When veterans in Lynnfield visited Town Hall to seek help receiving benefits, they often ended up trading stories with Neil F. Restani, the town’s veterans’ agent for 20 years who fought in World War II.
“He was a very thoughtful person who really went out of his way to help the veterans,” said Diane Hammerbeck, Lynnfield’s town clerk. “Oftentimes, they would just stop into the office to talk to Neil, even if they didn’t need anything.”
As a high school English teacher and an elementary school principal, Mr. Restani also spent nearly 40 years supporting and encouraging students with the same enthusiasm he brought to working with veterans.
Mr. Restani died of cardiac arrest June 8 in Winchester Hospital. He was 90 and had lived in Lynnfield for 48 years.
At high schools in Somerville and Billerica, Mr. Restani taught English and sometimes “had the biggest, toughest kids in his class, the football players,” said his son, Peter of Miami Beach, Fla. “He would bring them to tears with Shakespeare.”
Mr. Restani later served as principal of two elementary schools in Billerica, where he was known for taking music lessons with his students.
“He loved the trombone, and he was always trying to play it,” his son said. “He almost drove my mother crazy every time he’d go upstairs to practice.”
Although Mr. Restani may not have been a natural musician, he was a big music fan, his son said.
“He loved Dixieland music, the blues, all kinds,” said his son, adding that when he played trumpet at Lynnfield High School, his father would “follow the band around wherever we played.”
Mr. Restani showed the same kind of devotion to the Town of Lynnfield, where he was a member of the historical society and the area branches of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.
While working as Lynnfield’s veterans’ agent, he organized the town’s Memorial Day and Veterans Day parades.
David Breen, Lynnfield’s police chief, recalled bringing his veteran father to a Memorial Day parade. Although his father and Mr. Restani had never met, the veterans’ agent made sure the elder Breen had a seat up front.
Chief Breen described Mr. Restani as “a very compassionate man” who was “very active in the town.”
“Veterans would come back from war, and he would make sure they got the benefits they were entitled to,” he said.
Mr. Restani also helped arrange military funerals for Lynnfield’s veterans.
His wife, Connie, said Mr. Restani kept a supply of American flags in his car and “spent a lot of time making sure the cemeteries had flags” for veterans on holidays.
“He would give the flags to kids to put on the graves,” she said. “He always loved kids.”
Born in Somerville, Mr. Restani delivered newspapers when he was a teenager, as did his brother, Ray of Durham, N.H.
After Mr. Restani finished his route, he rode a trolley into Boston for a part-time job in a jewelry store, Ray said.
Mr. Restani was a Boston College student, majoring in English, when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He enlisted in the Navy and was sent to the Pacific, where he took part in five major naval battles.
“My dad served on this little ship no one ever heard of, but that ship earned five battle stars,” said his son, who visited the National Archives in Washington, D.C., to research Mr. Restani’s military career.
“Not until recently did he talk about his years in the service,” he said. “That was how it was with his generation.”
When the war ended, Mr. Restani returned to Boston College. He finished earning his bachelor’s degree and later received a master’s in education from Suffolk University.
He met Connie Parziale when both were children, she four years younger. They grew up next door to each other in Somerville and married in 1952.
“We were just neighbors at first,” said his wife, who also became a teacher. “Then we started going for walks.”
An avid sports fan, Mr. Restani enjoyed golf, biking, jogging, and ice skating.
“Back when he was a principal, he would keep a pair of skates in the car,” his son said. “If he spotted a good frozen pond while he was driving home from work, he would pull over and skate for 15 minutes or so.”
A service has been held for Mr. Restani, who in addition to his wife, son, and brother, leaves three grandchildren.
Burial was in Forest Hill Cemetery in Lynnfield.
When the funeral procession passed the Lynnfield fire station, his son said, “all the firefighters were standing outside at attention.”
“When my father said he would do something, he did it,” his son said. “He was devoted to the Navy, to his students, to my mother, and me. He was a man of devotion.”