PITTSFIELD -- One of the city's legendary political figures, former Mayor Remo Del Gallo, was showered with praise and affection Thursday during a surprise recognition event organized by the city's Democratic Committee.
However, regardless of political party, the dinner meeting at the ITAM Lodge drew some 300 of the many officials, friends and family members who've known Del Gallo over the more than five decades of his public service.
Del Gallo's nephew City Council President Kevin Sherman, who coordinated the dinner, described the former mayor's role as mentor, role model and hero to a long line of political leaders who followed him. "There will never, ever be another Remo Del Gallo," Sherman concluded, prompting a standing ovation.
Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi, who joined five former mayors is honoring Del Gallo, called his predecessor "a man of great stature, a real hero to so many people. He has served so well for so many years."
Del Gallo served on the City Council before being elected mayor in 1965. But speakers described an even more important role since that era, when he served on several boards and commissions, while his Del Gallo's Restaurant on Newell Street became a center for frank political discussion and an unofficial school for novice politicians.
"You don't get nuanced at Del Gallo's," said U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, who praised Del Gallo from Washington in a video shown during the event.
Neal said Del Gallo is "a legendary figure in the city of Pittsfield," and "a shining example of what public service should be about."
The guest of honor was described as someone who always worked for the good of the city in a nonabrasive style that gained respect, even from political opponents.
Those who know him agree "he is a very good and decent man who always led in a consensus-building way," said his longtime friend, former Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano.
"He was a very active mayor and a very active citizen," Massimiano said. "I would say a first citizen among citizens."
Other speakers included state Rep. Tricia Farley Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, who presented a citation to Del Gallo from the Berkshire legislative delegation, and Sheila Irvin, who served for many years with Del Gallo on the Community Development Board.
He retired from that position earlier this year.
Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, who could not attend, sent a certificate of praise from the state Senate, and Berkshire Labor Council members described Del Gallo as a longtime friend of labor.
Former Mayor Evan Dobelle sent a letter, read by Sherman, which said in part that advice he received from Del Gallo 50 years ago best describes the man: "His advice to me was: Never trade your old friends for new ones."
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