Tony has only been a part of Needham since 1927. He is another of our country’s Greatest Generation who proudly served in the U.S. Navy in World War II, and was involved in the invasion of Guam. Returning to the only hometown he has ever known, Tony married his beloved Dora, and they raised two wonderful sons and Needham High graduates, Dennis and Bruce.
Among his early community service was providing assistance and counsel to the Parks & Recreation Commission and its then Chairman, Red Rizzo. Tony also volunteered in Needham Little League, the Boy Scouts of America, and for the Charles River Center. An integral member of Needham’s longstanding “kitchen cabinet” of Garrity, McEwen, Horowitz, Tibbetts and Cox, Tony provided insight, guidance and advice for many years on numerous critical issues then facing our Town. Tony also has served as part-time Town historian, always willing to share the stories of yesterday and how they inform and impact the Needham of today.
But Tony’s greatest gift – handed down from his grandfather and father – was moving and shaping land – and Tony so generously and fabulously did this for Needham. Tony helped design and build so many of our playing fields: Avery – Needham’s 1st Little League diamond, Mills, Claxton, and most recently, John Cusick Field. His largest and most significant contribution was the original DeFazio Park – then a vacant sand pit. With great help from a young DPW worker named Rickie Merson, DeFazio became the most important and most used athletic complex in Town – and continues to serve as the home for the largest youth soccer tournament in New England.
But Tony is much more than a builder of Fields of Dreams, he is a patriot who knows the great sacrifice so many of our veterans make every day. In 1984, Tony suffered some ill-health and decided to retire from work and undertake another Town cause. He created, designed and constructed our Vietnam Memorial – he did this because he felt awful about the way many of our brave Vietnam soldiers were still being treated. Since the dedication ceremony, presided over by Congressman Joe Moakley, and up to and including today’s date, this Memorial has been maintained, serviced, repaired and cared for by one man – Tony Cefalo.
When told he was going to receive the Melick Award, Tony humbly responded – “I don’t deserve anything, I did what I did for Needham because everyone should give back, and I love this great Town.”
For what he has done for Needham, and for what he has meant to Needham, we are most pleased to present the 2013 Richard Patton Melick Award to Tony Cefalo.