Town’s Spirit Spans the Generations, Says Citizen-of-the-Year

September 18, 2023
Angelo and Gabriele Colao. Courtesy Image.

The town’s 2023 Citizen-of the-Year owns a resume of municipal volunteer service that spans parts of seven decades. 

Asked if he has any new projects in mind, Angelo Colao laughed, saying, “For now, I’m looking to get rid of stuff.”

Colao, for three generations an elected and appointed official and an advocate for the town’s historic heritage, will be honored during the Bedford Day parade (Saturday, Sept. 23) and at a public reception on Friday evening, Sept. 29.

A former Selectman and Planning Board and Finance Committee member, Colao stepped up to organize a celebration of the town’s 275th anniversary in 2004 because “nobody wanted to lead the show. I said, ‘We can’t just let 275 fall over the edge.’”

Complementing his decades of involvement was his serenity – an unruffled demeanor. 

“He was and is always thoughtful, considerate, and a true gentleman,” said former Selectman Cathy Cordes.

“What I have appreciated the most about Angie is his thoughtfulness and friendliness,” recalled former Town Manager Rick Reed. “After his service on elected town boards ended, he often would stop by the Town Hall offices to express his appreciation and support to me and our other staff members for the work that we were doing. He even took the time to get to know our newer employees that weren’t working for the town when he served on the boards.”

“He is a dedicated and caring person who has served Bedford honorably over many decades,” agreed former Selectman Joe Piantedosi, whose volunteer and personal relationship with Colao spans 35 years.

That small-town charm was what Colao said convinced him this is where he and his family should remain.

The honoree grew up in the Bronx and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering from New York University. One of his professors, who taught engineering structures, launched a small company in the Boston area and recruited Colao to join them. The family moved to a new house at 5 Page Road.

“Angelo has been a good neighbor and friend of mine, but he’s been much more than that to the
Town of Bedford,” said former Selectman Don Corey, who lives across the street.

Colao said in a recent interview he vividly remembers the atmosphere enveloping the community Fourth of July celebration that summer. That relaxed sense of unity convinced the family that this was a good place to stay, he said. “We liked where we were.”

Joe Piantedosi hosted a party at his home in 2001 for what were at the time current and former Select Board members. From left to right are: Betsy Anderson, Don Corey, Carol Goldman, Angelo Colao, Bill King, Judy Barber, and Joe Piantedosi. Courtesy photo from Joe Piantedosi

And throughout his decades of volunteer service, Colao said, “What I was always trying to do was maintain the environment and unified town spirit that I felt when I first moved here.” Much has changed, he acknowledged, but “people still value that spirit.”

“Angelo embodied the concept of collaborative work. His focus was always on what would be best for the town of Bedford,” Cordes said. “It was a joy to serve as a selectman with him.”

The three Colao children went to Page School. Colao said he spent most of his career at Lincoln Laboratory. He retired in 2001 but continued to fill in when asked for a few years afterward. He also did consulting engineering for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. 

“Whatever decision you made, you had to realize the decision could cost someone his life if it was wrong,” he reflected. 

Colao’s run of involvement began in the late 1960s when he was recruited for a water supply study committee. Through the entirety of his positions and responsibilities, he said, the underlying rationale was “I wanted to help the town. If I had the ability to do it, why not?” 

He particularly cited Reed’s performance as town manager. “I thought he did a super job. I was really impressed with the way he was handling things.”

The 275th anniversary year culminated with some disappointment, Colao acknowledged, as stormy weather washed out the Bedford Day celebration. 

“I got a call from somebody in Concord who said they had lost a person to a lightning strike that day. I just couldn’t imagine a marching band with flagpoles marching down the street,” he said. “So, the mayor of Bedford, England didn’t get a chance to march.”

Two years ago, as the town emerged from the Covid-19 restrictions, Colao decided to decline renewal on the Volunteer Coordinating Committee.

“I figured 85 was old enough,” he explained.

Asked what he found the most satisfying about his government and other involvement, Colao replied, “I enjoyed it all. I enjoyed at least thinking that I was a positive. My aim was to keep Bedford out front and positive.”

Colao and his wife Gabriele are celebrating their 63rd wedding anniversary this month. They have five grandchildren, all out of college.

The honoree also has been involved as a volunteer with the Bedford Historical Society and the Job Lane House. Additionally, he “took after [his] grandfather and built some furniture.”

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