David J. Solimine Sr. was born at home, 24 Spruce St., on Nanny Goat Hill above Frey Playground. “I was born in that house on August 30, 1935, grew up in that house, raised my family in that house. We moved only once, 300 feet down the street,” he said.
Solimine, who has owned and operated funeral homes in Lynn since 1965, has lived in the city for all of his 83 years. And he, wife Mary Jane (Melanson), and their four children and 14 grandchildren have done much to better the community they love.
Today, Essex Media Group and the Item recognize David as Lynn’s Person of the Year.
He’s an active lifelong parishioner at Sacred Heart Church, where the Solimine family sponsors an annual Mass and dinner for shut-ins.
He has been an officer of the Valladolid Council Knights of Columbus in Lynn for more than 45 years. He’s a member of the Order of Malta, the Catholic organization that takes care of the sick and the poor. He’s a supporter of Santa’s Helping Hands, which provides winter clothing to local families and makes sure every parent is able to provide something special for their children at Christmas.
The Variety Children’s Charities group is also dear to his heart. The organization, which works in conjunction with the Jimmy Fund, has been able to donate vans to both the Boys & Girls Club of Lynn and the JOI Child Care Center.
The Solimines and the Amirault family, owners of Lynn’s Dart World, sponsor an annual Christmas party for more than 300 Lynn special needs students. Solimine Funeral Home supports numerous veterans organizations and the family contributes to and assists such organizations as the Massachusetts General Hospital Pediatric Cancer Unit, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, Shriners Burns Hospital, All Care VNA, Boys and Girls Club of Lynn, Bridgewell, Catholic Charities, Cerebral Palsy of Eastern Massachusetts, Elder Service Plan of the North Shore, Family and Children’s Services, Girls Inc., HAWC, Greater Lynn Senior Services, Greater Lynn YMCA, Project Cope, Centerboard, and other local social service agencies.
About 20 years ago, Dr. Nick Kostan convinced Solimine and four other Classical graduates (Tom Costin, Salvy Migliaccio, Sen. Walter Boverini and William McGuinness) to start an Alumni Association. The organization has awarded more than $500,000 in scholarships to Classical grads.
And he, friends, family and hundreds of volunteers have manned Santa’s Island on Broadway near Wyoma Square for years, collecting more than $200,000 for the Salvation Army’s Item Santa.
“I’ve always been a Lynn cheerleader,” said Solimine, a 1953 Classical High grad. “You absolutely cannot knock the city in my presence.”
Solimine’s career also started on Spruce Street, in the greenhouse and wholesale florist business of his parents, Damiano and Agnes. During this period, he attended Northeastern University at night, earning a business degree.
Ten years out of high school, Solimine decided to enroll at the New England Institute of Anatomy — funeral school — where he served as class president. He earned his license in 1964 and, in 1965, opened his first funeral home, taking over the Broadway and Boston Street properties of Walter Ahern, who had died.
“We were broke for eight years. It took us that long to get out of the red,” Solimine said.
His friend, Nick Meninno, renovated the funeral home at 444 Broadway and the Boston Street site was shuttered. He donated that land to Sacred Heart Parish, for use as a parking lot.
David Jr. joined Dad in the family business in 1978. Four years later the current funeral home at 426 Broadway was built.
The Solimines purchased TW Rhodes Funeral Home on Ocean Street in 1984. Landergan Funeral Home was acquired in 1996. In 2009, Joel C. Solimine joined his father and grandfather in the business. Joel is one of 14 grandchildren, all of whom, says Grandpa, have participated in the family’s tradition of community service. “I can tell you all their names and who they belong to,” said Solimine, with a laugh.
“God’s been good. You give back,” Solimine said. “When our days are ended, if one can feel that one’s efforts helped someone less fortunate have less of a tough road to hoe, it’s worth it.”