Before you just shut down, you have the staff calling everyone in the Citizenship classes to let them know and to work out a new situation and give them time to get their documents and applications. They should have done this over a month’s time. I believe they knew this was coming. Again, I am appalled and I can’t believe it.”
Vega said her organization, the Collaborative, was born out of the work of Centro Latino and has a completely different focus than the educational mission of Centro.
Though rumors persisted about the closure when the office didn’t open as scheduled on Monday, there was no confirmation from anyone until Wednesday afternoon.
At that time, Board Vice Chair Anthony Galluccio – a former state senator – issued a letter signed by the board. The letter indicated that they could no longer make the finances of Centro work despite repeated efforts.
“Centro Latino’s Board of Directors announced today that it is winding down business and will file for dissolution and close in the coming weeks,” read the letter.
The letter explained Centro took on Concilo Hispano and its debts in 2009 and expanded services to Cambridge and Somerville, read the letter. Unfortunately, in 2012, Centro suffered major cuts to its ESL programs and was forced to reduce staff and look for new ways to generate revenue.
“Throughout Centro’s existence, our employees have been incredible,” read the letter. “We stood together and tried to save the agency. As Kelly Guenther, Chair of the Board recently explained, ‘We tried every cost cutting measure possible including renegotiating obligations, reducing work hours, furloughing staff and reducing our space by twenty percent. Subsequently, we lost two contracts and knew we could not maintain operations. We worked with Third Sector New England searching for answers like merger and other structural options, but we hit a dead end. Over the past years we made appeal after appeal to anyone who would listen, and we are grateful to those who stood with us.’”
The letter also indicated that Centro will be working on transitioning clients to programs in the coming weeks, and that 70 percent of the agency’s ESL students live in Chelsea and still desperately need the services that Centro offered.
“It was critical that this board work to leave clients and employees in the best possible position and focus on transition,” said Galluccio. “We never recovered from the original cuts in 2012. Recent events made it impossible to continue and we could not keep incurring bills knowing there was no turning point.”
Centro’s letter stated it has been meeting with organizations such as Chelsea Collaborative, ROCA, Bunker Hill Community College, Connect and others to determine how best to transition clients and employees.
Vega, however, disputed that.
“The only thing they’ve done is reached out to us to get used furniture for their new offices; that’s it,” she said.
Centro’s letter concluded with the following:
“This is a sad day for Centro and our community, but hopefully this unfortunate outcome will bring awareness to the dire need that exists to support vulnerable new immigrants and families who need to integrate into our communities, become part of the workforce and improve their lives. The need is as great as ever. We offer special thanks and gratitude to our staff, board members, funders, community partners and clients that have worked with us over the years.”
The letter was signed by Guenther, Galluccio, Linda Cundiff, Jose Lopez and Oliver Sanchez.
Chelsea Police and Fire, along with the State Fire Marshal, are investigating an intentional flooding of the Broadway Glen high-rise apartment building early last Saturday morning using a fire protection standpipe, and the owners of the building could find themselves in a lot more trouble after the situation allegedly uncovered some questionable living conditions.
Fire officials said there was about $500,000 in damages and that they, and police, have secured video footage that clearly shows a male party open a fire system water valve on the sixth floor and then run away. Fire officials estimated that the standpipe valve was open for about 15 minutes before crews from Engine 2 were able to locate it and turn it off.
“We send an additional engine (three engines, two ladders and a Deputy Chief) to all alarm activations and it was a good thing we do because it was a very chaotic scene,” said Deputy Chief John Quatieri. “When we arrived, water was pouring from both elevator shafts. The fire alarm panel indicated water flowing on floors five and six, so the crews from Engine 3 and Ladder 2 started their way up the south stairwell to investigate. Both crews had difficulty getting to floors five and six due to the large number of occupants who were self evacuating. We thought for sure there was a fire on the either floor five or six. As additional companies arrived they were immediately staged in the lobby which was quickly filling with water. Ladder 2 reported they had located an open ‘standpipe connection’ on floor six and was attempting to shut it down. Water flowed for approximately 10 to 15 minutes from the time it was opened until Ladder 2 shut the valve causing substantial damage to the floors below.”
