For this Bristolian, lending a helping hand just comes naturally

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 5/9/24

"We pay our taxes and we expect everybody to fix everything for us, but there's nothing saying that we all can't contribute," Paul Salesi said. "We can all give back.”

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For this Bristolian, lending a helping hand just comes naturally


Retired Navy Senior Chief Paul Salesi and his wife, Bristol native Mary Ann (Mascagna), settled in Bristol about eight years ago after a 23-year military career that took them up and down the Eastern Seaboard, from Annapolis to Newport News, Va., to the Naval War College.

When Salesi was ready to retire, Mary Ann knew she wanted to come back home to Bristol. “I married into Bristol,” Salesi joked. “I had to return her to Bristol. I fulfilled my obligations to both my country and my wife.”

Initially following retirement, the couple had a home close by, in Portsmouth. Then they decided to go condo, and moved to one they loved in Providence, overlooking Waterplace Park.

“Our balcony looked out onto the Waterfire basin…but it was absolutely trashed. So I just started going out cleaning up the park.”

Salesi connected with the park superintendent, who started offering him resources. He started a neighborhood alliance for Waterplace Park. “We planted maybe 800 plants; we painted the fence, and I detailed it. And it’s still holding up.”

That volunteerism has happily carried over to Bristol where, in recent days you may have seen Salesi power-washing the fence in front of Linden Place in preparation for a new coat of paint. And early this week he began tackling the clock at Hope and State Streets. Dedicated to the “Citizens of Bristol” by Fred and M. Lucy Carraturo on July 4, 1994, the clock stands as a solid downtown landmark — but in the past 30 years, its color had faded dramatically.

So Salesi volunteered to paint it.

“I drive by it all the time, I walk by it all the time. This is a landmark. It is such a focal point for this historic area. Why does it look the way it does?” Salesi asked. He reached out to Town Administrator Steve Contente in an email. “I said Steve, I’m retired, I’ve got the time, I'd love to paint this clock.”

The two base coats, a deep forest green, are on. Weather for the next several days is not going to be conducive to painting, but when the sunny skies return, so will Paul, to paint the gold details and return the clock to its 1994 glory.

“You know, I'm a believer of pride in ownership,” said Salesi. “As taxpayers, this public space, we own it. So we should have a vested interest in it. We pay our taxes and we expect everybody to fix everything for us, but there's nothing saying that we all can't contribute. We can all give back.”

“Chances are if you're going to contribute something positive, nobody's going to say ‘no’ to you.”

For Salesi, there is one other, very important factor that motivates him to pick up a brush.

“My father was also a Navy man, and he also liked to paint. After his own retirement, he painted part time at a retirement village,” Salesi said. “He’s been gone 11 years now, but when I’m painting I still feel a connection with him.”

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.