Anthony J. Serra, reverently known as “Papa” to his grandchildren and family and as Tony to many friends from the Boston Fire Department and all over Boston, died peacefully on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, at the Bostonian Nursing Home in Dorchester. Beloved husband of 49 years to Jean (Ochs) of Dorchester and dedicated family man, World War II veteran of the U.S. Navy and 38-year member of the Boston Fire Department who achieved the rank of Captain, he was 98.
Born June 23, 1923, in Boston, he was the youngest of four children of Vincenzo and Raphaela, both of whom emigrated from Italy and met and married in Boston. Tony and his siblings grew up in South Boston, and he graduated from South Boston High School. Following high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served as a boatswain’s mate from 1942 to 1946, including several years on the U.S.S. Matar, a crater-class cargo ship assigned to Asiatic-Pacific Theater.
Tony loved the public service, friendships and camaraderie he experienced at BFD, where he served from 1950 to 1988. During his career, he was highly regarded for his no-nonsense leadership style, cooking skills and his commitment to exercise, specifically jumping rope. He served on multiple engine companies stationed in Mattapan, Charlestown and several neighborhoods, with Engine 43 on Massachusetts Avenue – where he served as a firefighter, lieutenant and captain - being his favorite. From 1984 until his retirement in 1988, he led firefighter training at the Boston Fire Academy at Moon Island.
A gentleman and true to friends and family to the end, Tony was selfless and always did the right thing. He also worked part-time at the now defunct Mulry Funeral Home in Dorchester until he was 80 years old. Through his retirement years, he was an active member of the BFD Liar’s Club of retired firefighters. Also, he was committed to living a healthy lifestyle, which began as an avid handball player growing up in Southie and racquetball during his firefighter years, as well as a dedicated jogger who transitioned to long, regular walks later in life.
Devout in his Catholic faith, he was an active communicant of St. Brendan’s Church in Dorchester, saying his prayers every day and attending Mass daily.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by three daughters and one son, Donna Kenney and her husband Patrick of Milton; Jean Marie Serra and her husband David Connolly of Milton; Lisa M. Cabrera and her husband Peter of Milton; and Anthony J. Serra, Jr., and his wife Jillian of Pembroke; eight grandchildren, Patrick Kenney and his wife Lauren of Milton, Matthew Kenney and his wife Kim of Kingston; Ella and Wyatt Cabrera, Caroline and John Connolly, and Anthony J., III, and Avery Serra; two great grandchildren, Ava and Patrick Kenney, III; and two nieces, Elizabeth (Gillis) Kenrick, Elaine (Gillis) Bertino), and nephew James Gillis, and several grand and great-grand nieces and nephews. In addition to his parents, he was predeceased by Domenic Serra, Carmella Gillis, and Caroline Serra.
The Serra family offers a deep appreciation to the all the staff at The Bostonian Skilled Nursing Home in Dorchester, where Tony was a resident for the last two and a half years. Papa received excellent compassionate care there, as the staff managed through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Relatives and friends invited to attend visitation on Monday September 20th 9-11 am in St. Brendan's Church, 589 Gallivan Blvd., Dorchester. A funeral mass will follow at 11 am in the St. Brendan's Church. Burial to follow at Cedar Grove Cemetery, Dorchester.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Tony’s name can be made to Cops for Kids with Cancer, PO Box 850956, Braintree, MA 02185 or Shriners Burn Center at Mass. General Hospital, 51 Blossom St., Boston, MA 02114
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