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Al Sanclemente Named “Plains Man of the Year”

Alphonse Sanclemente was chosen as the 35th Plains "Man of the Year."

Retired lawyer Alphonse Sanclemente was named this year's "Man of the Year" at the 35th Annual Plains Association Reunion dinner, held on September 25 at the Italian American Veterans Post. Known for driving to each year's annual reunion in a different antique car, Sanclemente this year chose a 1940 Packard.

The Plains Association members celebrate their life growing up in the area of Milford below the former railroad tracks – now the Upper Charles River Trail – on the streets along Main St. and East Main St. (Rt. 16) and along Medway Rd. (Rt. 109). The area was primarily settled by Italian-Americans from the 1890s through World War II.

"I'll never forget my childhood and my friends here in the Plains," Sanclemente said. He recalled his life growing up on Cedar St., which included swimming in Milford Pond and in quarry holes, ice fishing on Milford Pond, and end-of-season tomato fights with the Irish kids who grew up on the other side of the railroad tracks that delineated the Plains neighborhood. "You just can't duplicate what people my era had in the Plains," he said.

He talked about an age when children would hold contests to see who could stay underwater the longest in a quarry hole and when children could play outside after school and all day long in the summer without much adult supervision and without a lot of money. "We grew up quicker than they do now," he recalled. Sanclemente noted that era ended with his service in World War II. "World War II made a man out of me," he explained.

His remarks dovetailed with those of guest speaker Lena Giacomuzzi McCarthy, a longtime Milford Planning Board member and daughter of John and Jenny Giacomuzzi, owners of Johnny Jack's Café and Bar Room on East Main St. – later the site of Pyne Florists and now the site of the Mac Med Salon. Louis Bertonazzi, Plains Association president, called the café "the central gathering place of the Plains,"

"It was a great place to be brought up. Everybody [in the Plains] was family," McCarthy said. "We had nothing, but none of us knew that," she added. "My family and the families that lived around us were the kindest and warmest we've ever known."

McCarthy and her three siblings lived above the bar room and, if they made too much noise, their parents would bang on the bathroom pipes below to let the children know they needed to quiet down. Often, the Giacomuzzi children were called upon to help their parents run the place by pouring beers for customers, she explained. Like Sanclemente, McCarthy also recalled the way mothers would call their children in for supper from playing outside in the neighborhood – by calling out their names, by birth order, in a sing-song style.

Prior to the reunion dinner – at a memorial ceremony at the Plains monument on East Main St. – Ronda Fairbanks Ciocca spoke about her grandfather the famous alto saxophone jazz musician, Boots Mussulli. "How he could make a saxophone sing," she said.

Ciocca recalled her grandfather's career playing with the big bands of his era, including Stan Kenton and Count Basie, noting, "There was my grandfather, Boots, this young man, right in the middle of it all." A self-taught musician who started playing the sax at age six, Mussulli retired from playing on the road to teach locally, she said, founding the Milford Youth Orchestra which went on to play at the Newport Jazz Festival in 19667.

"He got such satisfaction and pleasure from juts doing what he loved – playing music," Ciocca said. "He was a husband, a father and a friend. His biggest accomplishment was his family." She noted he wrote a song about his children, called "The Four Girls."

Noting that last year's monument talk focused on Milford-born, Nobel Prize-winning physician Dr. Joseph Murray, Bertonazzi said, "If there were a Nobel award for music, Boots Mussulli would have won it."


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