, Salem, MA

March 27, 2014

Once a politician, always a politician

By John Castelluccio
Staff Writer

---- — PEABODY — Mayor Ted Bettencourt faced a good-natured rebuke Tuesday night after he introduced political mentor and friend Fred Berry to the School Committee, saying that despite retirement, the former Peabody senator was a great help in pulling together resources for a new student health center at the high school.

“I’m still a politician!” Berry quipped in reply, drawing laughter. He took a few moments to tell a story about how friends wanted to honor his legacy by naming a new school cafeteria after him. Berry said he regaled them with the ways he’s served constituents and his district for the past 30 years “and you want to remember me with a cafeteria?”

On a more sober note, he talked with Bettencourt about the needs at the high school and reflected Tuesday that the need for greater health services is “obvious.” “This is a valuable lesson to learn: There are many things you put together in your life that make the world a little better.”

As he was leaving, Berry warned: “I’m taking the names of every member who doesn’t vote for this.”

Longtime board member Dave McGeney said it was the first time he recalled Berry coming before the board on an issue and asked to send Berry a letter of thanks. “He’s a true hero in the city.”

It’s all Greek to me

Peabody’s Greeks celebrated 193 years of freedom from Turkish rule on Monday. That first came in 1821 after 400 years of oppression under the Ottoman Empire, to be precise.

The first Greeks arrived in Peabody after the turn of the century — many to work in the city’s leather industry. They founded St. Vasilios Greek Orthodox Church in 1906 and then a Greek school in 1912. Each year, the city’s Greek community gathers at City Hall to raise their country’s flag, remember their history and celebrate the survival of their culture.

Bettencourt, offering brief remarks, said he “truly admires how the Greek community has held onto its culture and roots.” He noted that many Peabody police officers, firefighters, teachers, a mayor and a congressman all represented the city’s Greeks over the years.

A highlight of the afternoon’s festivities was when Greek school students took the stage in Wiggin Auditorium in traditional garb to perform several rounds of ethnic dances.

And speaking of dancing, state Sen. Joan Lovely, who has attended a couple of these celebrations now, said she hopes to learn a step or two for next year.

“I think there’s a rule though that politicians [can’t] dance,” rejoined Bettencourt, smiling. “And now let’s call a great dancer to the stage,” he said, inviting state Rep. Ted Speliotis to speak. Speliotis said not only did his mother save all her children’s costumes, but she kept the shoes, as well. State Rep. Leah Cole and a handful of city councilors also attended the ceremony.

There are about 60 students at the Greek school these days, ages 4 to 12, who spend three days a week after the regular school day ends to learn about their heritage, the Greek language and ethnic dances.

Georgia bound

Business-savvy Peabody High students are once again preparing for national competition in Atlanta, Ga., later this spring. Eight members of the school’s DECA Club qualified for nationals earlier this month at the state conference held in Boston, demonstrating business and marketing projects they’ve developed this year.

Austin Solimine, Alex McDonough, Maria Zoto, Shantel Silva and Chris Ciampa all grabbed first-place awards, while Danny Griffin and Chris Ceurvels snagged second place and Anna Grimalyak claimed third. Clubmates Gianni Farese, Gabriela Molica, Amie Bonsaint, Ashley Feragammo, Jillian Rubin and Isabela Valencia all finished within the top 10 places.

There are still a couple of months to go before nationals in May, and the club is busy raising money to pay for the trip. The latest fundraiser was an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet at the Portuguese-American War Veterans Post this past Sunday. You can find more news from the club at

You can reach John Castelluccio at 978-338-2527, or via Twitter at @SNjcastelluccio.