retired men's clubPublishing-industry veteran Henry Quinlan has addressed RCMA more than once. / Jessie Castellano photo

After Covid-19 hiatus, all programming returned

UPDATED July 9: In any given week, on the lower level of a Catholic church, members of the Retired Men’s Club of Arlington gather to enjoy doughnuts, coffee, laughter and fellowship. The club, which boasts some 200 members -- though that is not nearly the highest number in its long history -- has been open to men of all ages since 1979.

On the second and fourth Wednesday of each month, exclusive of major holidays, RMCA members meet for two hours in person at St. Camillus Church to hear a guest speaker, socialize and plan a wide variety of other club events.

Joining is simple: One has to be a man and to pay yearly dues of $35. There is no need to live in Arlington, be Catholic, be a certain age or be retired to join. The club has some members who reside in New Hampshire and some who work part time. The RMCA doesn't ask for age or birthdate on the application. 

Resilience throughout the pandemic

Since the Covid-19, pandemic, which began in the first quarter of 2020, the club has demonstrated adaptability, strength and resolve. In July 2020, its leaders made the difficult decision to temporarily close doors and cancel all events and activities. 

But they reopened a year later, in July 2021, and its members adhered to safety precautions such as wearing masks and undergoing temperature checks. As of earlier this year, most members have received Covid-19 vaccines, and for the past three years, the club has been back to hosting events nearly every day of the week. For example, on May 22, members heard Fred Santino speak on Antarctic aviation over the past century, including how Antarctica’s severe, unpredictable weather makes flying risky and his own personal ordeals of danger, whiteouts, crashes and near-death experiences during two deployments as a U.S. Navy aircrewman as per his book Milestones, Mishaps, & Management: The Story of Antarctic Aviation.

Now, the club continues to host events and hopes to regain its lost membership; during the acute phase of the pandemic, the club lost 52 members, according to the club’s vice president, Phil Ste. Marie. It is not known how many might be deceased; unquestionably, some merely moved out of the area or simply got involved in other activities. However, each November, the club does hold a memorial Mass to commemorate its deceased members and to comfort their surviving families.

Year-round, “We have cribbage on Mondays, golf on Tuesdays. Wednesdays and Thursdays are usually meetings and trips, and, on [non-travel] Thursdays, we have candlepin bowling,” said Peter Galluzzo, the club’s longtime former president. Peter GalluzzoPeter Galluzzo, RMCA's longtime immediate past president. / Courtesy RCMA

Not all the challenges are a thing of the past. 

 “It is getting more difficult to get members to run for our eight elected offices as well as run our committees and special events and activities. For instance, we used to run dances and banquets and haven’t done so since the pandemic,” wrote Galluzzo in an email to YourArlington earlier this year.

Galluzzo, the longest-serving president in the club's history at eight consecutive years, recently passed the reins to Mac Moran. 

In a general sense, members’ health is something still addressed by the club’s leaders. It partners with the Council on Aging (COA), whose mission is “to provide advocacy, support services, and programs to help Arlington elders live dignified and independent lives,” according to the town’s website. At each meeting, a nurse from COA attends and runs a blood-pressure clinic for those who are interested.

How it all started

The club began with just seven or eight members 45 years ago; this grew to an all-time high of a whopping 700 members in 2008. 

Ste. Marie told the story of the club’s humble beginnings. 

“In Arlington Center [in 1979] there was a nun, and she saw a gentleman dressed up and sitting on a bench in a suit. She started talking with him, and [he told her that] he was a vice president of a railroad the day before, and he got let go,” he said, highlighting that the nun immediately perceived the man’s loneliness and need for camaraderie. 

“So she knew that the ladies' club at the time, the Red Hats, was full. And she knew some guys she could approach, and they started it.”  Ste. Marie said that the RMCA started meeting at the Immaculate Conception Church Hall in Cambridge (which at some later point was sold by the archdiocese to a Dominican Republic/Haitian church). Once the RMCA outgrew its original space, it moved to the lower level hall of St. Camillus, where it meets now. 

At the Feb. 28 meeting, some 50 of the club's nearly 200 active members sat to hear Henry Quinlan speak about his 50-year career in publishing. Quinlan spent an hour telling humorous stories about many celebrities that he had had the chance to work with throughout his career. 

Ste. Marie is in charge of finding the speakers. 

“I call myself a mile wide and an inch deep,” he said, referring to the club’s many guests throughout the years, including sports journalist Steve Buckley and the police dogs (and their human handlers) of the Arlington Police Department. “It means I have to find a speaker twice a month to come here, and we don’t have a budget for speakers, so I have to find people who [are willing to] volunteer.”

Fred SantinoFred Santino spoke May 22. /Courtesy RCMAThis year so far, the club has received visits from several guest speakers including Henry Quinlan, Herb Crehan, Mark Thompson, Jim Ramsey, John Sheff, Dan LeClerc, Marian Ryan and Fred Santino. 

A spirit of service -- and adventure

The club is a nonprofit organization and is funded solely by membership dues and fundraisers. “Any of the money we make just goes back to the members,” said Ste. Marie.

“Our functions go toward two events. The [proceeds from dues from the] first half of the year goes toward scholarships.” Three scholarships go to high school and/or college students who are children or grandchildren of a club member; the winners of those two $1,000 scholarships and the one $500 scholarship are chosen by lottery. 

“The second half [of annual revenue] goes toward a Thanksgiving dinner hosted by COA,” said Ste. Marie, adding that many members even help to deliver the food. 

In addition to scholarships and food service for members and their relatives, the club works in other ways to benefit the community. 

Jim Whalen, a member for close to 20 years, spoke about why he joined the club. “One of my fellow Knights of Columbus is a member here, and he told me about all the good times. It’s a lot of fun entertainment, and it's a lot of work. But it’s fun doing it,” said Whalen. 

Whalen is also the technical advisor of the Singing Grand Pops, a small group within the club that performs music regularly. “We go to veterans' [organizations]. We do nursing homes and elderly living houses,” said Whalen, who added that people don’t have to know much about how to sing to join. “We have an hour and a half to a two-hour show, and we do 18 to 20 songs, including skits.” 

In addition to in-house activities, the club also goes on up to 20 trips per year throughout the United States. This year, some members plan to visit Alaska, Atlantic City and Niagara Falls, among other places. 

With many activities and social events, the club aims most to provide members with quality time. For many, the club serves as a place for camaraderie and community. For instance, Joseph Clark, the club’s publicist, has been a member for three years and said that the most meaningful thing about joining the club has been the friends he made. “That’s why I came here -- for camaraderie,” said Clark. 

For information about the Retired Men’s Club of Arlington, visit its website or call 781-646-7758.

This news feature was published Saturday, June 29, 2024. It was updated Friday, July 5, 2024, to correct the contact telephone number. It was updated Tuesday, July 9, 2024, to note that the RMCA initially met in Cambridge.