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The Boston Globe

Obituaries

Del Alberts, former Globe advertising executive

Del Alberts loved opera, played the piano, spoke fluent French, and was an unabashed Francophile.

Del Alberts loved opera, played the piano, spoke fluent French, and was an unabashed Francophile.

It seemed the best of times for the country’s newspapers in 1970 when Del Alberts joined The Boston Globe’s advertising sales team. Twenty-five years later — in a much different newspaper environment — he retired as the Globe’s sales promotion manager.

Harvard-educated and trained at a top New York advertising agency, he had the skill, the drive, and a certain panache that helped him make a significant contribution to the Globe’s advertising success.

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“He was a great hire,” said John Coan, of Beverly, who signed him on to work at the Globe. “He was everything we hoped for, and then some.”

Mr. Alberts was also a man who loved opera, played the piano, spoke fluent French, and was an unabashed Francophile.

Dellson “Del” S. Alberts died Dec. 23 of multiple myeloma at his Boston home, according to his partner of 17 years, Terence Mendis. He was 78.

“Those were heady days at The Boston Globe,” said Mary Jane Patrone, who had worked for Mr. Alberts during the ’70s, in a eulogy at his funeral.

“The newspaper was a powerhouse in the city, a kind of avenging angel standing up for busing and against the war in Vietnam,’’ she said. “And, although our team in the promotion department may not have been on the front lines, we considered our work sacred, nonetheless. We stoked the engine, gathering the readers, the advertisers, and the money necessary for the reporters and editors to do their jobs.”

She likened Mr. Alberts to Don Draper, the creative director of a Manhattan advertising firm on the television series, “Mad Men.”

“Del was a perfectionist and he worked his people hard,’’ she said. “But he taught us a lot, too. He taught me [that] friends are too precious to take for granted. And, most importantly, he taught me life is too short not to give it your all.’’

James Regan of Scituate, who had been his senior manager at the Globe, characterized him as “a man of many words and many opinions.”

“He was a dependable, hard-working manager, dedicated to making the best sales promotion material for the Globe staff,” he said. “His contributions to the Globe advertising sales success was significant, and he was known as a great mentor to younger staff members.”

In the 1980s, Michael K. Flanagan of Medway was among them.

“Del was demanding, but also a tremendous mentor,’’ he said. “He was very much like that learned professor in college who was at first intimidating, but inspired you to do your best work.”

Flanagan said Mr. Alberts challenged himself as well, as he continually produced creative pieces bearing his trademark “stylish prose.”

“He developed the key themes that played out in countless brochures, in-paper ads, presentations and radio commercials,” he said.

John Newton, of Newburyport, who worked at Boston-based Hill Holliday, the Globe’s advertising agency in the 1980s, said Mr. Alberts also had a very practical side.

“Del loved to brag about his frugality, and he was convinced that his primary role at the Globe was to save the Taylors [the former Globe publishers] every penny he could, especially when it came to his dealings with Hill Holliday,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many times he offered up his services to be the voice-over for the many radio spots we produced, or as the lead talent in our television commercials so we could avoid paying union wages to the Screen Actors Guild.”

Rita Harris, former Hill Holliday executive, recalled him as a creative person, especially with words, who “often gave our copywriters a run for their money.”

Mr. Alberts was born in Boston to Emmanuel and Adelle (Shalit) Alberts. His father was in the jewelry business. His mother, an opera singer with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, died giving birth to him.

His late sister, Eunice Nicholson, was also an opera singer with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and a niece, Adelle Nicholson of Miami, made her career in opera.

He grew up in Brookline and graduated from Phillips Academy in Andover, then in 1956 from Harvard College, with a major in English.

He served in the Air Force for three years and was stationed in France, where he fell in love with the food, culture, and beauty of the country.

After graduating in 1963 from Harvard Business School, he joined the renowned advertising firm McCann Erickson in New York.

In 1995, Mr. Alberts met Mendis, a native of Sri Lanka, in Boston. The pair traveled to Sri Lanka in 2009.

Mendis, 49, talked about how much he had learned from Mr. Alberts during the years they were together.

“Del was very sophisticated and had done so many interesting things,’’ Mendis said in a phone interview. “He had a very positive effect on my life. I knew nothing about classical music and learned a lot from him.

“His influence on me was life-changing,” he said.

And Mr. Alberts was always, he said, the “life of the party.”

“In one of our weepy moments toward the end,” Mendis said, “I asked Del what was his greatest accomplishment in life. He said it was all the wonderful friends he had made. He was the master of the art of friendship.”

In her eulogy, Mr. Alberts’s niece, Lisa Handorff of New York City, recalled his many acts of kindness to the younger generations of his family — and to complete strangers.

“He taught us,” she said, “that it never hurts to say something nice to others. Walking down the street with him, whether in Hong Kong, New York, or Boston, he would approach the most beautiful woman around, compliment her on some aspect of her appearance, and instantly strike up a conversation with her.”

She also remembered sumptuous evenings he hosted.

“He gave lavish dinners and was always the life of the party, the consummate host,’’ she said. “Dellson showed us all that life is to be enjoyed, not hedonistically, but with grace and charm and, most importantly, with others.”

To Mr. Alberts’s neighbors, Joyce Amico and Charles Malkemus, he was “a renaissance man.”

“From his vast education to his mentorship of all his friends, we have lost a true human being here, who showed care for others through education in culture and a passion and knowledge of music,” Malkemus said.

Mr. Albert leaves Mendis and his nieces and nephews. A service was held.

Mr. Alberts was a Francophile to the end. Malkemus said he visited Mr. Alberts on the last day of his life.

“In a low and labored breath, he told me, ‘I am going to Paris,’’’ Malkemus said. “And, in that small acknowledgment, I knew what he meant.”

Gloria Negri can be reached at negri@globe.com.

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