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Albert A. Arena

Pause My Homeland by Nicholas Barry, composer (BMI), Tomas Jacobi, comp
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Joyce Funeral Home

245 Main Street
Waltham, MA 02453
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Memories & Candles

“Dear Jean, Arthur and family, Please know that you are in our prayers during this time of sorrow. May Jesus and Mary console you and grant Albert...Read More »
1 of 7 | Posted by: Sr. Susan John Daughters of St. Paul - MA

“My condolences to the friends and family of this man who loved his community. Among his many other accomplishments in his life, his creation of The...Read More »
2 of 7 | Posted by: Jessica Lucci - Waltham, MA

“My sincerest sympathies to the Arena family for the loss of Albert. May God's Word strengthen you during this time of mourning. (Isa. 41:10,13) ”
3 of 7 | Posted by: T C - GA

“Several years after graduation from WHS I had the honor of attending a lecture at the Senior Center in Waltham which was given by Albert. Although...Read More »
4 of 7 | Posted by: Anita Gallagher - MA - Classmate

“Dear Arena Family,I am truly sorry for your loss. May the God of all comfort give you peace of mind and heart during this difficult time (Psalm 29:11...Read More »
5 of 7 | Posted by: A friend

“To Al Arena's family - As with so many of our dear veterans who are resident at the Bedford VA Hospital, I think there are many family members and...Read More »
6 of 7 | Posted by: Carol Ruggiero - North Weymouth, MA

“Jean and boys: I am so sorry to hear of Al's passing. He was a great man, with so many wonderful facts about Waltham stored in his memory. He truly...Read More »
7 of 7 | Posted by: Gloria Champion - Waltham, MA


Waltham – Al Arena agreed with American novelist Michael Crichton who once observed that "If you don't know history, then you don't know anything . . . you are a leaf that doesn't know that it is part of a tree."

In 1971 Al founded the Waltham Museum, first on Charles Street, before its move to the old police station on Lexington Street. By then he had become Waltham's chronicler, collector of artifacts and historian of record. He was a story-teller, fact finder and proud son of the city that he loved til the day that he died.

Al was the museum's director until he retired on his birthday in 2015.

His story began on November 12, 1929 when he was born to Sicilian immigrants Jennie (Inferrere) and Giovanni Arena in the same Noonan Street house that he lived in all his life. He had ten brothers and sisters.

When anyone asked Al about some of his early memories he usually began by recalling getting hit by a car in September, 1936 while he was helping his older brothers sell newspapers on Elm Street. As a six year old the memory left an impression but becoming somewhat of a celebrity by making the front page of the News Tribune seemed to take some of the sting out of the experience.

From there:

- He shined shoes on Moody Street,
- worked picking beans on local farms,
- caddied at Pine Brook Golf Course
- and spent 6 years setting up pins at Bentwood Bowling Alley.
- He graduated from Waltham High School in 1949 and was accepted to the Massachusetts Maritime Academy (MMA) as a midshipman. He first had to pay
$475 for books and uniforms by August 29, 1949 and he had only $100. to his name. He asked a neighbor, Francis LeBlanc, to take him to Rockingham Park
to bet the $100 and at the end of the day he made $780; more than enough to attend MMA.
- On the first MMA training cruise to Europe in 1950 he saw Pope Pius the XII at the Vatican.
- After graduating from the MMA in 1952, he sailed as an engineer on Gulf Oil Company tankers. From 1953 to 1954 he made five round trips to South and East Africa on the African Planet freighter.
- From 1954 to 1956 he served with the United States Navy during the Korean War as an engineering officer on the USS New Jersey BB-62, an Iowa class
battleship. He stayed in the Navy as a reservist.
- In 1956 he received his Merchant Marine license as a Chief Marine Engineer at the age of 26. From 1956 to 1960 he worked as a stationary power plant
engineer for Boston Edison, Boston Laundry, Medfield State Hospital, Wrentham State School, Chestnut Hill Pumping Station, Hyde Park Pumping Station and Harvard Medical School power plant.
- From 1960 to 1962 he sailed as an engineering officer on the SS America, which carried 1000 passengers. Here he made over 20 round trips to Bremerhaven and other ports in Europe.
- From 1963 to 1969 he was a boiler and machinery inspector for Mutual Boiler and Machinery Insurance Company on Wyman Street in Waltham.
- From 1970 to 1972 he returned to the Massachusetts Maritime Academy as chief engineer of the USTS Bay State II, their training ship and was also an associate professor and chief engineer of the new power plant at the Academy.
- From 1973 to 1974 he worked for Raytheon Service Company on a contract with Boston Edison to teach all power plant operators proper power plant procedures.
- From 1974 to 1980 when it closed, he was the chief engineer of the Schraftt's Candy Factory in Charlestown.
- In 1976 he retired from the Naval Reserves as a full Commander.
- At the museum he made more than 30 different historical slide shows on the history of Waltham for Waltham Cable Access Studio.
- He also was one of the founders of the Waltham Council of Neighborhood Associations (WCONA) in 1968.
- In 2011 the city dedicated a bench on the Common to the seven Arena brothers to honor their military service. Each had served with either the Navy or Merchant Marines. Their dad, Giovanni, was a World War I Army veteran.

So those were some of the things that Al did with his life but who he was was a devoted husband, a loving father and a grandfather who loved his grandchildren 'to the moon and back.'

The best part of Al's life began on September 8, 1969 when he married Waltham native Jean M. MacDonald in Saint Mary's Church on School Street. The couple made Al's homestead their lifelong home.

Al died on Tuesday, July 17, 2018 at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford. He was 88.

In addition to his wife, Jean, he leaves his children, Albert A. Arena, Jr. and his wife, Darlene, of Framingham, Andrew A. Arena and his wife, Christine, and Arthur A. Arena, all of Waltham; his grandchildren, Albert, III, David, Elizabeth, Rachel, Julia, Victoria and Andrew Arena; his siblings. Pasquale Arena, Anthonino Arena, both of Waltham, Grace Rooney of Natick, Rose Clasby of Foxboro, Mary Vallerand of Waltham, Joseph Arena, James Arena, both of Florida and Nickolas Arena of Southbridge and many nieces, nephews and their families.

He was also a brother of the late John Arena and Orazzio Arena.

Family and friends will honor and remember Al's life by gathering for calling hours in The Joyce Funeral Home, 245 Main Street (Rte. 20), Waltham on Friday, July 20th from 4 to 8 p.m. and again at 8 a.m. on Saturday morning before leaving in procession to Saint Mary's Church, 133 School Street, Waltham where his Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 9 a.m. Burial will be in Mount Feake Cemetery, Waltham.

Memorial donations may be made to the E.N. Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital, 200 Springs Road, Bedford, MA 01730.