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'Mr. Hatboro' Dies at 96

Long-time Hatboro Mayor Joe Celano died on Tuesday.

Tony Celano paid a visit to the Millbrook Society recently to trace the history of Hatboro's mayors.

Based on his research, his father, Joe Celano, was the longest-serving Hatboro mayor - at least since the 1870s. The elder Celano, who served the borough for 24 years from 1982 through 2006, died on Tuesday. He was 96.

Known by many as "Mr. Hatboro," Celano, a World War II veteran, had owned the presently shuttered Hatboro Music Shop in the borough's downtown shopping district on York Road from 1945 until he retired in 2002, according to his son.

In going through his father's belongings, Tony Celano told Patch that he found a scrapbook that the former mayor had kept filled with thank you cards from police officers, school children and many of his store's customers. 

"There were a lot of cards from parents that took their children into my father’s store on their birthday," he said. "My dad just looked at them and said 'happy birthday' and he wouldn’t take any money."

Tony shared that his father followed a similar approach with many of the more than 2,000 couples that he married during his time as Hatboro mayor.

"He was a good will ambassador for the town," he said. "He touched a lot of people's lives."

Beverly Lawless, a member of Lehman United Methodist Church in Hatboro, recalled that, while still mayor, Celano invited her and about 30 other church members into the 7-11 for warm beverages during a Palm Sunday performance of Christ's Lasts Day on a particularly chilly day.

"He bought us hot chocolate, whatever anybody wanted," Lawless recalled. "He invited us all into 7-Eleven and he said 'you get everything you want, I’m buying.' "

Prior to running for his mayoral post, Celano had served as chairman of the board for the Hatboro Area YMCA. He also was involved with the Hatboro Police Commission. Hatboro's then-neighborhood jeweler asked the ever-jovial Celano to run for mayor and Celano agreed. But, his son recalled that Celano did not receive backing from the Republican Party, so he ran - and won - as an Independent.

In addition to his time as mayor, Celano took great pride in his various life achievements.During a visit earlier this year to the Academy Road home where he resided until age 95, Celano serenaded Patch, as well as his Meals on Wheels food delivery guests, while showing off yellowed newspaper clippings hung throughout his kitchen of his accomplishments in the Navy and as mayor.

"He was a great guy. He, his wife and his shop were an institution in Hatboro when we were growing up," Hatboro Councilwoman Patty Fleming said. "I can still see, in my mind, him leading the Christmas parade each year. He will be missed by everyone."

An avid volleyball player and Hatboro YMCA volleyball instructor, Tony Celano said his father loved to tell the story of how, while in his 50s, he and a team from the Abington YMCA were invited to West Point to play a tournament against the West Point cadets.

"They looked at these old guys and they started laughing," he shared of the "20-year-old kids" that the elder Celano and his teammates ended up beating six games straight. "They were supposed to have dinner, but the cadets were so embarrassed they didn’t show up."

A New York City native, Tony said his father came from humble beginnings. The elder Celano and his family shared an apartment with another family and there were "15 kids sleeping on the floor."

"He never had a bed as a little kid," Tony Celano said. 

From living in cramps quarters, his father moved to Massachusetts, where he "almost starved to death during the depression," he said.

"He lived on rice, beans and bananas."

Mr. Celano got a job earning 25 cents an hour and soon after became a welder. One of his crowning achievements was helping to construct the Battleship Massachusetts, his son said. 

By World War II, he joined the Navy and "got himself involved in a top secret project" which Tony Celano said had "helped turn the tide of the war."

The development of the ASD-1 radar in Navy airplanes served as an effective deterrent to the German U-boat, he said.

As the war was coming to a close, Celano, in November 1944, married Arlene, whom he shared a life with for more than 60 years. They opened the Hatboro Music Shop together a year later and by 1948 bought their first home in Hatboro.

Tony Celano shared that when his mother died five years ago, at her request, the family kept her arrangements private. The same will not be true of his father's final farewell.

"When I went up there to see the funeral director yesterday, he drove the limousine when my mother died," he said. "My father told him when he dies he wants the fire trucks out."

And Tony Celano intends to give his father the fanfare that he deserves.

"That's what he wanted."

Paying final respects

Relatives and friends are invited to attend his viewing on Nov. 7 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and again on Nov. 8th after 10 a.m. in Schneider Funeral Home, 431 N. York Road, Hatboro. His Funeral service will follow at 11 a.m. He will be buried with full military honors at the Hatboro Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, please remember Mr. Celano through donations to the Millbrook Society, P.O. Box 506, Hatboro, PA 19040.

