A Life: Albert C. Marro; ‘Everybody looked up to Albie’

  • Cody Gray, 12, of Claremont, N.H., poses with Santa (Albert Marro, of Claremont) for his aunt Heather West, left, and grandfather Mark Bixby to take pictures with their cell phones on Dec. 20, 2010. Meanwhile his brother, Tyler, 9, second from left, celebrates receiving a stocking full of candy. Santa was paying a visit to the Claremont Soup Kitchen’s annual Christmas dinner. (Valley News - Jason Johns) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Jason Johns

  • Albert Marro volunteers in the kitchen at the Earl M. Bourdon Center in Claremont, N.H., in an undated photograph. (Family photograph)

  • Albert Marro is ready for the Fire Prevention Week parade and Fireman's Ball in a late 1960s photograph. (Family photograph) Family photograph

  • Albert Marro prepares to pick green tomatoes from his Claremont, N.H., garden for his well-known relish he would make at the end of summer every year. (Family photograph) Family photograph

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/5/2021 7:55:21 PM
Modified: 9/5/2021 7:55:22 PM

CLAREMONT — Albert Marro had a soft spot for kids, a penchant for hard work and a passion for gardening.

They all collided one day when he suspected some kids in the North Street neighborhood where he and his father tended two large gardens were getting into the rows and stealing tomatoes. He caught them in the garden one night, marched them to their apartment and found the parents eating tomato sandwiches.

He didn’t regard it as a crime, his son Andy Marro recalled. “He wasn’t mad they were in there stealing tomatoes. He probably would have given them some if they asked,” he said. “He was just mad because the kids were getting into the gardens and trampling the plants.”

Marro wound up giving the family tomatoes, cucumbers and radishes for the rest of the year, Andy Marro said.

Marro, who died at 89 on July 22, 2021, after a period of declining health, was a big-hearted Claremont native who loved working outdoors, volunteered and helped many fellow families in the city.

“He was a child magnet. Any little kid who met him loved him. They wouldn’t leave him alone,” said Alberta “Bertie” Marro, his wife of 61 years.

“When you met him, you first thought he was kind of rough, but he was just a gentle kitten.”

Albert Marro, who went by Albie, once joined the breakfast table as Bertie was feeding some young children of tenants in the apartment house they owned next door.

“They didn’t like eggs, but he would convince them they were ‘cackle candy,’ and they would eat them,” Bertie said.

Marro himself came from a big family, one of 11 children of Mary and Carminie Marro, who had immigrated as a young boy from Italy and worked for the Claremont Paper Co. Born in Claremont in 1932, Albie Marro graduated from Stevens High School and worked for the Satzow Brothers meatpacking plant.

He went on to serve in the New Hampshire National Guard, and as a volunteer firefighter for the Claremont Fire Department for 47 years, and took a job at Joy Manufacturing, where he worked for 28 years. He also was a key part of his brother Nick’s heating and plumbing business, helping with installation jobs around Claremont after he got off the night shift at Joy.

“You always had to work hard for both of them, my father and for Albie,” said Nick’s daughter Patty Marro Miller, who now owns Marro Home Center on Charlestown Road. “Sometimes he wanted you to work harder, but it was a great learning experience. Anyone who worked for him knows how to work.”

Albie and Bertie met when she was 17, and they dated for a few years before they were married in 1960.

He was 8 years older, with hazel eyes and a nice smile, and at 5 feet, 8 inches was a lean 135 pounds at the time, though he became more muscular over the years, she said. He also was a captivating figure who liked to live off the land, collecting mushrooms and dandelions and splitting wood for friends.

“He was exciting,” Bertie said.

Between his three jobs — working for Joy, for his brother and as a call firefighter — and his penchant for helping others, Marro was often out of the house.

“He was a giver. He always liked to volunteer,” said his daughter, Jody LaClair, who lives in Charlestown. “He was out volunteering more than he was home.”

He was frequently at the Earl Bourdon Center, the senior center and the Claremont Soup Kitchen, and he relished dressing up as Santa Claus for families in the community, not to mention his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

An active member of St. Joseph Church, one of his favorite tasks was to help cook the golabki — Polish stuffed cabbage — for the annual “Sports Night” award ceremony sponsored by the Catholic church. “We had golabki being cooked in stoves all over Claremont and he went from ‘stove to stove’ to check and baste to detailed perfection,” his son Andy said.

Marro also would buy clothes or books for families that were struggling, and make sure they had Christmas presents. And he was a friendly and generous landlord, as well.

“Even if somebody was short on rent, he would take it out of his paycheck and give them some money, little beknown to me,” Bertie Marro said. “He was a really good man.”

Rhonda Sohngen-Smith, now a Charlestown resident, was a single mom with a 10-year-old son about 40 years ago when she rented an apartment on North Street from the Marros.

“Albie was one of my best landlords. He never got into our business. He was kind, and would do anything we wanted him to do,” such as reliably shoveling off their porch, she said.

Her son Jason would follow Albie around, and eventually he started taking him on outings around town. “Albie was very good to him,” she said.

All of this generosity could occasionally be interrupted by the demands of a fire call after Marro started volunteering in 1958.

As captain of the Hose Company, he was on call 24 hours a day, with a stipend of around $6 an hour. They did it, fellow firefighter Ron Gilbert said, as a way to give back to the community.

“Albie was very dedicated and a heck of a nice guy,” said Gilbert, who was captain of the Ladder Company around the same time. “Everybody looked up to Albie.”

Even as he started to slow down, Marro still made his mark around Claremont, often accompanied by his beloved dachshund, Molly.

After his brother Nick died in 2014, he became a “support system” for his niece at the Home Center, coming in almost daily early in the morning for coffee with some other regulars and then guiding customers to different parts of the store, Miller said.

“He was a big personality,” he said. “He always made you laugh, and he was always caring.”

As for those tomatoes, Mike Satzow, who founded North Country Smokehouse and as the third generation of his family in the meat business knows something about food, still remembers driving over to the Marro garden to buy some tomatoes when he first got his driver’s license.

“Best tomatoes in Claremont,” Satzow said.

John P. Gregg can be reached at jgregg@vnews.com or 603-727-3217.

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