Voices of the Bay

Joy in Giving Back to the Community

The Bristol Fourth of July Committee celebrates perennial volunteer Bob Squatrito with this year's Hattie Brown Award

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Bob Squatrito remembers being six years old and handing out poppies in honor of Italian American War Veterans Day. Six decades later, after innumerable hours spent volunteering with a range of organizations, including youth sports and fraternal, civic and church groups, Bob has been named the recipient of the 2017 Hattie Brown award – an annual honor bestowed since 1987 by the Bristol Fourth of July Committee in memory of the late Hattie Brown, who was known for her dedication and service to the community.

While growing up, Bob spent hours at the Bristol YMCA while his parents worked around the clock in the family restaurant. One of his first mentors was Hector Massa, the YMCA’s physical education director, who made an indelible impression on him (and died this past April at age 94). Hector’s outreach to Bristol’s youth planted an early seed in the appreciative youngster to get involved in and give back to his town.

A 1972 graduate of Providence College with a degree in accounting, Bob spent 38 years at Raytheon’s Integrated Defense Systems; he received many honors during his time there, including Raytheon IDS Person of the Year in 2009. He also served 26 years as a master sergeant in the US Army Reserves and 14 years in the Inactive Ready Reserve. He and his wife Margaret (Riley) are the parents of three children – Rob Squatrito, Margaret Gagner and Melissa Silvia – and grandparents to seven boys, ages 7 to 23. Bob and Margaret spend part of the year in Florida, where Bob volunteers in their retirement community. Bob can be reached at Squat2@aol.com.

My parents were always working. Over the years they had three restaurants – the White Rail, Midway Steak and Lobster House, and Cameo – as well as Bucolo’s Fish Market. I was the youngest of four children and the first was nine years older than me. I was always on my own. The Bristol YMCA was my second home and I was constantly there; Hector Massa of the YMCA would mentor me. He always did good for people. I remember saying to myself even then, “God has been good to me. I live in a great town; we have everything that we want,” so I would try to give back. I enjoyed it. From a young age all through high school and throughout my life, I’ve constantly been volunteering.

Whatever my children were doing – little league, Scouts, or school fundraisers – I was part of the activity. At Raytheon I ran the United Way campaign, and for years I was an instructor for Junior Achievement Rhode Island’s Project Business. I got involved with the Bristol Fourth of July Committee in 2010; I have been chairman of the Visiting Ships Picnic and the Macaroni Dinner Fundraiser, and have been involved with other July 4 events as well. When I was young my parents didn’t work on July 4. That was a big deal. We would do a picnic after the parade.

There is so much good that this community does for people. Since retiring I have gotten heavily involved with La Bella Sicilia Society, which works to promote Sicilian heritage and help the local community in need. We give out scholarships and you hope that the parents of those recipients will join and get involved. If you want to encourage people to volunteer for any organization, you have to talk it up and remind people that they have to give back. My cousin’s wife Patty said to me once, “You should have been a nun. You beg better than anybody.” I always said if I was going to volunteer, I was going to give it 100 percent.