Linda Gasparello: A Mass. man in full

Ralph Marcy Gasparello

Ralph Marcy Gasparello

This is about my father, Ralph Marcy Gasparello, who died on July 11, aged 88. He was a stalwart resident of Hingham, Mass. Indeed, he often boasted about his status as “maybe the longest resident” of the town.

He had many opportunities to leave Hingham, especially after the death of his wife, Joan, in 2005. But he loved the town and their elm tree-canopied house -- which he largely built -- and where he raised four daughters and a son.

He and his wife were players in that championship season of residents who moved to Hingham in the early 1950s, and contributed to the desirability that it has today as a South Shore town. The young married couple supported the town's planning, enlarging its schools and raising the educational standards (particularly Wilder Memorial Nursery School and South Elementary School), and the building of the new Hingham Public Library.

He was a Massachusetts man through and through. He grew up in and around Boston, but mostly in Malden. He attended Boston Latin and other schools before graduating from Malden High School, in 1945. He was president of his high school class, and captain of its football team.

His athleticism won him a place on the football team of Cornell University, where he attended its famed school of hotel administration on an ROTC scholarship, and graduated in 1951, after completing his Army service. He married Cornell alumna Joan Rita Circola, of Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1952 at the university's Our Lady Chapel. They moved to Hingham in 1953.

He had a natural talent for public speaking, which caught the attention of his professors at the hotel school. While he was recruited by the Armstrong Cork Co. upon graduation, a speech that he gave on self-employment in a business class at Cornell sold him on that path in life.

When he and his wife moved to Hingham in 1953, he was working as a meat broker in Boston, having learned the business from a family member. He had a knack for sales because he liked to talk and listen to people: a skill honed during his days as a bartender at Cornell's Statler Club, where he learned to make his signature Negroni cocktail.

He stayed in the meat-brokerage business for more than three decades, until Iowa Beef Processors irrevocably changed the playbook for meat brokers in Boston in the 1980s.

A love for travel and languages – he spoke restaurant menu-level French, Italian and Spanish, which he and his wife studied at night for years at Hingham High School – led him to form an association for senior travel planners in 1985. He, his wife and his son, Ralph Jr., ran the National Association for Senior Travel Planners, and built it to 50,000 members before its dissolution, in 2001.

Through the association, he and his wife traveled widely. They enjoyed the business, and he especially enjoyed his public speaking – and even singing – opportunities during their Senior Travel Days shows. After his wife's death, he continued speaking in public – to those who attended the book lectures that he sponsored at the Hingham Public Library in memory of his wife, and to UBS investors forums.

His message to these and any audience -- of one or many -- was always positive. As he once said, quoting actress Audrey Hepburn, “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says 'I'm possible.'”

He had wide interests, including an abiding one in his  college alma mater. He and his wife were active participants in the Cornell Club of Boston and Cape Cod. For years, they interviewed prospective students from the South Shore.

His appreciation of music was passionate and all-genre – from Big Band to bluegrass to salsa and classical. It never dimmed, even though his hearing did in his final decade.

He was a natural athlete and could do anything with a ball, and watch any sport. He could cane chairs, which was his way of passing long New England winters. “I like to be busy,” he used to say.

He was a reader and relished discussions of domestic and foreign affairs. He wrote poetry.

He was an accomplished cook, especially Italian food, and loved to “get dirt under his nails” (as did his father) in the gardens in his homes in Hingham and on Nantucket Island.

He was Big Ralph to his family and friends. He was tall in stature and big in his love of life and this world. He had a big heart, which finally failed and took him from us.

He is survived by three daughters and a son, Linda Gasparello, of West Warwick, R.I., Lisa Holt, of Newburyport, Mass., Nina Moore, of San Francisco, and Ralph Jr., of Merrick, N.Y., their spouses and seven grandchildren -- who called him Pops -- and other relatives. His daughter Paula Jordan, of Belton, Texas, died in 2012.

A private family memorial ceremony will he held on Nantucket Island.

Linda Gasparello is co-host of White House Chronicle, on PBS.