By Isabella Gentile, Republican-American
NAUGATUCK — The community is mourning the loss of Antonio “Tony” DiManto, who came to America with little knowledge of the English language, but through dedication and hard work, became a beloved fixture in his Naugatuck barbershop for more than 50 years.
DiManto died from congestive heart failure on June 23. He was 85.
Friends remember a friendly man with an eye for style.
“He could tell from 50 feet away what kind of hair cut you wanted,” said Sam Sabatino Pallastro, owner of Sam’s Shoe Repair next to the former Tony’s Barber Shop on Church Street. “He was one of the best barbers I’ve ever seen.”
Pallastro spent 41 years next to the barbershop, becoming close friends with DiManto, whom he said was a hard worker, a gentleman and like a brother.
DiManto’s family said he became interested in barbery in his native Sant’Agata de’ Goti, Italy, where, according to Republican-American archives, he also served as an apprentice as a young man. He, along with his wife and four children, immigrated to America in 1966, becoming U.S. citizens 10 years later in 1976, his daughter Gianna Dauphinais said.
DiManto struggled to find a haircutting job, working janitorial jobs by day in Waterbury, and traveling by bus to Hartford at night to get his barber license, his family said. He spoke little English, so many weren’t willing to hire him, they said.
According to Republican-American archives, Naugatuck barbershop owner Larry Magone hired DiManto, and after Magone retired, DiManto opened Tony’s Barber Shop at 74 Church St.
DiManto worked at his barbershop until he was 84, giving haircuts to men in the area in his old-fashioned workspace that had only one chair. He was a certified master barber, whose regular customers came back time and time again, Dauphinais said. In return, he had true affection for his loyal customers, his daughter said. After he retired in April 2019, DiManto told his family he missed his customers and talked about them every day.
Those customers gathered at a June 29 memorial service, many of whom had been seeing DiManto for 50 years.
“He had an amazing work ethic and loved his family,” Dauphinais said. “Every single person who knew him, loved him.”
Wolcott Mayor Thomas Dunn knew the DiManto family well. Dunn’s father was one of DiManto’s client, and the mayor remembers DiManto as a “really good person … who would always have a good story.”
DiManto cut Naugatuck Tax Collector James Goggin’s hair since he was 7 years old. Now an adult, Goggin reflected on his experience with his longtime barber.
“My whole family went there … it was just ‘Tony cuts your hair,’” Goggin said. “He was a super nice man and human being.”