Anthony “Tony” DiFillippo died at 90 years of age on Tuesday evening at his home, sleeping peacefully next to his wife of 65 years Jennie. Tony was a man of many passions – he loved his wife, his family, UniFirst Corp, and the “Boston” Patriots. He was a runner, a skier, and a consummate storyteller. Tony loved people…he came alive when he was deep in conversation with someone or better yet, in front of a crowd. His charisma and outgoing personality served him well in his career at UniFirst Corp, where he started in 1951 working along side his brother in law Aldo Croatti. Tony was named President of UniFirst in 1986 and continued in that role until his retirement in 1995. But he wasn’t finished yet – he began serving on the UniFirst Board of Directors in 2002 and stayed for another 10 years. Tony truly loved UniFirst and was so proud of his son David, who is a Senior Vice President there. Tony taught his children the importance of taking the time to talk with people….and to remember their stories. He prided himself on knowing the names of UniFirst employees around the country, and he always remembered their stories. Tony had a way of lifting spirits…after talking with him people felt appreciated, and more importantly they felt respected. His son Steve, owner of Davio’s restaurants, credits his success as an entrepreneur to his father’s philosophy of how to run a business.
Tony loved his work at UniFirst, but he also loved to spend time with his family. Jennie was the master cook and Tony, the master storyteller. They loved it when their house was full of people and unlike most of their peers, this included teenagers. Tony used to say that the best years of his life were when his sons played football at Lynnfield High School. He and Jennie never missed a game and often hosted the after-party for the players and fans alike. Their children’s friends were always welcome in their home and sometimes even on vacation. Tony loved hosting people at his home at Sugarloaf Mountain where he enjoyed skiing with his children, and then even more so with his grandchildren. He also loved spending time by the beach at Kennebunk where his family would gather each summer. When he was in Kennebunk Tony would run 5 miles/day rain or shine…only Hurricane Bob was ever able to keep him inside. Tony, Jennie and their family shared many happy times together in Maine skiing and going to the beach…Tony made sure he always had a place his children and grandchildren would want to visit.
Tony and Jennie were world travelers but they did not start out that way. Growing up in Providence, RI, neither had ever traveled far from home. Tony’s first experience with travel was after his high school graduation in 1945, at the tail end of WW2. Tony enlisted in the Coast Guard and at 17 years of age, was stationed in Hawaii for the remainder of the war. Thanks to the GI Bill Tony was able to attend Bryant College, graduating in 1950 and becoming the first in his family to do so. It was at a Bryant College event where he first met Jennie Avila, and they married in 1953. While they were dating their travel was limited to either Boston where they would visit jazz clubs, or to Brockton where they would watch Tony’s favorite boxer Rocky Marciano train. They would eat Jennie’s homemade sandwiches on the ride, a habit they would continue with their children on family vacations. Tony and Jennie’s shared passion for travel continued throughout the course of their 65-year marriage, culminating in a 3 1/2-month cruise around the world when they were 80. They were the life of the ship – the party always began when Tony walked into the room. They went to the jazz show every evening and were on the tour every morning. They saw the Taj Mahal, they accidentally rode on a chairlift at an indoor ski area in Dubai, and they walked on the Great Wall of China (actually Tony fell off the Great Wall and had to be airlifted…it’s a long story). Their calls home were filled with laughter as Tony would recount the stories of their many adventures. Tony and Jennie were an inspiration to all who knew them, but especially to their children. They laughed together for 65 years….we will miss that laughter.
Tony is survived by his beloved wife Jennie, his three children Donna DiFillippo (s. Michael Ruttner), David, DiFillippo (s. Doreen DiFillippo) and Steve DiFillippo (s. Pam Small), sister Marie Croatti, 10 grandchildren, and 4 great-grandchildren.
A celebration of his life will be held at Davio’s in Lynnfield on Sunday July 1 at 12:00. In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made in Tony’s name to Lynnfield Athletic Boosters, c/o Lynnfield High School, 275 Essex St, Lynnfield, MA 01940.
ONLINE CONDOLENCES BELOW:
|Tony, was my second Dad. When my real dad was taken to his knees with Mental illness, Tony carried me through it.
Tony encouraged me to find my passion and make a career out of it. He encouraged me and mentored me along my journey. Although many years have gone by since I sat with him, listened to his stories, and shared Jenny’s gourmet food together, not a day has gone by that he has not been in my life.
Donna Don, Stevey Steve, Davey Dave and Jenny Jen, my body is thousand of miles away, but, my heart is right there with ya.
Sugarloaf years were great years. But the best day was at Glen Meadow Park. That was the place I met you all. My life changed that day in so many ways.
Tony, you will be telling stories at your next stop and changing peoples lives for many years to come. I am so lucky to have met you on this stop in your journey.
Love, Ricky Rick