Broadway Glen at 855 Broadway is an 11-story tower with 120 units, so a standpipe for fire suppression is required. The ‘standpipe connection’ is used by the Fire Department in high-rise structures. It is not feasible to stretch hose lines form a pumper to the 10th or 11th floor, so firefighters carry several hundred feet of hose up the stairwells and connect to the Fire Department standpipe connection, which is usually located on each floor in the stairwells.
As firefighters and police began to deal with the flooding, they found water in light fixtures and electrical panels, which was a serious hazard. They evacuated everyone from floor six down, about 150 people, and they took shelter in MBTA buses for several hours. Those on floors seven to 11 sheltered in place.
Fire crews worked the scene for about three hours before residents were allowed inside their apartments.
Two people were injured when they slipped and fell on wet floors, injuring their heads, while trying to evacuate. One was treated on scene and the other was taken to the Whidden. A third man suffered a cardiac issue and is in the cardiac unit at Beth Israel Hospital.
Captain Richard Perisie from the Fire Department’s Fire investigation Unit followed up early this week with the Chelsea Police, Massachusetts State Police and the Massachusetts Fire Marshal’s Office and obtained video footage
They are in the process of identifying that individual.
Beyond that, the flood seemed to uncover a host of living conditions that might be against the City’s Building Codes.
Shortly after the residents returned to their homes, advocates and volunteers began to report terrible living conditions in the units that likely existed long before the flooding.
The Chelsea Collaborative held a tenant meeting with City officials at their Broadway headquarters on Monday afternoon and learned of several stories about mice and unsanitary living conditions that allegedly existed.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino attended that meeting and said this week the City will look at any such problems.
“The City plans to document all existing Code violations and take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that those violations are remedied in an expeditious manner,” he said.
Broadway Glen is an affordable housing complex and it sold in early 2014 to a New York group for $9.5 million.
Sam Horowitz of Capital Realty Group in Spring Valley, NY told the Record at the time that his company was excited to be doing business in Chelsea.
They have more than 5,000 units in 13 states and specialize in affordable housing buildings.
The Taste of Chelsea has not only been one of the most popular events of the year, it’s also been one of the most successful fundraisers for any local organization.
Joseph Vinard, co-founder and chair of the Taste of Chelsea, said that the event has raised more than $500,000 for HarborCov, a Chelsea-based organization that provides free safety and support services, along with housing and economic opportunities that promote long-term stability for people affected by violence and abuse.
“We have raised over a half million dollars and it all goes to HarborCOV,” proudly stated Vinard, who co-founded Taste of Chelsea with former director Laurie Holmes.
Lynn Peters and Kourou Pich are the current co-directors of HarborCOV, which was founded in 1998 and has been lauded for its professional, comprehensive approach to addressing violence within families and communities.
The 12th Annual Taste of Chelsea 2015 will be held Monday, Sept. 21, from 5 to 8 p.m., at 99 Marginal Street in Chelsea. The event was held at the old Massport Garage on Broadway before being moved three years ago to the current location, a new park that was generously offered as a site for the event by Eastern Minerals.
According to Vinard, thirty-one local food vendors and restaurants will participate, tying the record for most vendor participation in the event’s 12-year history.
Most of the vendors are from Chelsea, but East Boston, Revere, Everett, Winthrop, and Saugus businesses, as well as some from other communities, will also be represented.
Three Chelsea hotels, the Terranova Grille at the Wyndham Chelsea Hotel, the Residence Inn by Marriott, Boston Logan Airport/Chelsea, and TownPlace Suites by Marriott, Boston Logan Airport/Chelsea, will have food stations at the event.
Taste of Chelsea’s ability to consistently draw a large following is impressive. Vinard said between 500 and 700 people will buy tickets and attend the food festival, making it one of the most well attended in the region.
“It’s a great event,” said Vinard. “People look forward to it.”
