Tony DiFillippo: ‘He Had a Way of Lifting Spirits’
Tony DiFillippo spoke as part of TRSA's "Industry Legends" panel at the 2012 Annual Conference in Chicago.
Anthony F. DiFillippo, a retired president of UniFirst Corp., and prominent leader of the linen, uniform and facility services industry, recently passed away at the age of 90.
He emphasized to his three children, Donna, a Boston-based philanthropic consultant; David, current senior vice president of operations at UniFirst; and Steven, who operates a chain of Davios restaurants in the greater Boston area and in several states, the importance of working with and rewarding employees. “It’s all about having the right people,” Tony told Steven in a profile article that recently appeared in the Boston Globe. “You can’t get anywhere without them. And you have to treat them right. Then watch, they treat you right. I could tell you so many great stories. What a time I had.”
A man of humble origins from Providence, RI, Tony joined the U.S. Coast Guard near the end of World War II and later tapped the G.I. Bill to be the first person in his family to graduate from college. He joined UniFirst in the early 1950s. He was assigned to the new Springfield, MA, office and advanced over several years from sales representative to branch manager, general manager, vice president of sales and executive vice president. From the mid-’80s to the mid-’90s he served as president of the company until his retirement. He also served for a decade on UniFirst’s Board of Directors.
A former president of the Institute of Industrial Launderers (renamed in October 1993 as the Uniform & Textile Services Association [UTSA]), Tony was long active in industry association work. The UTSA was blended into TRSA in 2008. In 2012, Tony served on the “Industry Legends Panel” at TRSA’s Annual Conference in Chicago.
Founded in 1936 by Aldo Croatti in a converted horse barn in Boston, today’s UniFirst Corp. is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange. The company operates 250 facilities with 14,000 employees.
A friend of Tony’s, Manny Tidor, a former president of Standard Uniform Co. of Boston, described him as “dynamic and a people person with a very strong sense of honor. Whatever was agreed on was usually by handshake. You could trust his words, and I was a witness to that trust.”
Tony’s personal warmth also endeared him to people in the business, and this benefitted his career at UniFirst, according to his daughter Donna. “He had a way of lifting spirits, and after talking to him, employees felt appreciated, and more importantly, respected.”
Tony passed away on June 26 at his home. Survivors include the three children noted above; his wife, Jennie; a sister, Marie Croatti; 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. To review the full article in the Globe, click here.