By Nat Frothingham
Editor’s Note: Longtime Montpelier resident Glenn Tosi, who grew up and went to school in Montpelier and worked both here and in other nearby towns, died on April 25 at the age of 67.
To those of us whose lives have been touched by Glenn Tosi it came as no surprise that a huge crowd turned out at a reception to remember Glenn on Sunday afternoon, May 3, at the Capitol Plaza Hotel.
The crowd at the reception consisted of Glenn’s family, friends, the management and staff of the Capitol Plaza Hotel and the many other people who have known Glenn through the years — as a boy growing up, as a graduate of Montpelier High School, as a graduate of The University of Vermont. Then as someone who came back here to teach French, first in Barre, later in Montpelier.
Beginning as a 13-year-old boy Glenn worked as a busboy, then as a waiter in Montpelier, Stowe, Waterbury, Northfield, Burlington, and for two summers on the coast of Maine — 17 restaurants in all — with his most recent service as an often-requested waiter at J. Morgan Steakhouse at the Capitol Plaza Hotel.
At an early moment during the May 3 reception, Brian Cain, who is an executive in sales and management at the Capitol Plaza Hotel, spoke for the hotel and addressed the crowd.
Cain began by reflecting on the week that had passed after Glenn’s death. “Distraught” was the word that Cain used to describe what he and others felt at learning that Glenn had died. But as the week progressed “distraught” began to give way to a completely different feeling that Cain described as more like “smiles.” Those smiles were about the joy and pleasure that Glenn had given to so many people.
Cain noted the volume of messages that had been received at the hotel from a host of people responding to the news of Glenn’s death — with messages of all kinds. These messages had been assembled into a book of condolences. Cain then drew attention to an upcoming formal occasion on May 7 at 1 p.m. when the Vermont House of Representatives will take up a resolution remembering and honoring Glenn Tosi.
I had a very recent opportunity to get to know Glenn last February when I wrote a profile of him that appeared in the March 5 issue of this paper. It all started sometime this past winter when Glenn and I talked at J. Morgan’s and he reflected on how restaurants and service at restaurants has changed over the years. At that time I asked him if he might be willing for me to interview him for a story in The Bridge and he agreed.
Beginning with our first meeting, I found myself deeply drawn into Glenn’s life story and delighted by his sense of irony and fun. As we continued to talk I felt that here was a man who had developed high personal standards and who had achieved something pretty remarkable with his life.
As part of writing a profile about Glenn I filled pages and pages of notes. From those notes I wrote the profile — much like a filmmaker who shoots hours and hours of film but leaves most of those hours of film on the cutting-room floor.
Let me take a few of those notes not included in the published profile and make a few points.
Glenn both offered kindness and generosity to the people he served and remembered such kindness and acts of generosity offered to him.
He remembered waiting on tables at the Montpelier Elks Club. “That was a really hopping place,” he recalled. “You had to make reservations. I used to wait on Mr. and Mrs. Squier.” (Lloyd Squier was the founder of radio station WDEV.”
“They were wonderful people,” Glenn said. “One time they took me to the Stowe Fish and Game Club as a guest. They were super people. Just some of the nicest people I met.”
Then there was Glenn’s enjoyment of silly, funny things — his sense of the absurd.
One day a woman came into J. Morgan’s and said, “Oh my God, now I remember where I remember you from. You waited on us at the Holiday Inn in Waterbury. Do you remember it was a really busy day? You brought me my hamburger and my hamburger wasn’t even on the plate. The bun was there. The French fries were there. But the hamburger wasn’t on the plate,” Glenn said, “We laughed so hard.”
Always professional, Glenn confessed toward the end of our interview that he seldom goes out to eat anymore. “To be perfectly honest with you,” he said, “I don’t go to restaurants. When I go to restaurants, I am critical.”
On the rare occasion when he does dine at a restaurant, when he sits down to eat, he asks himself, “Is everything neat and orderly? Are the settings where they should be? You’re not sitting on a seat that has crumbs on it. You’re not picking up a salt and pepper shaker that is greasy. You’ve got a pleasant server who is knowledgeable and knows how to take care of you. You always have to be upbeat. Whatever there is at home, you don’t bring it into work.”
I wrote about Glenn’s memory of growing up and quoted Glenn as saying, “We lived in a second-story apartment on Elm Street. It was called Elm Street because of the big, beautiful elm trees. There was a big elm in front of the house and there were Baltimore orioles that would build these big hanging nests.”
At the May 3 reception I talked with Glenn’s niece, Jen Lashua. Later she wrote me a note. She wanted me to know that Glenn loved to garden, that he created exquisite flower beds, that he took over caring for his grandmother’s flower gardens after she died. Jen told me that to this day when people drive by his grandmother’s house, they see the flower beds and stop their car. They stop and remark on the beauty of the flowers there.