Vinard, who is division president of Chelsea Bank, which is a division of East Cambridge Savings Bank on Broadway, Chelsea, is being assisted by a committee of 15 volunteers.
Asked if the excitement is building toward Monday’s Taste of Chelsea, Vinard replied, “We’re very excited. The event is a few days away and we’re ready to rock and roll.”
Parking is available on Marginal Street. Cataldo Ambulance will provide a bus to transport attendees to the site. Tickets are available online at $35 in advance. Tickets will be $40 at the door. Blocks of ten tickets or more are $30 apiece.
The featured restaurant and food vendors include:
Adriana’s Pastry and Café, Winthrop
Albert A. Russo Imports – BelGioioso Cheesea, East Boston
Al fresco, Chelsea
Arthur’s Deli/Meho Place, Chelsea
Blackstrap BBQ, Winthrop
Bobby C’s Ristorante, Melrose
Boston Yogurt, Chelsea
The New Brown Jug, Chelsea
Buccieri’s Pizzeria, Chelsea
Chelsea Fire Hot Sauce, Chelsea
Crown Coffee, Wakefield
Dockside Restaurant, Chelsea
Dunkin’ Donuts, Everett Avenue, Chelsea
Fusion Foods, Chelsea
Golden Cannoli, Chelsea
Kowloon Restaurant, Saugus
La Siesta Restaurante, Chelsea
Mandarin Buffet, Chelsea
Naked Juice, Boston
Peach’s and Cream, Chelsea
Piantedosi Baking Company, Malden
Polar Beverages, Worcester
Pollo Campero, Chelsea
Residence Inn by Marriott, Boston Logan Airport/Chelsea
Spinelli’s Pasta and Pastry Shop, East Boston
Starbucks Coffee, Chelsea
Stop & Shop, Everett
Terranova Grille, Chelsea
The Taste of Chelsea Committee is ready for the 12th annual food festival fundraiser for HarvorCOV on Monday, Sept. 21, beginning at 5 p.m. at 99 Marginal St. Pictured at a committee meeting at the Chamber of Commerce office are, front row, from left, HarborCOV co-executive directors Lynn Peters and Kourou Pich, and Renee Caso Griffin; back row, from left, are Maureen Foley, Chrissie Miele, event co-founder and committee chair Joseph Vinard, and Dr. Sayra Owens Pinto.
TownPlace Suites by Marriott, Boston Logan Airport/Chelsea
Volare Cucina Italiana and Bar, Revere
(Editor’s Note: Some factual information used in this story regarding HarborCov and Taste of Chelsea, including the list of food vendors, was taken directly from the HarborCov Web site).
Chelsea’s Juan Vega has left the Broadway headquarters of Centro Latino for the last time this week, but he’s begun a new commute to the State House at the same time – agreeing this week to join Jay Ash, state secretary for Housing and Economic Development, as a specialist in developing local leadership and community organizations statewide.
Vega will be the assistant secretary for communities and programs, and his first day on the job was yesterday, July 1.
“Last week we talked and he asked me to join his team and I accepted,” said Vega. “I’ll be joining Jay as assistant secretary for communities and programs. He has this grand vision for getting more cities and towns to plan collaboratively on economic development, especially Gateway Cities. I think Jay recognized my experience working here and my coalition and collaborative building here could help to get folks talking to each other statewide. We hope to get people talking more about developing downtowns, infrastructure and even roads.”
Ash said he was glad to have Vega working with him after many years of collaborating with him in Chelsea. He said he hopes to create the same community-based organization structure statewide that was built in Chelsea.
“I am very excited Juan said ‘yes,’” said Ash. “I have known him for many years and greatly admired his work, many times being the beneficiary of his work and many times being the target of his work. He did things thoughtfully and the right way. I’ve tapped Juan for this because I have a great deal of respect for him, both politically and as a community-based organization leader. One thing we’re really focused on here is creating leadership – producing it where it doesn’t exist and enhancing it where it does exist. Juan has been central to that effort in Chelsea. The spirit of leadership we had in Chelsea can be duplicated across the state and Juan was a big part of creating that in Chelsea.”
