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Tony Tomassi, a true friend of Southend's police force
4:00pm Sunday 16th September 2012 in News
Former Essex Police Superintendent DAVID BRIGHT, recalls fond memories of the restaurauteur and Freeman of Southend, Tony Tomassi, who recently died.
IT is said that true friends are hard to find, difficult to leave and impossible to forget.
From the packed congregation at St John’s Church in Southend, at the recently held funeral service for local restaurateur Tony Tomassi, it was abundantly clear he was a friend to many people from all walks of life.
From personal knowledge I can say Mr T, as he was affectionately known in police circles, was a total believer in law and order and a very good friend to Essex Police with regards to crime initiatives as well as charity events. He was a man who was generous with both his time and support.
I was first introduced to Tony on a cold night in the early winter of 1966, this being my first tour of duty on the beat as a brand new and very raw officer.
At this time I was taken into the original Tomassi’s restaurant, then located at 20, High Street via the back door. The senior constable I was with said we were in the “best tea stop in the borough”, a “tea stop” being premises where officers can take the “weight off their feet” while enjoying a cup of tea or coffee and, on occasion, something a little stronger courtesy of the particular host.
It is a matter of Southend police folklore that at Tomassi’s between the hours of 5am and 7 am, the restaurant could have been mistaken for a police station due to the fact officers on High Street patrol, together with mobile patrol colleagues, would meet up. Others who would drop in were street and window cleaners, milkmen, postmen, refuse collectors, and dependent on the time of the tide, even bait diggers.
Over cups of tea and coffee provided by Bridie, Tomassi’s wonderful Irish cleaning lady, much information would be forthcoming about the goings on in and around the High Street and seafront areas, such as runaway children, suspect individuals, rough sleepers, abandoned vehicles and found property.
What in effect was taking place was “community policing”, facilitated and approved by Mr T. All that was missing was a “blue lamp” affixed above the restaurant door.
Spending time in Tony’s company regardless of the location or the subject discussed was like having warm sunshine on your face. It always felt good to be with a man who cared so much about his adopted town and its people.
My belief is endorsed by that of a lady spoken to at the funeral service, who when asked as to the reason for her attendance replied “55 years ago when I was 15 years of age, I badly needed a job. Mr Tomassi took a chance and employed me. I just had to come and say goodbye to such a lovely man.”
Similar respect was shown on this same day by 12 police officers, who after changing their shift duties or having give up time on their rest day, provided a uniform presence at the service. In addition, a number of retired officers also attended to pay their respects to a true friend to the police.