BEVERLY — On Dec. 22, 1974, a photographer snapped a picture of Beverly police officer Silvio Salvanelli on downtown Cabot Street, surrounded by children celebrating his 50th birthday. The photo was picked up by a national wire service and published in Scholastic Weekly Reader, a magazine distributed to schools across the country.
The fact that Salvanelli, who died in 2015 at the age of 90, briefly became a national symbol of the friendly local cop was only appropriate. For 33 years he was a smiling presence on the beat for the Beverly Police Department.
On Saturday at 11:30 a.m., the city will remember Salvanelli by dedicating a bench in his memory at Fosters Point, in the Ryal Side neighborhood where he lived.
“He was a beat cop,” said Judy Salvanelli, his wife. “He loved his job. He loved helping people. People trusted him.”
Salvanelli grew up in Beverly and joined the Navy during World War II after graduating from Beverly High School. His three older brothers were already serving in the war and he could have gotten an exemption, Judy Salvanelli said.
“He was the last son. He did not have to go,” she said. “His mother did everything she could to keep her baby out of the war. But he said wild horses couldn’t keep him away. He was extremely patriotic.”
Salvanelli served as a radio operator on military convoys protecting merchant ships en route to Russia, and was later among the troops in the Philippines preparing for the invasion of Japan.
After the war he worked as a printer for The Salem News before joining the Beverly Police Department in 1953, following in the footsteps of his father, Albert.
“Sal,” as he was known, spent many years as a beat cop and crossing guard in Ellis Square in downtown Beverly, and later patrolled the beat in Beverly Farms.
“He was like the mayor of Beverly Farms. He knew everybody,” said Joe DiAngelo, a retired Beverly police officer who worked with Salvanelli. “He was just a real nice man. He was gentle, but he got his point across when he needed to.”
Salvanelli was a big sports fan. He was inducted into the Beverly Little League Hall of Fame after years as a coach, and he attended almost every Beverly High School football game. He was set to be the honorary grand marshal of the Ryal Side Fourth of July parade the year he died.
Judy Salvanelli said her husband will always be remembered as someone who loved kids.
“Kids used to race to the corner because they wanted to be the first one there to talk to him,” she said. “He could get down on their level and talk to them. He wanted them to look at a policeman as somebody who would help them, not somebody to be afraid of.”
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.