Ash said the position is a statewide position and will mean that Vega will be traveling the state to create a replica of Chelsea’s success model.
Vega said he has been interested in doing work for the state for some time, and considered joining former Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration a few years ago. However, when Ash was chosen as secretary, Vega said he was keenly interested in joining the team if it worked out.
“I do a ton of state contracts here at Centro Latino,” he said. “It always caught my attention and I needed a break from the non-profit scene after 17 years here and to change up the scenery a bit…It is hard. This organization is 25 years old and I am have been the head of it for 17 years. I”m the fourth executive director. When I got here, I did help build the organization and the brand and helped Centro look beyond Chelsea’s boundaries…I’m confident the organization will be fine without me. There’s a lot of work being done on education and housing. It has been bittersweet. As the final day got closer, it began to get surreal because it’s been so much a part of my life. I am able to walk to the office from my house many times and now I’ll have a regular commute into town.”
Centro Latino has put an inte
Juan Vega, formerly the executive director of Centro Latino, has started a new position as assistant secretary of communities and programs in the state Executive Officer of Housing and Community Development – which is directed by former Chelsea City Manager Jay Ash. Vega led Centro Latino for 17 years until leaving the post on Tuesday, June 30.
rim director in place for the time being.
They’ve also engaged the consultant Third Sector New England to assist the Board of Directors in searching for a permanent director to lead them onward.
Vega, who is also a commissioner at the Chelsea Housing Authority, said he was unsure if he would be able to maintain his seat on that board. He said the question has been posed and he will address that situation when he gets an answer.
After a fast and furious opposition emerged from Mill Hill neighbors to the 60-unit affordable housing apartment building proposed at the French Club over the past month, The Neighborhood Developers said it will take comments to heart, but defended the need for affordable housing in that neighborhood.
“We’ll spend the next month revising our plans and hopefully correct the problem areas and address them and continue our effort to create affordable housing for people who are living her and want to continue living her, and simply continuing Chelsea’s great revival,” said TND Director Ann Houston this week. “Clearly we’re a little surprised at the response because we know how much Chelsea needs affordable housing. We’ve been hearing from so many residents in Chelsea and city officials about the need for housing affordable to Chelsea residents who have been here. There is a growing concern about gentrification.”
She cited that the last affordable housing project they did in Chelsea garnered 1,200 applications – many more than the number of units available.
TND has been active in Chelsea for many years and successfully developed The Box District and other smaller projects in the central part of the city. However, when acquiring the French Club and its parking lot and beginning to develop near a much more traditional residential neighborhood – that being Mill Hill – the affordable housing developers ran into a wall of sudden opposition.
TND purchased the former Club for $975,000 in September 2014, and purchased the parking lot next door this past March. An extension of Spencer Avenue running between the Club and the parking lot was discontinued by the City Council in early May – and many neighbors have said they were not apprised of that change.
Hundreds of neighbors have signed petitions against the project, and many believe there is already too much affordable housing in Chelsea. Others have said they would like to see home ownership opportunities at the site.
Councillor Matt Frank, who initially supported the project, said last week that he has withdrawn that support because his constituents are so adamantly opposed to the project and because he doesn’t believe there was enough communication.
TND folks, however, said that the average income in Mill Hill is $57,000 and that’s well-within the limits for affordable housing. They also said that most of the development in that area of the City has been market rate housing, and other such market-rate developments threaten to drive up rents all over Chelsea.
“There has been right around the elementary school a fair amount of housing developed, but not for families or children,” said Houston. “We were and continue to be very excited to develop housing at this site that is really affordable to families in Chelsea and is able to get children right across the street to the Burke elementary complex. We do have to continue to make sure we have housing for people who have been in Chelsea and have been Chelsea residents and who we fear will be pushed out. We see a proposal for a 692-unit apartment complex that’s all market rate on Everett Avenue. That can help drive up rents across the community.”
