Coping with Grief
We would like to offer our sincere support to anyone coping with grief. Enter your email below for our complimentary daily grief messages. Messages run for up to one year and you can stop at any time. Your email will not be used for any other purpose.
James (Jim) Joseph D’Alessandro, age 79, passed away in the early hours of February 6, 2024, after a long and brave journey through Parkinson’s disease that reached the advanced stage in the past year. Throughout his life, and even during his journey through Parkinson’s, he radiated his kind, peaceful, loving, grateful, and courageous spirit.
Jim was born on November 13, 1944, in St. Paul, MN to Jino and Eileen D’Alessandro. His dad was a Colonel in the United States Marines Corps, so his family moved throughout the country almost every year to the point where Jim came home from school one day and said to his parents, “You know you don’t have to start a new school in every grade?” Throughout each move, Jim became the eldest brother to more and more siblings, a role he treasured, and the family valued.
After Jim graduated top of his class at St. Augustine High School in San Diego, he entered the Seminary at Villanova University in 1963, thinking he wanted to become a priest. Family legend says that he quit the seminary when his brother, Bobby, visited with his yearbook from Bishop Fenwick HS and Jim saw a photo of a beautiful young lady he just had to meet….
While the truth might not have been quite so romantic as the legend, fate did intervene, and Jim and Elaine met soon after in the registration line for Salem State University. In fact, Elaine says that if Salem State hadn’t so egregiously messed up her schedule, she might never have been in the line that day. They were married in 1969 and settled in Massachusetts.
Though Jim and Elaine both started their careers as teachers, Jim eventually pursued law school at Northeastern University and passed the Bar exam .... all while Jimmy Jr. was a baby. Throughout Jim’s long career in the legal field, he worked for various government agencies: the United States Coast Guard, Immigration and Naturalization Services, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Social Security Administration and worked in cities throughout the northeast, from Philly, to New York City, to Boston, and Manchester, NH. He was especially proud of his last role as a Chief Judge, a role that he held for more than twenty years, and which used his deep intelligence, unwavering compassion, and desire to serve others.
But anyone who knew Jim knew that his biggest commitment and source of pride in life were his marriage, 4 children (Jimmy, Anthony, Liane, and Sara) as well as his 5 grandchildren. He was a truly selfless and devoted husband and father. For example, though Jim preferred classical music or the folksy ballads of Peter, Paul, and Mary, he endured numerous Neil Diamond concerts with middle-aged women excitedly bopping him on the head. Another time, after a trip to Chicago, Elaine—who hates to fly—refused to get on the return flight that had been delayed several times due to mechanical difficulties. Jim rented a car and drove them through the night back to NJ so that Elaine could still lead her 1st grade field trip to the Philadelphia Zoo the next day.
Memories of Dad include sledding all day with us, sitting for hours at the kitchen table helping us with homework and research projects, taking Anthony on camping trips, coaching Jimmy and Anthony’s many youth sports, cheering us on at track meets in the pouring rain, accompanying Sara on her first paper route so that she wouldn’t be driving alone in the dark hours of the morning, and traveling all over the US to wherever his kids’ studies and service took them. In an effort to be a strong grandfather (“Papa”) for as long as possible, he endured three, grueling Deep Brain Stimulation surgeries in 2017 to delay the progression of his Parkinson’s disease.
Jim is survived by his wife of 54 years, Elaine (Ranta), his son Jimmy and wife Denia of Bethel, CT; his son Anthony and wife Muy of Malvern, PA; his daughter Liane (Cook) and husband Greg of North Reading; and his daughter Sara of Wilmington. He is also survived by his 5 grandchildren, Benjamin, Caiden, Willow, Jonathan and David James as well as numerous nieces and nephews and his siblings, Bobby and his wife Maureen of Peabody; Eddie of Windermere, FL; Mary and her wife Joanne of Southwest Harbor, ME; Annie Tomchik and her husband Mark of Peabody; his brother-in-law Ned Steffens and wife Stephanie of Westminster, CO; Michael and his wife Mary of South Hadley, MA; Cathy Eastburg and her husband Steve of Jacksonville, FL and Margie Carber and her husband, Frank, of Monument, CO. Jim is predeceased by his sister Joanie Steffens.
In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research or the Parkinson’s Foundation, which were both knowledgeable and inspiring sources of information for Jim and his family.
Family and friends are invited to a visitation from 9:30 - 11:00 on February 17th at Nichols Funeral Home (187 Middlesex Ave. Wilmington, MA) followed by an 11:30 Funeral Mass at St. Dorothy’s Parish of the Transfiguration (11 Harnden St., Wilmington, MA). Interment with military honors to follow at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Salem, MA.