Former Milford Selectwoman and longtime Massachusetts State Representative, Marie J. Parente, died on Friday, September 20, 2019 after a brief illness. Marie spent most of her life in public service and her career is the stuff of an American success story.
Born to Italian immigrant parents, Raffaele and Josephine (DiMaria) Longhi, in Springfield, Massachusetts, she was the only girl of their five children. In 1932, tragedy struck the family when both Josephine and Raffaele became ill and Raffaele’s business became a victim of the Great Depression.
The Longhi children, Carmino, 12 Daniel, 10, Joseph, 8, Marie, 4, and Simoni, 2, were separated, placed in foster care and would not be reunited until adulthood. Marie was the luckiest of the children, as she was placed in the foster care of James and Mary Manella in Milford, who loved her and treated her as one of their own. Marie was an excellent student in the Milford public schools and lived in Milford the rest of her life. At the tender age of 17, she married Francis “Babe” Parente and they remained together until her death. They had two children, a daughter, Angela Brucato and a son, Christopher.
Marie was a secretary at Seaver’s Express in Milford for many years. In the 1960’s and 70’s, she learned that she had a passion for public service. She became active in local politics, first, by supporting candidates, and next, as a member of the Concerned Citizens which worked to strengthen the zoning laws, land use, planning and responsive leadership. In 1972, she was elected as the first woman Selectman in Milford’s history. In that position, she was a tireless worker and strong advocate for the townspeople for nine years (1973-1981). During her tenure, Milford had tremendous growth. To accommodate the growth, Marie and her fellow selectmen made town counsel a full time position. Under their leadership town meeting enacted and strengthened zoning and land planning laws. Industrial Parks were created to attract business and industry. She and her fellow selectmen were instrumental in luring national companies to Milford by giving them tax incentives. In 1980, she was elected as a State Representative in the Massachusetts House and served there until 2006. At the state house Marie was a strong supporter of the state’s foster care system. She was appointed Chairman of the Committee on Foster Care and helped numerous children achieve their goals. She was famous throughout the legislature and the state for her meticulous preparation on all the issues and passion for the causes of foster children, local government, the pro-life movement and fiscal conservatism. Her colleagues always knew where Marie stood on an issue. She never backed down on something she believed in. She always knew the facts and issues and was always prepared to argue them in the committee rooms and on the floor of the House. She was a sponsor of over 200 bills which became laws. Marie was instrumental in the town of Milford’s purchase of the State Armory and then worked diligently in helping to make that building the Milford Youth Center. In her spare time, she obtained both a Bachelor (1986) and a Master’s Degree (1991) from the University of Massachusetts Boston.
She was a communicant at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church and a member of Sons of Italy, Lodge No. 1356; Upton Grange (4th degree); Upton Women's Club; Milford Jr. Women's Club; Massachusetts Municipal Association; and Massachusetts Citizens for Life. She was also a member of the County Comm. Advisory Board; Worcester County Legislative Committee; Massachusetts Selectmen's Association and Joint Labor-Management Team.
She is survived by her husband of over 75 years, Francis A. Parente, a daughter, Angela M. Brucato, three grandchildren, C.J. Brucato, Lisa M. Burns and Mary Marini and five great grandchildren, Georgia Brucato, Grace Brucato, Gemma Brucato, Madelyn Burns and Ryan Burns. She was predeceased by her son, Christopher Parente, and her four brothers.
The funeral will be held Tuesday October 1, 2019 at 9 A.M. from the Consigli-Ruggerio Funeral Home 46 Water St. A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 10 A.M. at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church 5 East Main St. The burial will follow in the parish cemetery. Calling hours will be on Monday from 4 to 8 P.M.