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'Truly a loss' for town

United Lens CEO DiGregorio dies at 88

August 15, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — The town lost "one of the old pillars of the community" Thursday with the passing of United Lens CEO Albert DiGregorio. He was 88.

"He was a [heck] of a nice guy. You could joke with him and I played music with him," recalled Building Inspector Nick Tortis, who did a stint at United Lens in the 1970s and has had periodic contact since then. "You could have coffee with him and he never pushed the issue that he was president of the company. He could mingle with the people … and he treated everybody in that plant as his family."

According to the company's website, DiGregorio had been president for most of the post-World War II period, transforming the company's instrument division into its "predominant business" making instrument optics, optical glass, vacuum coatings and related products. His family founded the firm in 1916, and he took its helm after serving as a bomber pilot in Europe in World War II.

More than just a businessman, however, DiGregorio had a reputation as a behind-the-scenes benefactor for various community improvement efforts. Among many other things, he helped support the Arts Center, St. Mary's Church, school programs, Cops & Kids, the Honor Roll monument, and the gazebo on the Common.

"I bet [most people] don't know the half of it," said Chamber of Commerce Director Alexandra McNitt, who noted he'd "probably hate" being written about, "but he's so deserving."

"Mostly, he didn't want people to know about it; to him, it's just what you do," she added.

For more on this story, please see Monday's Southbridge Evening News.

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