Hull Times Publisher Patricia A. Abbate died May 14 in the loving embrace of her husband, Thomas Foye. She was 68.
Ms. Abbate, known to her family and many friends as Patti, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October 2020. She endured several arduous surgeries and hospitalizations over many months, but was determinedly upbeat and optimistic, even in the face of her most recent hospitalization just a few weeks ago.
“I am going to go home and cure myself,” she told her friend Polly Rowe.
The comfort Ms. Abbate always found in the serenity of her C Street home proved elusive as her compromised health deteriorated rapidly. She entered hospice care at Seasons in Milton last week, where she was cared for by loving family members until her final breath in her husband’s arms.
Ms. Abbate was the executive director of the nonprofit Citizens for Rail Safety, Inc. when she met Mr. Foye at a singles dance in Waltham in February 2008. He owned an oil burner services company and admits he was smitten with the “gorgeous woman” who had testified before the federal Department of Homeland Security and educated Capitol Hill lawmakers on policy matters related to rail safety and security while building national recognition and a support coalition of government officials, academics, corporate executives, and concerned citizens for her fledgling organization.
Her depth of knowledge and personal charm engaged lawmakers like then-Senators Obama and Biden, among others, her husband said this week. “I never met a person who didn’t love her,” Mr. Foye said.
After the couple moved to Hull, Ms. Abbate put her extensive marketing and creative skills to work for the Paragon Carousel, where she was among the first volunteers to answer Dennis Zaia’s public plea for Hull residents to rescue the dilapidated circular structure that housed the iconic merry-go-round.
“In 2009, Patti Abbate joined more than 180 Hull volunteers to reenergize the Paragon Carousel, which was facing another challenge of survival,” Mr. Zaia wrote in an email to the Times this week. “Since her arrival in Hull, Patricia Abbate has impacted the Hull community with her sense of positivity, honesty, dedication, and persistence in the quest to create the best possible community for all of us.”
Mr. Zaia, a public relations and Human Resources professional and quintessential community cheerleader, recognized a kindred spirit in Ms. Abbate and wasted no time in recruiting her to take a seat on the board of directors for the Friends of the Paragon Carousel. The organization’s mission was to bring professional management to the debt-ridden carousel’s operation to preserve it both structurally and fiscally. Mr. Zaia was the Friends president. He not only cajoled Ms. Abbate to become a carousel director and, in time, the organization’s vice president, he then convinced her to take the job as operations manager.
Mr. Zaia also recruited Jinnie Walsh, assistant vice president at the Hingham Institution for Savings and Hull branch manager, to serve as the Friends treasurer.
“I am very much like Patti in that I can’t say no,” Ms. Walsh said Monday. “Dennis got us together and we began to work closely to pull the carousel out of the red.”
Ms. Abbate’s vision, energy, and negotiating skills were instrumental in the carousel’s expansion from a summer amusement to the operation that today encompasses the merry-go-round, Carousel Creamery, and Paragon Museum, and a calendar of events that have become beloved local traditions, like the lobster trap tree erected for the Hull for the Holidays campaign, Ms. Walsh said. “Patti said, ‘We gotta make this a Hallmark movie moment,’” Ms. Walsh recalled. “She wanted the whole thing – the tree, kids, the carousel whirling in the background, chowder from Schooner’s, hot chocolate…the goal was to turn the event into something the whole community could enjoy.”
Ms. Walsh described Ms. Abbate as a “rallying person” with the ability to “get everyone together.”
“She had a way of bonding with people that you never really thought you could bond with; through her photography, through her style, she just brought out the best in people.”
But there was steel in Ms. Abbate’s character, too. “She didn’t take abuse from anyone who was rude or mean,” Ms. Walsh said. “She had strong values. She wasn’t confrontational, but she would stick up for the little guy, stand up for her beliefs.”
The pair worked so well together that when Ms. Abbate took over as president of the Hull-Nantasket Chamber of Commerce, a post she held for nine years, Ms. Walsh “couldn’t say no” when Ms. Abbate wheedled, “Will you come to the Chamber with me?”
