By: Tara Kerrigan Hayes
If there’s one thing to be said for Bostonians, it’s that they rise up to take care of their own, and who better to consider one of our “own” than a Dorchester native, Veteran Marine who served his country in in the Vietnam war, then dedicated his life to serving as a Boston Fire Fighter.
Charles “Charlie” Santangelo was born and raised in Dorchester, where he married the love of his life, Betty Anne, in December of 1969. A year later he would find himself in the Vietnam war, fighting for his country because, as Charlie would later tell his children, simply, “it was the right thing to do”. He served a tour in 1970/1971 as a Lance Corporal in the Marines and was awarded a Meritorious Combat promotion – which is a means to recognize a Marine for uncommon valor in a combat environment – a promotion rarely awarded in the Vietnam war. For that to be achieved, a Marine must not only prove to his command that he’s a leader, but it also must be recognized by a board of senior Marines.
Returning to Dorchester, he would help raise his five children (Gina Marie, Charles, Melissa, Tia and Elizabeth), and became a Boston firefighter in 1991. Stationed out of Ladder 17, (one of the busiest fire stations in the city), Charlie dutifully served his city for 18 years before retiring.
Much loved for his boisterous personality and generosity, it was a tough blow to Charlie’s family and friends when he was diagnosed with Hypokalemia, a progressive degenerative muscle disorder that will ultimately confine him to a wheelchair.
Despite his quality of life being severely impacted by this painful disease, Charlie is determined to enjoy his life and his loved ones. As a proud grandfather to 11 grandchildren, uncle to 28 nephews / nieces, and a brother to 11 siblings, he strives to remain mobile and active in their lives, and recently completed a training program to obtain an official Massachusetts license to drive a hand operated vehicle, yet does not have the funding for the vehicle itself.
In an effort to appropriate funds for a wheelchair accessible vehicle (estimated to cost around $95,000), Charlie’s friends and family have organized a fundraiser to be held on June 14, 2019 (7pm) at Florian Hall. Businesses such as Boss, Yale Electric and several local establishments (i.e. Lucy’s American Tavern, and Southie’s Nurture Salon and Spa) have already committed to donating goods/gift cards for raffles and silent auctions. With a cash bar, light fare, DJ, and dancing, it’s shaping up to be a festive night that will not only serve to raise money for a worthy cause, but also to celebrate a man who is clearly cherished by so many.
A GoFundMe page has also been started by Charlie’s brother Mark, who is also well known in the community for owning and operating Santangelo flooring for almost 30 years. “The addition of this vehicle will allow Charlie to come and go safely and with confidence to enjoy his family and friends for many years to come”, says Mark, “and any donations exceeding the amount needed to purchase, insure and register the vehicle will be donated to the Boston Firefighters Burn Foundation”.
It’s hard pressed to accept that a man who has lived his life in service to protecting others should forgo the bare necessity of mobility, when collectively we can help Charlie reach his goal. The fundraiser and GoFundMe page provide a welcomed opportunity for those who wish to express gratitude by giving back to a man who has given so much of himself, because (to put it as plainly as Charlie did as to why he joined the military to fight for our country), it is simply, the right thing to do.”
Checks can also be mailed to: Mark Santangelo
Santangelo Flooring 75 Christopher Street, Dorchester, MA 02122