Barbara Otto November 02, 2012 at 11:46 AM
96, What a wonderful man that always had a smile and a kind word. May your sadness be short and your heart comforted by the love from the Hatboro community!
melody buckman November 02, 2012 at 01:03 PM
Spent many a day at the store looking for just the L P Mr Celano also performed a wedding at my home many years ago...He will be missed just a wonderful man..prayers to the family..Melody Ridgeway..
hatboro dad November 02, 2012 at 01:16 PM
I always figured the Mayor would be the first person to live forever
Jd mcgowen November 02, 2012 at 01:20 PM
He married me and my now ex-wife in 1997 at his house. He was a good dude. I used to go into his music shop when I was younger.
TwinkleToes November 02, 2012 at 01:36 PM
We all have many happy memories with Mayor Celano. His smile made everyone's heart warm. With sympathy to the entire Celano family.
Rick Martin November 02, 2012 at 03:13 PM
If I close my eyes ,I can still see Joe walking down the streets of Hatboro. Have to say he had the Best Record Store in the World. His music knowledge was endless. Great Family Man ,Great Mayor ,and even though Joe could not live forever,His Great memories will !
Jim Andrews November 02, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Joe was the best. He always had a kind word and a beaming smile. I will miss him.
Chuck Zanine November 02, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Joe Celano was more than a veteran, an outstanding merchant, and a gentleman. He was a tremendous human being. The countless hours of my youth spent in the Hatboro Music Shop, the hundreds of records I purchased there, (many could not be found in any record store in the region: the consensus was 'If Joe can't get it, no one can.'), the good-natured humor we shared with him, are indelible in my memory. He watched some of us grow, he presided at our weddings, and he watched some of us bring children of our own into the world. Sometimes, he watched some of us die. All of it affected him. There is not enough space to express the gratitude and respect and affection he inspired in all he encountered. But the music of his journey was a wonderous thing. It was the music of life. His was a song whose lyrics we may always sing and whose melody will shine with us for the rest of our days. It was more than mere pleasure to be there while his song played. It was an honor.
Gilbert R Albright Jr November 02, 2012 at 08:39 PM
Joe Celano was impossible not to like. Always posititive and happy go lucky. Never had a bad word to say about anybody or anything. Always kind and thoughtful. I first met him at his record shop when I was a kid. As the saying goes: they don't them like him anymore!
Wendi Worthington November 02, 2012 at 09:57 PM
He was a very, very kind man. I will miss him. My thoughts and prayers are with his friend and family.
Lynn Triller-Ramage' November 02, 2012 at 10:16 PM
Very Sad news...I was 4 yrs old and remember mom buying the first Beatles 45 at Joes shop that I still have. My dad became Officer Ken Triller for Hatboro and Joe always was a huge part of the town and the PD dept. and My dad thought the world of him especially during those difficult "Cruising Years" :) He married my mom in 1996 and he and his wife were so adored. May God Embrace such a wonderful person! Condolences to his entire family!- Lynn Triller-Ramage' -Phila. Out on the Town magazine
Frances A. Morgan November 03, 2012 at 12:55 AM
My family and I will miss Joe. He was a wonderful neighbor on Moreboro Road and taught my boys to play baseball in his back yard. Hatboro won't be the same without his wonderful smile and teasing ways! Have fun, Joe, and keep them smiling! Frances A. Morgan
Tony Fragale November 03, 2012 at 01:00 AM
Joe Celano was a legendary YMCA volunteer and a man who taught me many lessons about building my career. Firm yet gentle, direct yet polite, smart yet humble. I am saddened by this loss but happy he lived a long and meaningful life. I've been away from Hatboro for 25 years but Joe's influence has never left me. What a great guy.
Rose greene November 03, 2012 at 12:35 PM
He married me to my husband,and did my dads eulogy,God has him now.
Roman jr. November 03, 2012 at 03:22 PM
What a difference between Mayor Joe and the hack we now have. R.I.P Joe your town misses you.
Roman is a joke November 03, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Only Roman and Roman Jr. could turn the passing of a great man into something political. Please don't bring politics or the current mayor into this. This forum is for people to comment on what a great man Mayor Joe was and how much he gave to our community. Roman, when you were a politician you could not even hold a candle to what Mayor Joe did for Hatboro!!!!! Spew your venom somewhere else.
Laura E. DePree-Spinelli November 03, 2012 at 07:07 PM