“By the time she was through, she made everyone believe in themselves,” Ms. Walsh concluded. “There’s not going to be anyone like her.”
Ms. Abbate and Mr. Foye bought their Hull home in September 2008. They remodeled the house and its small yard. She chose the landscape plants; he dug the holes and installed them. He said he happily took direction from her at home as well as at work, where the two entrepreneurs individually ran her PR and photography businesses and his oil burner services business before they took a leap in 2016 and bought the South Shore Senior News, a monthly publication that boasts more than 40,000 readers across 31 cities and towns. The same month they launched the My Generation radio show on Marshfield station 95.9, WATD-FM.
The pair interviewed hundreds of guests from all walks of life over My Generation’s five-year span. Since Mr. Foye plays several musical instruments and Ms. Abbate was blessed with a fine singing voice and perfect pitch, it’s not surprising that some of their favorite guests were celebrated performers of “golden oldies” that included Gary Puckett (Gary Puckett and The Union Gap), Gary Lewis (Gary Lewis and The Playboys), and Peter Rivera, the lead singer and drummer for Rare Earth.
Ms. Abbate and Mr. Foye incorporated an events business into their commercial portfolio, producing the annual Senior Celebration Health Fair and the Senior Services Networking Conference at Lombardo’s event venue in Randolph. He maintains that, “She was the brains, the woman who had the skill set to accomplish all the things that we were doing.”
In June 2019, the two purchased The Hull Times, adding the independently owned and operated weekly newspaper to their media holdings. As with the South Shore Senior News, Ms. Abbate handled the publisher’s functions, Mr. Foye is the business manager.
He readily acknowledges that she had the more time-consuming job. Even as her illness progressed, Ms. Abbate was “always” on her cellphone or laptop, checking on governmental meetings or calendar items that could make a good story. “We’d be watching Jeopardy and she’d be calling out the show’s answers while tapping away on her phone,” he said. “God, could she ever multi-task…”
Christopher Haraden is a longtime Hull Times contributing editor who spoke of the newspaper as reflective of its publisher’s sunny disposition.
“I’ve written a lot about the history of Hull and the history of the Times, so I was happy to be a resource for Patti about Hull’s old days and not-so-old days. She’d often call or email to ask for background about someone or some event that occurred prior to her arrival in town,” he said.
“Bringing her varied experiences in the world outside of Hull gave her a unique perspective on reporting the local news. She had great respect for the past, and always thought Hull had a bright future. Patti was forever an optimist, and devoted her energy toward putting the town’s best face forward in everything she did, whether it was involvement in the Chamber of Commerce, the Paragon Carousel, and of course, The Hull Times.”
Ms. Abbate grew up in Westwood, the first of five children of Florence (Molloy) and Westwood Police Chief Francis Abbate. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Framingham State College.
In addition to her husband, Ms. Abbate leaves her siblings, Thomas Abbate and his wife, Carla, of Florida; Theresa Abbate, of Walpole; Margaret Hetu and her husband, Leo, of Rhode Island; and Kathleen Anderson and her husband, Kurt, of Medway; several aunts and uncles; and two nieces, Molly and Martha Anderson, and a nephew, Michael Abbate, all of whom she adored and who adored her right back. Ms. Abbate also leaves scores of friends, old and new, who mourn her passing but celebrate having known a woman who handled life’s blessings and adversities with wit and grace.
“Thank you for all you have contributed to the town of Hull, to your fellow Hull residents… selflessly, generously, passionately, and devotedly, putting service to others above self,” Polly Rowe told her friend in a final letter.
“It’s not just my loss, it’s everyone’s loss,” Jinnie Walsh said. “I don’t think people will ever know what a driving force she was.”
Visitation for Ms. Abbate will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, May 20, at the Tirrell Room, 254 Quarry St., Quincy. A Catholic prayer service begins at 2 p.m. Ms. Abbate will be cremated. Her funeral will be private.
As he has done weekly for the 14 years of their relationship, Mr. Foye will surround his wife with flowers, predominately the purple roses and tulips she loved. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the charity of one’s choice.
For more information or to leave online condolences, please visit hamellydon.com.