TAPS HAS BLOWN FOR MIKE VALERIO – A PATRIOT, A HERO, AND A FRIEND
By Don Feder
Mike Valerio was a colleague, a benefactor, and a friend, as well as one of the unsung heroes of the conservative movement. America got lucky when five-year-old Mike came here with his family from Italy circa 1936.
It probably sounds cliched, but Mike epitomized the American dream. He once told me that during World War II, he used to shine the shoes of servicemen passing through North Station in Boston.
He served in Korea after the war. Good Italian boy that he was, he sent his paychecks home to his mother. When he got back, she presented him with a passbook. With that, he opened the first Papa Gino’s. With hard work, a genius for business, and some great recipes, he built it into a chain of over 200 restaurants in New England.
Like my immigrant grandparents, Mike had a fierce love for America. The only things he loved more was his family and his Church.
I once worked with him and Pastor Rick Scarborough to register evangelical Christians to vote. We used to joke about a Catholic, a Jew, and a Southern Baptist partnering to get out the evangelical vote. To me, how they prayed mattered a lot less than how they felt about America – and Israel.
I met Mike in the Massachusetts anti-tax movement in the 1970s, where we worked against a proposed graduated state income tax and later for property tax reform. Mike was as hard-working as he was generous. He didn’t just open his checkbook to a cause, but rolled up his sleeves and went to work.
He was also gentle, kind, and just a bit shy. If he wanted you to do something, he stayed after you until you did it – bombarding you with his famous 3 am e-mails. Did I mention his tenacity?
There was hardly a national conservative organization that didn’t benefit from his generosity. He never expected anything in return – awards, testimonials, titles. He did it for the cause. Whatever America gave him, he returned ten thousand-fold.
He passed away on Wednesday, at age 89. Rest in peace, old buddy. And rest assured, the fight will continue.