Tony Barrasso celebrated his 100th birthday Thursday by kicking off a sing-along at the Don Orione Home in East Boston. It was a standing-room only crowd, and all eyes were on Barrasso, the affable World War II veteran from Eastie who goes by the nickname “Tony the Kid.”
Holding a microphone in one hand, he began to croon: “Happy birthday to you . . .”
Everyone chimed in and sang along. Barrasso beamed as he looked around the room. The place was packed with people and decorated with balloons. It was a special day for a special man who fought in the Battle of the Bulge.
Barrasso wore a red, white, and blue American-flag-style scarf draped around his shoulders. Throughout the ceremony he was smiling, and was quick to give a salute.
Among those congratulating Barrasso were Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards; VA Boston Healthcare System Director Vincent Ng; Dr. Steven Simon, chief of the geriatrics and extended care service line of VA Boston Healthcare System; Francisco A. Urena, secretary of the department of veterans services; Tom Lynch, executive director of the Don Orione adult day health center; and state Representative Adrian Madaro, who presented Barrasso with a special citation from the Massachusetts House of Representatives, congratulating him on his birthday.
“Today we are celebrating 100 years of life for Anthony Barrasso,” Madaro said. “Anthony is a veteran, a veteran of World War II, and that is an incredible feat that he is here today. But he’s also a son of East Boston, and so it’s very special to be surrounded by so many friends and family and fellow veterans to mark this incredible occasion.”
His daughter, Denice Barrasso, got choked up with emotion as she spoke.
“Thank you daddy, for showing me respect, for showing me love . . . you and mommy showed me the world,” she said. “You’re a good father, a good grandfather, a good husband, a good friend, you’re a good man, and I love you. And I’d like to take you another 100 years. I love you daddy.”
After receiving several toasts and citations, Barrasso rolled in his wheelchair back to his seat at a long table, and all of the guests enjoyed a brunch buffet that included roast beef, waffles, eggs, danish, and fresh fruit. The icing on his birthday cake featured a photo of him and his late wife, Grace.
Sara Tse, 27, was among the many guests who attended the birthday celebration. She visits Barrasso at his home in East Boston every week — it’s something she’s been doing for more than five years. She started when she was in college through a volunteer organization called Ethos, and over the years she’s become a part of the Barrasso family
Tse described Barrasso as “down to earth” and “a really funny guy.” He’s like a grandfather to her.
He’s “one of the most generous people you’ll ever meet,” she said. “He and his family have opened up their home to me. I feel like they’re my second family, and they treat me like a family member.”
Barrasso’s niece Debbie DiGirolamo, 59, of Lynn, took the day off work to attend the festivities, which she described as “just amazing.”
“I’m so proud of him. He’s been one of my favorite uncles on my mother’s side for all my life growing up,” she said. “I couldn’t miss this celebration for Uncle Tony.”Emily Sweeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.