By SEAN BARRON
If family members, friends, colleagues and others are given a chance to paint a picture of Albert Masi’s personality, a portrait emerges of a kind, unselfish and modest man who went out of his way for others.
“He just cared about people and wanted the best for everybody,” said Masi’s son, Gabriel Masi. “He was a good person willing to help anyone at any time.”
Perhaps it was a natural fit for the elder Masi to have been a Youngstown police officer — a career he had for about 25 years before he was killed Feb. 12, 1973, by a drunken driver while directing traffic on U.S. Route 422 on Youngstown’s East Side.
Masi also was one of 25 officers in Mahoning County killed in the line of duty who was honored and remembered for his service during Friday’s annual Fallen Officers Memorial ceremony at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 343 Via Mount Carmel Drive.
Sponsors were the Mahoning County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 141, Youngstown FOP Lodge 28 and Youngstown State University FOP Lodge 200.
Masi also was a strong advocate for veterans, having served several years in the Marines during World War II, recalled Gabriel Masi, a Struthers High School biology and anatomy teacher and head girls basketball coach.
In 1961, Albert Masi, who was wounded during the Battle of Iwo Jima, became the national commander of the Italian-American War Veterans organization and was honored for his work with veterans and as a police officer, the younger Masi continued.
In addition, Albert Masi, who acquired the nicknames “Libby” and “Blue,” was a doting father to his son and daughters, Rita and Patty, recalled his wife, Lucy, of Campbell.
Shortly before his death, Masi was planning to retire from the force, then help run a family-owned dry-cleaning business that had been established about five years earlier, she said.
“I get sentimental, and it’s honoring when people tell me they knew my grandfather but hard because I never got to know him,” said Anna Masi, housing coordinator for Help Hotline Crisis Center Inc.
Anna Masi added that she appreciates others’ perspectives on and stories about her late grandfather largely because they help solidify her positive perceptions of him.
“Everyone I’ve met in my lifetime always have a good word” about Albert Masi, added his 38-year-old grandson, Al Masi, head girls basketball coach at Struthers Junior High School. “I try to honor him by my way of life.”
John “Sonny” Litch also saw himself as an ordinary person who routinely put others first, said his wife, Darlene.
Litch, a Mahoning County deputy sheriff and firefighter killed by John Glenn on Oct. 22, 1981, was a practical joker who loved spending time with family, Darlene Litch recalled, adding that she regrets what she sees as an erosion of respect for law enforcement.
“Sonny and I grew up at a time when our police officers and firefighters were highly respected,” she told the audience of a few hundred.
As each of the names was read, fellow officers and family members placed one red rose by a wreath.
The solemn service also featured remarks by state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Canfield, D-33rd; T.J. Assion and Elrico Alli, presidents of FOP Lodge 141 and Lodge 28, respectively; and county Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti.