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by Brendan Higgins, contributing writer
When I arrived at the Arigna Irish Pub in North Providence, I knew right away something special was going on inside. People were waiting in line to get in the front door. It didn’t take long to realize who this gathering was for. There was a box truck with a giant video monitor on the side parked out front. On the screen was a photo of the guest of honor. A shot of him standing with his hands over his head in a sign of victory. Just like Rocky Balboa. The only difference, this was not a movie. This was the real life 80th birthday celebration for a true Rhode Island treasure, Mickey Decesare.
Once I made my way inside the restaurant, it was packed to capacity with well-wishers. The turnout reflected how beloved this man is. The guest list was quite impressive. North Providence Mayor Charles Lombardi was in attendance to make a special presentation to his longtime friend. The boxing community was well represented by Jamaine Ortiz, Michael Parente, Ray Oliveira, Jaime Clampitt-Hayes, Stevie Jane Coleman, Alejandro Paulino and of course, CES promoter Jimmy Burchfield. In addition, dozens of family members and friends turned out. I wasn’t sure if I would get a chance to speak to the man of the hour, because he was in pretty high demand. As fate would have it, I was fortunate enough to sit and speak with Decesare for a few minutes. I asked him how he was feeling on this happy occasion. He said, “I’m feeling pretty good for a guy who has been through two heart attacks. I’ve been in a nursing home, but there was no way I was going to miss this night. Look at all the love in here. All the friends I’ve made over the years. Everyone is here. I thank God I’m able to be here tonight.”
Decesare grew up in North Providence. He is a proud lifelong resident. His professional career is quite impressive. He worked hard his entire life. I asked Decesare to share about his long and storied career. He said, “I started out at The Classic Restaurant working for Jimmy Burchfield. He had the best restaurant in the United States. I was a bartender. That was a very exciting time in my life. I was there for 10 years. I was also with the Laborers Union Local 271 for 55 years. Then I worked at the Providence Marriott as a banquet manager for 27 years. People used to ask me how the heck I went from construction to being a banquet manager. The truth is I loved both jobs. I made so many friends. I was working day and night back then. I’ve met a lot of people and traveled to a lot of places. The person responsible for the traveling I have done is Jimmy Burchfield. He told me he was going to take me to places I’ve never been before, and he did. Jimmy is my brother, my friend and my family. I love the guy. I’ve been with him for most of my life. I will never forget the things he did for me when things were tough. I attribute a lot of my growth as a person to him. He is my mentor. I know for a fact he has done the same for so many other people. I know this interview is about me, but I get excited thinking about all the great things this man has done.”
Burchfield had this to say about his friend, Decesare. “Mickey just spent six months in the hospital. He was pronounced dead three different times. Today is his 80th birthday. He is my lifelong friend. He is my brother. He means everything to me. If you have one friend in your life like Mickey, you are very lucky. In boxing terms, he is a unified world champion.”
Mayor Lombardi presented Decesare with a special proclamation in celebration of his life and standout career accomplishments. There was not a dry eye in the house during this well-deserved ceremony. Even though Decesare has been dealing with serious health issues, he refused to sit down during the mayor’s speech. He stood proudly the entire time. At one point Burchfield insisted Decesare take a seat, but he politely declined to sit.
As a man who has seen it all, I asked Decesare what advice he has for a young person just starting out in life. He said, “Be good to people. Never lie. Be honest. It’s the only way to be. Be a good person. Even when you are around a bad person. Try and help people. Don’t condemn people. The world would be a better place if people lived like this.” I asked Decesare what he would like to say to everyone who attended his party. He said, “I love them all – and thank you.”
After spending five minutes with Mickey Decesare, I knew I had made a new friend. He was open, sincere and charming during the course of our interview. He treated me like we were old friends. He made me feel comfortable even though I was the one conducting the interview. What a class act. From the entire state of Rhode Island, Happy Birthday Mickey, and many more.
Brendan Higgins, writer and author, RIPTA bus driver, former professional wrestler (Knuckles Nelson), and North Kingstown resident.
We welcome Brendan as a contributing writer to RINewsToday.
To read a story about Brendan, from our sports department, go to: https://rinewstoday.com/knuckles-nelson-waking-up-from-the-wrestling-ring-to-the-yoga-mat-john-cardullo/
To read all stories by Brendan, here, go to: https://rinewstoday.com/brendan-higgins
Higgins is the author of “Waking Up: From the Wrestling Ring to the Yoga Mat
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