hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

November 22, 2012

Letters to the editor

The Haverhill Gazette

---- — Fred Battistini remembered for his spirit

To the editor:

The YMCA and health community at-large lost a good friend with the passing of Fred Battistini Nov. 9.

It was only fitting and proper that he chose the eve of Veterans Day to leave us, given the fact that Fred was a true veteran of the U.S. Navy who would have rendered a hearty salute two days later.

Every day was a blessing for Fred throughout his 89 years. He kept up his YMCA regimen like a true admiral, showing up three times a week with his coterie and enjoying a brisk workout.

It wasn’t so much the elliptical machines that kept his balance as it was the true friendships he incurred for over a half century as one of the last remaining members of Rudy’s Tigers. There were no strangers in Fred’s life. He was a friend to those he knew — and those waiting to make his acquaintance.

He cast a gangly presence, given his stature, but his gentle demeanor was always present. He was “one of the boys” because age never entered his life. Those around the YMCA scene called him the city’s “oldest teenager.”

While son Rick racked up a cache of gold medals during a Senior Olympics Meet one year at Harvard University, along went dad for the ride. Fred decided he would take on the competition in his age category — scant as it may have been for octogenarians — and wound up with his own gold medal display.

There was Fred on the medal stand like some ageless Mark Spitz, basking in glory, while Rick was there applauding the loudest.

More than anything, Fred enjoyed the legacy he left behind. He doted over his children and grandchildren. Rick has been coaching the Hillie and Lowell High teams over the past 30 years and readily thanked the freedom his father gave him from the family business to conduct such a passion. Another son, Matt, was an outstanding football player and weightman in high school track, and still holds records for the Hillies.

Daughters Risa and Andria are role models of their own when it comes to the world of education and community endeavor. Fred, humble as he was, passed off the credit to his wife, Millie, and their 60 years of marriage. As the saying goes, it takes two to tango.

At a time when education was at a premium, Fred not only put himself through college but was president of his class.

His family’s Haverhill TV and Appliance company kept its longevity intact on Washington Street because Fred defied the odds. At a time when the economy took a hit downtown and businesses were going under, Fred and his sons kept the ship afloat with a warm, personal touch you don’t often find in the malls and outlets across the border.

He always worked up a deal to secure your business, often undercutting the mega stores, which proved sound business acumen. His dad Mario before him established that method and two generations ran with it.

Fred was the ultimate Rotarian, given his 48 years with the club, always “service above self,” and kept the embers glowing with his proud Italian ancestry and his efforts with the Bradford Swim Club.

Rest in peace Fred. You’re in good company upstairs.

Tom Vartabedian