Aside from that, though, Houston said they have heard Mill Hill loud and clear.
“We have heard concerns neighbors have raised and we’re taking them very, very seriously,” she said. “We wish we would have had the opportunity to talk outside a public meeting. We appreciate that didn’t happen and will find other opportunities to sit down with the neighbors.”
TND’s Emily Loomis said they believe there was good communication on the project, something TND has been criticized about.
She said they knocked on doors, had conversations and answered questions. If no one answered the door, they left fliers with information about the proposal.
Another point of contention has been the discontinued street on Spencer Avenue, which many Mill Hill residents use to get to the City Hall area without having to go all the way down Broadway.
“I’m not sure if people realize there’s still a cut through on Toomey Street,” Houston said. “Taking the street was in line with the other sorts of actions the City has done to help development, particularly private development. I am sure if you’re used to the cut-through, it feels significant, but taking Toomey Street curve will quickly become the normal driving pattern and won’t represent a problem.”
Finally, TND said it didn’t believe there were any conflicts of interest that played a part in the development of the French Club.
Planning Board Chair Tuck Willis is on the Board of Directors for TND and, thus, was listed on the deed for the entity that purchased the French Club. That said, Willis recused himself from the proceedings, and other members of the Planning Board with ties to TND are simply volunteers.
“I think the state Conflict of Interest law is very, very clear and mean to protect against these things,” she said. “I think you saw that when the one member with ties to TND recused himself in a good and forthright manner. One other member of the Planning Board volunteers with TND (Henry Wilson) and was frankly one of our toughest questioners. I noted members nodding in support of neighbors. I am sure when they’re ready to make a decision, they’ll make an unbiased suggestion…We don’t think we have a tight ‘in’ with either of the boards. We think people have been operating in a very forthright manner.”
The matter will be addressed at the Zoning Board of Appeals on July 14, and then again at the Planning Board on July 28.
Juan Vega, the long-time director and face of Centro Latino on Broadway, announced this week that he will be stepping down from his position as of June 30.
“I write to let you know that, after proudly serving in this role for the past 17 years, I am stepping down as president and CEO of Centro Latino effective on June 30,” read a letter sent out to supporters and friends this week. “The time has come for me to pursue other professional opportunities and for Centro to bring in new leadership to facilitate its continued growth and future development. I feel very privileged to have been able to work with a great Board, staff and team and community partners. Together, we have helped to improve the educational and social well-being outcomes for thousands of families. Centro Latino is well positioned to continue meeting the health and education needs of the region’s growing Latino and immigrant populations.”
Vega was not immediately available when contacted by the Record.
The letter went on to explain that the Board is dedicated and will continue to be a high-quality community service provider.
He indicated that plans have been in the works for the last couple of months to ensure a smooth transition, and that the Board would name an interim management team.
Third Sector New England has been engaged to conduct a search for a new, permanent director of Centro.
“I want to express my sincerest gratitude to the people of Chelsea and communities such as Cambridge, Revere, Somerville and Everett for supporting Centro Latino and being dedicated to helping all families succeed,” he wrote.
Vega is a member of the Chelsea Housing Authority Board of Commissioners and he recently served on the City Manager Search Selection Committee.
Chester . “Chet Zak’ Zaksheski, Chelsea Funeral Director and lifelong resident of the city, passed away Monday morning, June 15 at the Leonard Florence Center for Living in Chelsea after a short period of overwhelming illness. He was 88 years old.
Born and raised in Chelsea, the beloved son of the late Anthony W. and Josephine U. (Trocki) Zaksheski, Chester attended St. Stanislaus Polish Parochial School and went on to attend Chelsea High School graduating with the Class of ‘44.
He enlisted in the US Navy, served during World War II and was honorably discharged in 1946 at the rank of Motor Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class. He returned home to Chelsea and enrolled in Tufts College and later the New England Institute of Anatomy and Science in Boston. He became a licensed Funeral Director in 1949, immediately joining his father operating the Anthony Zaksheski and Son Funeral Service on lower Broadway in Chelsea.