Mayor Celano was indeed an institution in Hatboro and he will be missed. R.I.P. Mr. Celano, thank you for your service to my hometown. God speed and my condolences to the Celano family for your tremendous loss.
Roman jr. November 03, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Sounds like the words of a politician that conspired and backed the current (joke) mayor. Now live with your guilt my conscience is clear. I will always have fond memories of Joe can’t say that about his replacement.
Psyche Ready November 04, 2012 at 02:17 AM
What a wonderful man! He let me order whatever CDs I wanted when I was in high school, and he always had a kind word for me when I worked in shops on York Rd. His was a beautiful example of a life well-lived.
Cathy November 04, 2012 at 03:05 AM
Mayor Celano was such a wonderful example of what a Mayor should be. He loved the town, the towns people, he loved life. Always had a smile and you knew it was real. He aged gracefully too. When I remember my days growing up I remember his smiling face. Such a loving and sweet man. I'll always remember him, he was like my extended family.
Melissa Stokes November 04, 2012 at 03:25 AM
Mr. Celano was one of a kind. He had a smile for everyone. He was a vital part of Hatboro that's gone silent.
Kevin R. Harris, Ph.D.,M.D. November 04, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Mr. Celano was a wonderful gentleman and a great asset to our community. Remember when buying 45's from him as a kid, he always took time to welcome and chat. He will be sorely missed. Regrets to Tony & family. Kevin R. Harris, Ph.D.,M.D.
Tracy M November 05, 2012 at 05:31 PM
He was a symbol of what a great small town should be. I spent so much of my young life in his store, and received the birthday gifts of a free record/cassette/cd. Every single memory of him has a smile on his face, never saw him not smile or ever frown. He made Hatboro so special for all of us.
Elaine November 05, 2012 at 10:38 PM
What a wonderful man! He will be surely missed. My thoughts and prayers go out to Tony and his family at this sad time. I remember growing up on Moreboro Road and seeing Mr. and Mrs. (Joe and Arlene) walking to the music store together often. They were a great example of a great marriage. Also, the music store was a legend to the town. Joe made it a great place to visit. I loved stopping in there often especially when I worked at the Hatboro Theater. Joe always knew everyone by name - even in his later years. He was a great man and a great major and he did so much for our great town of Hatboro. Thanks for the memories Joe!
John November 05, 2012 at 10:44 PM
Joe was indeed Mr. Hatboro
Joseph Klein November 06, 2012 at 02:15 AM
Like a lot of us, I'm sure, I spent a lot of time and money at his record store when I was young, and being there with him is actually among my best memories of Hatboro. We talked about music, and I still remember his smile. He was such a nice and friendly man, and he lived a long and interesting life. I left before he became Mayor, but I always looked for his store when I visited.
Edna P November 07, 2012 at 09:38 AM
My condolences to the Celano family and friends. I also spent much time at Joe's Music Store in Hatboro from a young child through adulthood. If something was still in print, he could find it for you! I was also present at many of the weddings he presided over, and was also his nurse when he became ill. Joe was a very sweet man. I will hold his memory dear to my heart. He will be missed. May he rest in peace.
Barbara Kindon November 07, 2012 at 01:47 PM
Such wonderful memories of "the mayor"...... growing up as a child in nearby Warminster, a trip to Hatboro ALWAYS included time in the music shop - even if we weren't looking for anything or didn't have money to buy something, it was the place to go to feel 'home'. It is sad to drive through Hatboro, and see the music shop location - knowing he isn't there anymore. His legacy will live on in all of the lives he touched - his gentle spirit calmed whomever he was near. His family has MUCH to be proud of in his legacy - love and prayers go to them as they continue the journey without his physical presence - his lessons and example will remain! Barbara Gerow Kindon
Mike R November 07, 2012 at 06:49 PM
I loved Joe,what a great man with a fabulous sense of humor,we shared a birthday and I would stop in the music shop to see him every year until he sold....RIP Joe,you were a gem and inspiration!!!!
Dee Luther December 03, 2012 at 08:30 PM
My sister works for Meals on Wheels and delivered food to Mr. Celano. She mentioned how nice he was as he regaled her with stories from days gone by as she brought him his meals. My sympathies to the late Mr. Celano's family and friends. He sounds like a peach of a guy. I wish I had known him. Sincerely, Dee Luther

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