By Carol Tye
Len Piazza is a real home town boy. Born on July 28, 1927 in the Revere Hospital, he went to three Revere schools: the Shurtleff, the McKinley, and Revere High School, from which he graduated in 1945. In the ‘45 yearbook, he is described as “wearing sharp socks, tall and willowy, a good worker, always on the go, one of the comics in the class, and a great man with the ladies!” Len hasn’t changed all that much in his 92 years.
Like so many others of his “greatest generation,” Len entered the service (the U.S. Navy) immediately after graduation. After basic training as a firefighter, he assisted in the commissioning of the USS Leyte, which was then our largest aircraft carrier, with a crew of 5,000. Although he loved traveling to Cuba, and passing through the Panama Canal to Peru and Chile – especially because everyone loved Americans then, he was happy to be honorably discharged in 1948.
Len returned to his parents’ house at 148 Warren St., where he received his bonus of $20 a week for one year. (He gave his mother $10 and kept $10 for himself). His first job lasted only one day. When he came home from the East Boston shipyard with holes burned in his clothes, his mother (on the advice of a neighbor) sent him to Dewey Square to the Acme Steel Company.
To his interview he wore a white wool jacket and bright blue pants, and he was hired as a shipping clerk at $39 per week. Throughout his 16 years of employment there, the company recognized his talent and work ethic, moving him up the ranks and sending him traveling all over New England to train employees at other sites.
We all know that Lennie is very social. On a night in 1949, when he accompanied his cousin Josephine to a party, he was particularly attracted to a red-headed girl. So he joined with three guys from Broadway, to take four girls, all telephone operators from Beachmont, home in a cab. And he was thrilled to get the telephone number of that redhead, Shirley Young.
They were married in 1950; their reception was at the old General Edwards Inn, and they moved into the first floor apartment at 177 Bellingham Ave., where they raised their daughter Deborah Ann, and their son Robert Leonard.
When Acme Steel moved to Philadelphia, Len applied to the Container Corporation of America, then located in Medford. This time he wore a blue suit to the interview. Once again his talent and work ethic resulted in his being continually promoted through all the departments. At the time that the company was bought out by Mobil Oil, he was managing $3 million in accounts.
The business from which Len would retire in 1992 was Bicknell and Fuller Corrugated Container Company. There he received continual recognition for his success in design, sales, and customer service. His contribution to the success of the company resulted in his being named vice president of sales.
Sadly, Len’s beloved wife Shirley passed in 1996. Len remained the caretaker for Shirley’s aunt for many years. He still lives at 177 Bellingham Ave., the house where Shirley, Deborah, and Robert were raised.
In his retirement years, Len is a civic activist. The list of his contributions to our community include the Children’s Charity of the Beachmont VFW, the Beachmont Summer’s End Barbecue to benefit MDA, the Revere Historic Society, which (as president for three years) he shepherded through extremely hard times), the Rumney Marsh Burying Ground (rebuild and Bocce Tournament), the Beachmont Improvement Committee, and the Knights of Columbus.
He is also an usher at the Immaculate Conception Church.
In all these endeavors, Leonard is an active participant. He is still motivated by a strong work ethic to use his talents to serve his/our community.
With us today to celebrate Lennie’s life are his daughter Deborah Sullivan, who came down from Maine; his son Robert, from Lynn; and granddaughter, Caitlin, is home taking care of her two little boys.