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Tomassi's restaurant owner Tony Tomassi dies, aged 87
7:00am Friday 31st August 2012 in Local News
THE owner of one of Southend’s oldest businesses has died.
Restaurateur Tony Tomassi, who went from a Bevin Boy to a Freeman of Southend has died after overseeing his family business to its 100th year.
The owner of Tomassi’s restaurant in High Street, Southend, died of heart failure in the early hours of yesterday, aged 87.
His daughter, former council leader Anna Waite , said: “The business meant absolutely everything to him. It was his life. He loved the business.
“Last week he went in to have lunch and realised there were tables that needed cleaning so he got on with it. He never really retired.”
Mr Tomassi was brought up in Langley Park, County Durham, where his father, Pasquale, founded the family’s ice-cream business with his wife’s dowry in 1912.
Pasquale, an Italian citizen, moved the business to Southend, where he opened shops in Westcliff , in the arches under the pier and in the High Street between the wars, but first son Tony returned to Durham as a 21-year-old to work in the coalfields as a “Bevin Boy” under a scheme set up by wartime Labour politician Ernest Bevin.
He received a Bevin Boys badge in recognition of his effort to help meet demand for coal at the end of the Second World War just four years ago.
Mr Tomassi was offered sponsorship to continue as a mining engineer, but returned to help run the family business after his mother suffered a stroke.
His dedication to the business ensured its success and in 2000, Mr Tomassi was made a Freeman of Southend.
Mrs Waite, of Barling, said: “He was so proud of that. He was not born in Southend, but he was adopted by the town.
“He promoted the town and when he was given the honour he was really chuffed.”
Mr Tomassi founded the Thames Estuary Automobile Club in the Sixties, for which Jenson Button’s father drove in the new sport rallycross, which Mr Tomassi also helped set up.
Mrs Waite said: “When I was five he was racing himself and virtually wrote off the family car at Brands Hatch.”
He was also an amateur photographer and a keen gardener, transforming a meadow behind the family home in Hockley into an immaculate garden. He was still at Southend Garden Show a fortnight ago buying plants.
Mr Tomassi is survived by his wife June, 81, daughter Anna and sons Antony, who runs the restaurant, and Mark, a barrister, and eight grandchildren.
His funeral is expected to take place next week.