The cancellation of next Sunday’s Dorchester Day parade brings with it a special disappointment for one of the community’s favorite leaders, 93-year-old Louis Pasquale, who had been named the chief marshal of this year’s march down the avenue.
A fixture in Dorchester for more than half a century, Lou is a beloved figure in the neighborhood where community groups, young children, teenagers, and just folks have come to know and love him from his years of caring work at Boston Bowl and the Phillips Old Colony House restaurant.
Is he let down by the cancellation? “Oh, yeah, very much so,” he said last week in an interview. “Very disappointed. I was really looking forward to it. It would be like a close-out to my years coming, you know.”
Lou said that he was born in his family home in Milton – “I think on Adams Street, but I’m not sure. I lived there two years. My family was so big they wanted my mother to move to Quincy with the rest of the family. It was different times.”
He now calls Braintree home.
He also talked about his successful attempt to become a soldier in the middle of World War II.
“When the war broke out, my father probably thought I was going to school,” he recalled. “But I quit school and went down to the shipyard. My brother was a boss down there and my dad didn’t know I was there, too. At the time I was too young to go into the service but then eventually I joined the Army.”
At the age of 18 in the spring of 1945, he sustained shrapnel wounds in his leg in the battle for Okinawa about 1,000 miles from Tokyo. At the time, he said, he made a bargain with God: “If I were to survive and make it back home, I promise to help an individual every day of my life. I told my mom I’d make it home so, God, if you help me through this, I’ll keep that promise.”
Pasquale recovered and returned home to Quincy after the war.
Trained and the holder of a special certificate from Quincy’s trade school, he opened his own business as a master mason. In the 1950s, the owners of what is now the Phillips Family Properties hired him to help with the construction of their property along Morrissey Boulevard, and that’s where he has remained.
“And after 65 years, I’m still working,” he said. “I sold the masonry business after about six years, but I stayed with the [Strazzula and Sammartino] family.
“You know what happened here? I spent all my life working with the children who were coming to the bowling lanes and I did what I could do for them. A lot of the kids that used to come down to the bowling lanes, I made sure that they were taken care of. I always kept my eye out for them, always took care of them.
“Everybody would say to me: ‘You lived in Quincy and you’re going to Dorchester?’ I would say ‘yes’ and then they’d say, ‘Well you know Dorchester this, Dorchester that….’”
“Well I’ll tell you this: Dorchester people have just been the best. My God in heaven, they treated me like a King Farouk! They treated me like a King Louis! It was wonderful for me over the 65 years to meet people –just some names off the top my head: Paul White and Marty Walsh, Bobby White, John Finnegan. Great people.”
Even though there will be no parade this year, Lou remains the 2020 grand marshal. He was asked if he had any word for his friends, and he did:
“Just tell them they were wonderful people and thank you all for thinking of me. I appreciate it with all my heart. I don’t expect anything. The respect that I gave, they gave it back to me tenfold. Tell the people that the best decision I ever made in my life was to come to Dorchester. I have had a beautiful, happy life there.”
Pasquale, who will turn 94 in July, has a few assorted health issues as might be expected for someone his age. But come the first Sunday in June next year, the Dorchester Day parade will step off again if all is going well. Would he make himself available to lead that parade as its grand marshal? “God willing I’ll be here,” he said with a smile. “I definitely would! I definitely would!”