Anthony “Tony” Smecca, Island Businessman, Husband, Father, Community Supporter, and so much more was lost on Wednesday December 2nd, 2015. Tony Smecca was born on -December 16, 1931 in Gela, Sicily. Much like the island he loved here, Gela is one of the oldest towns on Italy’s southern Coast. After serving in the Italian Navy as a diver and machinist at the age of 18, Smecca immigrated to the United States - Paterson New Jersey, in 1957. After meeting the love of his life, Nilde in 1957, Tony decided to move his wife and sons Joey and Johnny to Galveston Island in 1973 to initiate what would become the Galveston Restaurant Group – one of Galveston Island’s premier restaurant operations.
Tony developed a love for soccer early in his life. At the age of 16, he started playing soccer for a team named Fiamma (flame in English). Also playing with his hometown team TerraNova. Many of his accomplishments in soccer were part of a book written, Memorie Sportive, Sessant'anni di sport (1928-1988). Playing the position of forward was his passion and soon Tony was revered as the fastest man in Gela. This love for soccer followed him throughout his life. Whether it was during a school day where the nuns would have to pry him from the field back into the classroom, or Fiamma, playing competitively until the age of 47, at which time an accident put a halt to his playing days, or even after moving to Galveston quickly helping to organize the first dedicated soccer field on the Island and leading the effort to create one of nations best teams, the Galveston International Soccer Club – Tony Smecca loved the game of soccer. Nothing brought more joy to Mr. Smecca than either watching his grandchildren pick up and excel at the sport he loved or watching his beloved national team from Italy win the World Cup.
New Jersey offered an opportunity of employment for Tony Smecca. Already in New Jersey, Tony’s Uncles, Louigi and Rocco Smecca had established a name for themselves as leaders in Brewster’s Millhouse. Brewster’s Millhouse was a textile factory where Louigi was a top union boss. Working for Local 1733, Tony Smecca worked as the quality inspector for 16 years. Most importantly, Tony’s move to New Jersey in 1957 also coincided with the year that he would meet his future wife Nilde DeSimone. Nilde, also an immigrant from Italy fell in love and they were married in 1958.
After 16 years in New Jersey, Tony wanted something more for himself and for his family. In 1973 he decided that Galveston would be his future home and he followed his brother Giovanni Smecca who with Mario Bonaccorso already owned Mario’s Flying Pizza. They had two existing locations at 21st Street and 61st Street. Soon an opportunity arose for Tony to get involved with a new location at 628 Seawall Blvd. Tony soon became the owner of what has remained Mario’s Seawall Italian Restaurant. This was the beginning of what has now evolved into the Galveston Restaurant Group with sons Joey and Johnny as well as their business partner Danny Hart.
A humble man, Tony Smecca always was capable of putting a smile on your face or creating a sense of calm and confidence that things were going to be ok. His humility was displayed through his numerous acts of kindness and generosity within his family, his business and his community. Through the years Tony Smecca was recognized for his generosity by achieving recognition by the United States Congress for providing meals to the homeless during Thanksgiving, being commissioned as an Honorary Galveston County Sheriff’s Deputy or most recently through the recognition to the entire Tony Smecca family as the 2015 Galvestonians of the Year by the Galveston Regional Chamber of Commerce. Tony did not act in a manner to gain self-recognition, rather he did so out of a love for his community and a kindness for his fellow man.
This in not to imply that his competitive spirit ever lessened as his family continued to grow. Supporting grandchildren at school and sporting events, cheering and watching Soccer on the national level or even playing a round of golf. On January 25, 2000 Tony was recognized for shooting a Hole-in-One on the ninth hole of the Galveston Municipal Golf Course – something that always conjured a sense of pride in this feat.
Tony Smecca was preceded in death by his parents Giuseppe and Franca Smecca and his two sisters Giuseppina Campagnola and Lia Russello. Tony Smecca is survived by his loving wife, Nilde Smecca; children, Joey Smecca (wife Sherry) and Johnny Smecca (wife Nickie); grandchildren Anthony Smecca, Myles Smecca, Nicholas Smecca, Ryan Denmon; great granddaughter Ella and his brother, Giovanni Smecca (wife Ellen) and numerous nieces, nephews, cousins and anyone he ever met.
Pallbearers include Tony Vaccaro, Carmen Mellili, Danny Hart, Marco Ramundo, Robert Ramundo and Richard DePlacencia. Honorary Pallbearers will include Rip Koehler, Raffaele Accardo, Manuel Vicari and Sean Stowell.
Tony’s family will receive visitors beginning at 4:00p.m on Sunday Dec. 6th 2015 at St. Mary’s Basilica, 21st and Church Street in Galveston. A rosary will begin at 6:00p.m., with Deacon Doug Matthews as Celebrant.
Funeral Mass will be held at 10:00am on Monday Dec. 7th 2015 at St. Mary’s Basilica with Father EJ Stein, OFM, as Celebrant, and Deacon John Pistone as Concelebrant. Burial will follow the service at Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Galveston.
There will be a reception for friends and family following the burial at Mario’s Seawall Italian Restaurant 628 Via Smecca (6th and Seawall).
The Smecca Family would like to express their heartfelt appreciation to Martha Livanec, Dr. Joel Patterson, Christina Myers and the entire Neuroscience Critical Care Unit at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Also the family extends appreciation to our extended family of Danny and Jennifer Hart for their support, compassion and caring extended during this time. The family would also like to express a special thanks to Gail Underhill with Minute Man Printing.
In lieu of flowers, the Smecca Family would appreciate contributions made out to "Galveston Ball High Soccer" in memory of Tony Smecca. The contributions can be mailed to 628 Seawall Blvd., Galveston, Texas 77550.