Sebastian Grupposo, at 90; retiree was devoted to Natick

The Boston Globe
June 2, 2009 Tuesday

BYLINE: By Megan McKee, Globe Correspondent

SECTION: NEWS; Obits; Pg. 14

LENGTH: 979 words

Until earlier this year, Sebastian “Busty” Grupposo worked part time as Natick’s parking clerk, deciding the fate of the ticketed with the sense of duty, care, and good humor that people who knew him said were the defining characteristics of his 90 years.

Mr. Grupposo, a member of a celebrated local military family who became a Town Meeting member and an unofficial champion of the elderly, died May 28 at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston after suffering injuries in a fall. He died three days after a Natick square was dedicated to him and to four of his brothers who served during World War II and the Korean War.

“Sebastian was the quintessential Natick icon,” said David Linsky, a state representative from Natick who first met Mr. Grupposo more than 30 years ago when Linsky was a young Town Meeting member. “He lived and breathed Natick.”

Mr. Grupposo’s parents settled in the town after immigrating from Italy with $20 in their pockets. His mother died when he was a child, leaving his father to care for the couple’s seven children.

Reflecting on his childhood a few weeks ago, Mr. Grupposo said he remembered his father crying in worry about where the family’s food would come from.

During World War II, Mr. Grupposo fought with the US Army in North Africa and Europe. When he returned, he worked at his uncle’s store, Grupposo’s Market in Natick, for a few years, then served with the National Guard from 1949 until 1978. Mr. Grupposo continued working at the store part time while raising three children with his wife of 64 years, Anastasia (Jordan).

It wasn’t until retirement that Mr. Grupposo officially entered Natick public life. He was first elected as a Town Meeting member more than 30 years ago, then was elected as a Natick constable in the mid-1980s. In that role, he served residents with lawsuit papers. In the early 1990s, he added parking clerk to his public roles. Mr. Grupposo served as the town’s interim veterans’ agent for a couple of years, too.

Until a quadruple bypass surgery in late 2006, Mr. Grupposo attended every selectmen’s meeting. He marched in every Memorial Day and Veterans Day parade in full uniform, more than 100 parades in all.

“He was a real citizen, in the best sense of the word,” said Erica Ball, the first woman elected to Natick’s Board of Selectmen.

Mr. Grupposo’s encouragement was instrumental in her decision to run in 1975, as she had some trepidation about being an outsider. Not only was she not born in Natick, she wasn’t born in the United States. She came from Austria by way of places such as Trinidad and New York. “He dealt with you as an individual, not as a class,” Ball said. “He was very welcoming.”

Though his public life was full to the end, those who knew him said his family and his Franconia Avenue neighborhood were what mattered most.

“He used to say that Franconia was the best street to live on in Natick and would joke that `everyone wants to live here, but there was just not enough room for everyone,’ ” said Donna Murphy, who has lived across from the Grupposos for 16 years.

She said that Mr. Grupposo would always remember the birthdays, anniversaries, and other milestones of all the neighbors and always had the perfect words or gift to commemorate each event. Murphy said she heard that Mr. Grupposo, known for his extensive connections in town politics, had “ins” with local greeting card vendors who would inform him of the latest and best card selections.

This year, Mr. Grupposo gave Murphy’s daughter a musical princess card for her eighth birthday.

Jeanette Szretter has lived next door to the Grupposos for 25 years. She said that after he became ill a few years ago, Mr. Grupposo continued to return her emptied bins from recycling and trash collection to their appointed spots while she was at work.

Such quiet integrity is what inspired others on their street to continue traditions of neighborliness that the Grupposos had upheld for 50 years, Szretter said.

“He was a great inspiration,” she said, adding that he urged political involvement, too. “He encouraged my husband to run for Town Meeting.”

Mr. Grupposo was known as much for his strong opinions as for his service in town politics. He lobbied for issues that benefited the elderly and personally helped people navigate the bureaucracy of public assistance.

“A lot of people have nothing; they’ve paid their dues,” Mr. Grupposo said in an interview a week and a half before the square dedication. “What I enjoy more than anything is to help people. . . . Nothing says you have to look out for others, but it’s always nice when you can do something.”

Nicholas Mabardy, a Natick police lieutenant and executive officer who knew him since childhood, said Mr. Grupposo’s nature, shaped by the Great Depression and World War II, was part of a vanishing breed.

“These people had character you don’t find,” said Mabardy.

Mabardy said he was shocked and saddened to learn that Mr. Grupposo would not make it to the Memorial Day dedication of Morse and Garfield streets because he had fallen the Friday before.

“All he wanted to do was see the dedication,” he said.

Szretter said Mr. Grupposo had been looking forward to the event for months and kept inviting more people.

And Murphy, who has been planting the Grupposos’ flowers for the past couple of years, carefully selected red, white, and blue blooms this year at Mr. Grupposo’s request.

“Everything he did was a little bit special,” said Murphy. “He was irreplaceable.”

In addition to his wife, he leaves a son, Kevin of Bellingham; a daughter, Karen Curtis of Framingham; a brother, Anthony of Wareham; a sister, Lucy McDermott of Dover, Del.; 10 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. His daughter Gail Morrill died in 2004.

A Mass was celebrated yesterday at St. Linus Parish in Natick. He was buried at St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Natick.

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