Baltimore City Councilman Nicholas D’Adamo Jr. doesn’t schedule many working lunches at City Hall these days.
He has a standing date with his father, Nicholas D’Adamo Sr.
D’Adamo Sr., 86, still bears a warm smile, but dementia has him living at Franklin Woods, a nursing home near Franklin Square Hospital.
If D’Adamo Jr. isn’t looking in on his mother, Grace, who lives in Rosedale, or his sister, Joan Hitt, who’s fighting cancer, he can usually be found near his father’s side.
“They’ve done for me,” said D’Adamo Jr., a parishioner of The Shrine of the Little Flower. “Now I’m doing for them.”
D’Adamo Sr. didn’t just do for his family, he did for thousands, in Highlandtown, as the face of a department store, and throughout the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
He was a leader of the Holy Name Society when its convention packed what is now called First Mariner Arena.
He embraced festivals and functions at an assortment of parishes and schools, from St. Leo in Little Italy, where he was raised; to Little Flower, where he and his wife, who marked their 60th wedding anniversary July 31, raised a family; to St. Luke in Edgemere, when the family had a summer home.
D’Adamo Sr. worked dozens of fund-raising dinners at The Catholic High School of Baltimore and Archbishop Curley High School, which educated the D’Adamo children, and slowed down only a little when he and his wife moved to Rosedale and worshiped at St. Clement Mary Hofbauer.
Then there is Our Lady of Pompei, in Highlandtown.
“He (D’Adamo Sr.) didn’t belong to the parish as such, but he supported all of our affairs,” said Father Luigi Esposito, pastor. “What I like is that he was always positive, always smiling.
“My Mom was born in Naples (Italy), and didn’t speak a word of English,” Father Esposito added. “She loved going to Shocket’s, the kindness and goodness that she found there in Mr. Nick. She walked to the store from her home at Highland and Pratt, just to experience this beautiful person who brings light into the life of others.”
D’Adamo Sr. was working for Shocket’s before he joined the U.S. Air Force during World War II. He managed and then owned a brand that at its peak had seven stores. Its flagship location, on Eastern Avenue, closed in 2003.
“People ask what college I went to,” D’Adamo Jr. said. “I answer, ‘the University of Shocket’s.’ I went to work for my dad when I was 11, and learned so much, how to treat people with respect and always be honest.”
May 2 was Nicholas D’Adamo Sr. Day in Baltimore. The 3900 block of Eastern Avenue was named in his honor. D’Adamo Jr. used the occasion to announce that he would not be seeking a seventh term in the city council, one reason being that his family needs him now more than ever.
His political career took off just as his father became owner of Shocket’s, as business and elected office became inextricably woven.
“My first election,” D’Adamo Jr. said, “he went door to door with me, everyone knew who I was because of him. People could say no to me, but they couldn’t say no to him.”
D’Adamo Sr. sweetened the ethnic melting pot that Father Esposito alluded to.
“My Dad spoke Spanish, Polish, Greek to his customers,” D’Adamo Jr. said. “That was unheard of in those days. If he didn’t have an item, he’d tell them where they could find it.”