PEABODY — Lynn funeral director and philanthropist David J. Solimine, his son David Jr., and grandson, Joel, were among the honorees Thursday morning at the Champions for North Shore Community College Recognition Breakfast at the Peabody Marriott.
The Solimines were honored, along with the Bertolon Family of Beverly and Massachusetts Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Roslin Acosta, for their work in the area of philanthropy, community impact and public service and advocacy.
David Solimine Sr. has been a longtime philanthropist in and around Lynn. He was named the Item’s Person of the Year in Lynn for 2018 for volunteerism and fundraising, and especially his work on behalf of Item Santa.
North Shore Community College recognized him for his impact in the community, and his work toward establishing a Funeral Services associates degree program on the school’s Danvers campus.
“It’s our strong belief that an affordable funeral services connection with the area will provide endless opportunities for employment,” said Joel Solimine, who helps run the funeral homes in Lynn.
“Without the Solimines, and their long-term help, we could not get this done,” said NSCC president Patricia Gentile.
The Solimines have served as lead advisors on the new program, which was launched this fall. College officials hope it will educate the next generation of funeral service providers. The program features a newly-renovated laboratory for hands-on training and dedicated classroom space on the Danvers campus.
David Solimine said the closure of two area campuses that offered Funeral Services curricula prompted Gentile to look into setting one up at North Shore. She tapped the Solimines to be the lead advisors and went about looking for a person qualified to run it.
Gentile’s search resulted in the hiring of Jayme Cameron, formerly of Detroit, whose first task, now that she’s on board, is to work toward getting the program accredited.
Later, when it was Acosta’s turn to be honored, she acknowledged the Solimines, saying, “your names have always been synonymous with the best of North Shore.”
The award was sponsored by Comcast.
Acosta, whose background is in the banking industry, became part of Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration in 2017.
North Shore Community and the MassHire North Shore Career Center partners with Acosta in career training and workforce development program grants. North Shore Community hosts the MassHire North shore Career Center in Lynn, providing accessible career training and secondary education credentials at one location.
Acosta’s family emigrated to the U.S. from Cuba when she was 6, and is still an advocate for working on behalf of the Latin-American community.
“My mother and father were professors in Havana, but over here, their credentials were not enough,” she said. “They worked for 12 years before they could do what they love to do.
“But we were welcomed here with open arms,” Acosta said. “And that’s important. When you’re welcome, you thrive. When you’re not welcome, you struggle.”
Acosta said she was dismayed by the atmosphere in the country with regard to immigration.
Donna and Henry Bertolon, the other honorees, invested the largest philanthropic gift in the history of North Shore Community through their family foundation. As a result, the Bertolon Simulation Health Care Center of excellence stands on the Danvers campus and will enhance the college’s allied health and human services programs. Donna Bertolon is also an alumna, having graduated in 1972.
Gentile related a story to show how prevalent North Shore Community graduates have become in the area. She underwent knee replacement surgery earlier this year, and one of the medical assistants who worked with her said that she’d looked familiar. When Gentile said she’d worked for North Shore Community, the attendant said, ‘Hey, you’re the president.’ Then, we took a selfie together.”