He married his beloved wife Charlotte J. (Romaszko) in 1950 and together they raised their family of one son and four daughters in Chelsea. He was appointed by the City of Chelsea to serve as trustee to the Chelsea Soldiers Burial Lot overseeing the purchase of grave space in Woodlawn Cemetery providing burial space for Chelsea Veterans.
In 1965, six years after the passing of his father, he constructed and opened a new location in Cary Square, Chelsea establishing the Anthony Memorial Funeral Home in honor of his late father. In 1980, Chester was joined by his son, Peter operating the Funeral Home at that Chelsea location.
He was appointed to the Chelsea Board of Health serving as board member and later assuming the role of Chairman for several years. In 1999 the family business merged and acquired the Welsh Funeral Home on Broadway in Chelsea and since that time he has assumed the role of Director Emeritus.
He has been a licensed Funeral Director for 65 years and in his semi-retirement he would often accompany veteran services to the National Cemetery in Bourne. In earlier years, Chester also worked for a Cambridge based livery company providing hearses and assisting fellow Funeral Directors in the course of their business. He was a current member of the PAV Post 13 Chelsea and the Polish Political Club. Chester was a past member of the St. Stanislaus Holy Name Society and one time Choir Member. He held positions as an Assistant Boy Scout Master, past member of the American Legion Post 34, the Chelsea Rotary Club and The 100 Club of Mass. He was a lifelong communicant and parishioner of St. Stanislaus Church in Chelsea and would frequently attend Mass at the Chelsea Soldiers Home, St. Michael the Archangel Chapel.
In addition to his parents, Chester was preceded in death by his daughter, Dianne Marie in 1969, his beloved wife, Charlotte J. in 1995 after 45 years of marriage, and by his grandson, Jonathan last year. He is survived by his devoted son, Peter A. Zaksheski and his wife, Donna M. of Chelsea, three loving daughters; Linda S. Wood and her husband, David of Sierra Vista AZ, Andrea Z. Jackowski of Royersford, PA and Patricia J. O’Donnell and her husband, William of Peabody. He was the dear brother of Helen A. Wilson of Peabody and the late Irene J. Schultz; cherished grandfather of Amanda D. Jackowski, Christopher S. Jackowski and Jonathan’s wife, Elizabeth Jackowski, all of Pennsylvania and the adored great grandfather of Charlotte Jackowski together with Zach, Anna and Tori Fokin.
His Funeral will be held from the Frank A. Welsh & Sons Funeral Home, 718 Broadway, Chelsea on Saturday June 20 at 9 a.m. followed by a Funeral Mass at St. Stanislaus Church, 163 Chestnut St., Chelsea at 10:30 a.m. Services will conclude with interment at Woodlawn Cemetery, Everett. Relatives and friends are most kindly invited to attend. Visiting hours will be held at the Welsh Funeral Home on Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. A Vigil / Wake service will be held at 7:30 p.m. Funeral Home is fully handicap accessible, ample parking opposite Funeral Home. Should friends desire, donations in his memory may be made to the Chelsea Jewish Foundation, “Leonard Florence Center for Living” 165 Captain’s Row, Chelsea MA 02150. For directions or to send expressions of sympathy, please visit
Stella A. (Busz) Domoretsky, born in Manchester, NH and a Chelsea resident all of her life until moving to Life Care Center of Stoneham over two years ago to receive supportive care, passed away Thursday afternoon, June 11 at the Melrose-Wakefield Hospital shortly after admittance to the emergency room. She was 90 years old.
She was the devoted wife of the late Walter Domoretsky and fiancee of the late Edward Johnson; beloved mother of Donald Domoretsky, Sr. and his wife, Marilyn of Stoneham and Michael Domoretsky, Sr. of Ipswich; sister of the late Jennie Dedeo and her late husband, Joseph; sister-in-law of John and Sophie Kanarkiewicz and the late Vasily and Michael Domoretsky and cherished grandmother of Donald, Jr., Brian, Lisa, Michael Jr., Erica, Ashley and Traeger. She is also lovingly survived by many nieces and nephews.
