Former mayor laid to rest

Published 10:10 pm Thursday, August 10, 2017

The life of former mayor and Suffolk champion Andy Damiani was characterized by eternal hope for his beloved downtown area, and eternal hope was the message at the Mass of the Resurrection that celebrated his life on Thursday morning.

“This is a day marked with sadness, but this is also a day filled with a tremendous amount of hope … hope in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” said Father Emmanuel Mensah during the service at St. Mary of the Presentation Catholic Church on South Broad Street.

Damiani, 95, died Saturday at Sentara Obici Hospital after a brief illness. He was a member of City Council from 1970 to 1992 and was mayor from 1982 to 1986.

Email newsletter signup

But his life encompassed much more than politics. He was a Richmond native who served in the Army during World War II, playing E-flat horn and bass in the band. After the war, he spent time touring Europe as a professional musician. After moving back to America, he married Mary Manos, a Suffolk native, and they made their home here.

Andy Damiani celebrates his 95th birthday last October at his usual seat in the Plaid Turnip, with his usual bowl of applesauce in front of him. (Submitted Photo)

His first downtown business venture was a Laundromat. He went on to be successful in real estate, earning himself the nickname “Mr. Downtown,” and had many friends. He championed downtown with seemingly boundless energy and never hesitated to tell those involved, from business owners to city officials, what he thought they should do to help improve it. He supported nonprofit organizations such as the Salvation Army in various ways and also promoted downtown through business and retail associations in which he was involved.

But none of those things was as important to him as his faith, Mensah said.

“Our dear Andy believed in the testament of our Lord,” Mensah said. “Jesus was his best friend, and he had such a strong love for Jesus and his church.”

Mensah remarked on Damiani’s multi-faceted public life, acknowledging his history as a professional musician, businessman and former mayor. The sanctuary was adorned with large floral arrangements in the shapes of a string bass and a coffee mug.

But he was also a loyal friend and good neighbor, Mensah said.

“He was straightforward, honest and caring,” Mensah told about 150 people present at the service. Damiani took his obligations to the community and to the church seriously, Mensah said.

“Our dear brother’s loss has been felt by so many people in our city and beyond,” Mensah said. “It is hard to say goodbye to someone who truly lived his life for others.”

Mensah urged those present to be good citizens in memory of Damiani.

“Andy wanted this city to be one of the best cities in the state of Virginia,” Mensah said Thursday.

And it was, because of him.