Funeral arrangements were by the Smith Funeral Home, Chelsea. A Funeral Mass was celebrated in St. Stanislaus Church and interment was at Woodlawn Cemetery, Everett. Expressions of sympathy in Stella’s name may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105. To send a message of condolence to Stella’s family, please visit www.smithfuneralhomes.com
Lifelong Chelsea resident
Mary E. (Allen) Verrengia passed away Monday evening, June 8 in the peaceful surroundings of her home with her caring family at her side. She was 86 years old.
Born and raised in Chelsea, the loving daughter and only child of the late Francis Allen and Gertrude (Fariole) Griffin, Mary attended local schools. and was the beloved wife of the late Anthony Verrengia. She raised two children and worked for a time outside of her home for Technicolor in Boston as a film developer and later as an assembler at Marsons Corp in Chelsea. In her lifetime she much preferred the quite stay at home lifestyle caring for her family and beloved pets. She also enjoyed socializing at her favorite hair and nail salons. She was the devoted mother of Dolores Decareau of Nashua, NH and Richard Verrengia of Chelsea and was the cherished grandmother of Richard Decareau and his wife, Sharyn, also of Chelsea.
Funeral arrangements were by the Frank A. Welsh & Sons Funeral Home, Chelsea. Interment was at Woodlawn Cemetery, Everett. Should friends desire, contributions in her memory may be made to the MSPCA, 350 South Huntington St., Boston, MA 02130. To send expressions of sympathy, please visit
During the official Memorial Day Exercises at City Hall, Bronze Star Recipient and Parade Marshal Stephen Leon salutes in solemn remembrance as the Memorial wreaths are placed on the City’s War Memorials. While guarding a military barracks at night, Leon risked his life to save several hundred sleeping Marines from a terrorist attack in Afghanistan. He is a life-long Chelsea resident and a career military man.
Monday morning on Broadway Chelsea was a long way from April 2, 2011 for veteran Stephen Leon.
While he walked down the main street of his hometown – the grand marshal of the Memorial Day Parade – his thoughts were still keenly aware of that day in Afghanistan when he put his life on the line to protect hundreds of sleeping military men from a surprise terrorist attack on his Camp Phoenix outpost.
For his heroics, he has been awarded the Bronze Star.
As he and other members of the night watch stood guard over the camp, they were suddenly barraged with small arms fire, hand grenades and two suicide bomber insurgents who meant to penetrate the barracks and kill thousands.
“There were 8,700 soldiers behind us and they were all sleeping in the middle of the night, so we figured it was going to be our time to die because we weren’t going to let them get to those 8,700 sleeping soldiers,” Leon said in a Record story published in 2013. “My partner got hit and I said to him, ‘Just keep shooting because if they get by us, it’s all done.’ I got blown up, but we stopped them.”
According to his commendation letter from the Army, despite being rocked by multiple explosions, Leon was able to gather himself and deliver lethal shots to the attackers and to the suicide bombers who had not yet detonated their vests.
“While disoriented from a series of explosions, Specialist Leon refused to surrender ground and delivered accurate and lethal fire which prevented insurgents from gaining entry to the base,” read the citation. “His exceptional courage, dedication to duty, care for fellow soldiers and personal sacrifice directly contributed to the successful defense of the main entry control point. His actions saved lives.”
Operating with all humility on Monday morning in front of a hometown crowd, Leon joked about receiving his commendations from General David Petraeus.
“I love being a Chelsea resident because we represent,” he said. “I got all of my commendations from General Petraeus himself. He handed them over to me. When he gave them to me, he asked me what we needed to do to stop the war in Afghanistan. I said to send over more Chelsea residents and we’ll take care of this thing quickly.”
Leon is the brother of Chelsea Police Officer Robert Leon. All three of his brothers have also served in the military, and he said he wanted to have a military career since he was a little boy playing with his GI Joe toys.